Los Angeles - Former world champion Andre Ward says the winner of next week's showdown of unbeatens between himself and world light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev should be seen as boxing's pound-for-pound king.
"It would be really hard to go against that, based on both our resumes and us stepping up and being willing to fight," Ward said on Tuesday in an international conference call. "The winner of this fight should be pound-for-pound number one."
The November 19 matchup in Las Vegas will see Russia's Kovalev, 30-0 with one drawn and 26 knockouts, defend the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization crowns for a fifth time since beating Bernard Hopkins for them all in a unification bout.
"This fight is a great opportunity for both of us to show the boxing world who is the best pound-for-pound," Kovalev said. "It's going to be a war between us."
Ward, a 32-year-old American, is 30-0 with 15 knockouts. He was the 2004 Athens Olympics light heavyweight champion, the most recent US fighter to claim Games gold.
"I've heard people say I'm not the same fighter I was in my 20s and I hope I'm not," Ward said. "I should be getting better."
After an 18-month layoff, Ward fights for the third time in 17 months, his most recent triumph a unanimous decision over Colombia's Alexander Brand three months ago before a hometown crowd in Oakland, California.
"It's surreal," Ward said. "Fighting as a young kid we never got too caught up in ourselves. I get a little scared to look back on what we've accomplished and relish it because the clock is still ticking. I'm still going. I've got to show up and do what I'm still doing. When I do peek back, just for a split second, it's overwhelming."
Ward, who held a share of the world super middleweight crown from 2009 to 2013, says the fight will go beyond easy labels of Kovalev as a big puncher and Ward as an elusive target trying to get rivals off their game.
"If it was just about me being a neutralizer some of these big punchers would walk right through me. There's more to me than that," Ward said. "He's not a brawler. He thinks in there. We're ready for whatever he brings. That's the key. It's about making constant adjustments.
"There's a lot at stake. It's going to come down to who wants it more. I'm ready, I'm excited and I can't wait to fight. I just have to make the most of this."
'I WANT TO DESTROY HIM'
Kovalev, 33, had been in talks to fight for an undisputed title with Haitian-born Canadian southpaw Adonis Stevenson, the World Boxing Council champion who is 28-1 with 23 knockouts, but when no deal could be struck, Kovalev surrendered his mandatory challenger rights to face a fighter he said he thinks will be his toughest foe yet.
"He has never lost before. But it's my job. Let me do it and break his zero," Kovalev said. "I don't have any different strategy. My strategy is just to win.
"He's in the way of my goals and my dreams. I can't give this to him. I want to destroy him."
Kovalev, coming off a victory in Russia last July over Malawi's Isaac Chilemba, says he expects Ward will be an elusive target but eventually a sore one.
"He will be changing positions the whole fight. He will be feeling uncomfortable after feeling my punches," Kovalev said. "If I happen to knock him out, it will be a bonus for boxing and for me as well."
"Ward is patient and crafty," added Kovalev trainer John David Jackson. "But you can't be that patient and crafty when your opponent has bombs in both hands. This fight here, he has to fight."