OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Undefeated Andre Ward used a steady left hook to repeatedly score and unanimously outpointed Alexander Brand to take the WBO Intercontinental light heavyweight championship Saturday night.
Ward (30-0) was never seriously threatened by Brand (25-2), the 39-year-old Colombian who lost for the first time since 2012.
Ward stunned Brand early and opened a small cut over his right eye while winning every round
All three judges had the fight 120-112 for Ward.
“We knew this guy was going to be really, really hard to knock out,” Ward said. “I tried to press it, didn’t get it but it was good to get the reps.”
Ward is in position for a long-anticipated matchup with unified light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev. That fight has already been penciled in for Nov. 19 in Las Vegas.
That would be Ward’s third fight in a eight months, overtime for a boxer who fought only three times from 2012 to 2015.
“I’m excited,” Ward said. “I had to get past this step, (Kovalev) had to get past his step. If I’m not ready to fight the best now, I’ll never be ready.”
Like he was when Ward beat Sullivan Barrera in March, Kovalev was in attendance at Oracle Arena and sat with his mother near ringside for the fight with Brand.
After the fight Kovalev joined Ward in the ring and the two men shook hands in what might be their last friendly exchange before the expected showdown in Las Vegas.
“He showed that he’s ready,” Kovalev later told reporters. “Alexander was an uncomfortable style for him but Andre had a good fight.”
Ward and Brand were originally scheduled to fight in November 2015 before Brand pulled out with a leg injury while Ward went on to beat Sullivan Barrera by unanimous decision in March.
The nine-month delay to get to Brand hardly seemed to matter for the three-time world champion.
Ward was patient early, plodding forward and working out of clenches while Brand missed wildly with a pair of left hooks in the first round.
That was ongoing theme much of the fight — the 39-year-old Colombian comfortable trying to tie Ward up with clenches while Ward continually fought his way out.
Brand’s best punch was a light left in the third that glanced off Ward’s forehead.
Ward broke through late in the fourth when he landed a left hook to Brand’s jaw then followed it up with a combination.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist scored with a left hook again in the fifth then changed up to a southpaw style and continued to score at will.
Brand, who appeared to get cut over his right eye by a Ward left in the fifth, landed two straight rights in the eighth but Ward brushed them off and shook his head.
It was a frustrating night all around for Brand, whose only other loss came against current WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack in 2012.
Brand slipped on a slick area of the mat and fell on his back at one point, then later got his right hand caught in the strap connecting the ring ropes while trying to throw a punch.