ANDRE WARD OPPONENT BRINGS CRITICISM, BUT OPPORTUNITY OUTWEIGHS RISK FOR PAUL SMITH JNR.

By Joe Thackray [Twitter: @Joe_Thackray]

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It was announced earlier this week that Liverpool’s Paul Smith Jnr. will get a third crack at a world title, when he faces America’s unbeaten WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward in Oakland, California on June 20th.

This is Ward’s first time back in the ring after being inactive for 18 months due to injury and promotional issues. The self proclaimed “Son of God” is very active on social media and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that he has remained in fantastic shape during his 18 month lay-off; with this in mind there is no doubt that the Oakland boxer will be ready to go, when the opening bell sounds at the Oracle arena.

All things considered, this is a smart fight for Ward. Smith is a former world title challenger, has a large home fan base and has a promoter who is more than capable of bringing in a television network. Added to this is the inescapable reality that Ward has the potential to look frighteningly good in this fight.

Despite his inactivity, Ward is widely considered as the second best pound-for-pound boxer in the world; he has beaten everybody he has fought including, Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and an old foe of Smith’s, crafty veteran Arthur Abraham.

You can’t hide away from the fact that Smith has his work cut out. The former two-time British champion has lost his last two fights to WBO title holder Arthur Abraham, with the second defeat coming in a more convincing fashion in February this year.

Following his two world title challenges, “Smigger” has made it clear that he feels he belongs at world title level and is willing to take the biggest fights out there for him. He doesn’t seem at all interested in stepping back down to domestic level, despite the British fans yearning for a big derby fight with fellow Liverpudlian, Rocky Fielding.

Despite the cries of ‘mismatch’, both Smith and promoter Eddie Hearn deserve immense credit for making this fight happen. It is hard to see past Ward in this fight, but stranger things have happened in boxing and if Smith can cause an upset or push Ward close, who knows where it could lead him? It will no doubt be interesting to see how Ward copes after 18 months of inactivity and will be equally as interesting watching how Smith goes about attempting to dethrone the best super middleweight on the planet.