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What’s next for Andre Ward after decisive win against Kovalev in Las Vegas

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Steve Marcus

WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, left, connects with a punch on former champion Sergey Kovalev during their rematch at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, June 17, 2017 in Las Vegas. Ward retained his titles with an eighth-round TKO.

Updated Saturday, June 17, 2017 | 11 p.m.

Ward vs Kovalev: The Rematch

Former champion Sergey Kovalev enters the ring for his rematch with WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, June 17, 2017 in Las Vegas. Ward retained his titles with an eighth-round TKO. Launch slideshow »

Andre Ward added to his undefeated legacy on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) wobbled Sergey Kovalev with a right hand in the eighth round, and finished the Russian off with a barrage to the body.

The decisive win ends his saga with Kovalev, cements him atop boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings and begs the question of what is next for the Olympic gold medalist.

Now the WBO, IBF and WBA light heavyweight champion, Ward may have his sights set higher — and heavier.

Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who is five inches taller and 75 pounds heavier than Ward, could be a target according to trainer Virgil Hunter.

“There are some things about Anthony Joshua that I see when I watch him,” Hunter said. “I see things with him in particular and he’s best. Styles make fights.”

Ward showed his power tonight, nearly knocking Kovalev out with the right hook.

“I showed that I can hurt a bigger man,” Ward said. “I don’t think they can dispute that right hand.”

Kovalev was exhausted by the time the eighth round started, partially due to inadequate cardio by the Russian and partially due to all the punches Ward landed to his midsection.

The finishing sequence, which included multiple punches below the belt, brought controversy, at least in the eyes of Kovalev’s camp.

“I got tired but I was still fighting,” Kovalev said. “It’s boxing. I could have been still fighting but I didn’t know why (referee) Tony Weeks stopped it.”

Not normally known as a big puncher, Ward surprisingly out-landed Kovalev 53-50 in power punches, and was up on two of the three judges scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

Joshua, the IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion, is two weight classes above Ward but that doesn’t seem to bother Hunter.

“It would be a waste of time to go to Cruiser,” Hunter said. “(Ward) should just leapfrog it and go for it all. Fighting a bigger man has nothing to do with size. It’s about his attributes and their attributes.”

Ward appears to have accomplished everything he can at light heavyweight after conquering Kovalev. He said a fight with Adonis Stevenson doesn’t interest him.

“Fighting at heavyweight is a dream of mine,” Ward said. “I don’t have anything on the books, and I’m not the biggest light heavyweight, but that’s always been a dream of mine. I do really well against big fighters because of my stamina. If the right opportunity comes along I would absolutely do it.”

Fighting a heavyweight would add to a legacy that is one of boxing’s current best. In 32 fights Ward is undefeated and has rarely been in trouble.

While Ward didn’t guarantee a move up to heavyweight, he did say he will listen to Hunter about the idea.

“Going to light heavyweight after being a middleweight in the Olympics was not something I was thinking about, but (Hunter) made me believe,” Ward said. “He’s got a very prophetic way of thinking about things. I used to think he was crazy but now I believe him.”

For a man constantly chasing legendary status amongst boxing’s greats, a heavyweight fight would certainly do the trick. For now, chopping down Kovalev is an impressive feat itself.

“I just think it adds to my legacy and my legacy is extremely important to me,” Ward said. “I remember I went and walked through the Boxing Hall of Fame one time and I left thinking I want to be in that place some day.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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