Andre Ward will defend his WBA super-middleweight title against Paul Smith in Oakland, California on June 20, it has been officially confirmed by Roc Nation Sports.
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Ward has been out of the ring for almost 19 months due to on-going promotional and contractual issues, but after recently signing with Roc Nation, he is ready to make his return to the ring.
The 31-year-old is widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, but there are undoubtedly numerous questions about how he will fare after such lengthy inactivity and it remains to be seen how it will have effected his performance.
Meanwhile, Smith heads to California off the back of two failed title bids against Arthur Abraham, with the Brit unfortunate to miss out on landing the WBO strap the first time round before being outclassed by the champion in the rematch.
Nevertheless, he will be excited about the latest opportunity that he has and will relish the experience of fighting in the USA for a world title with promoter Eddie Hearn delivering another big fight for him.
“I cannot wait to get back in the ring and test myself against a class act like Andre Ward,” Smith said, ESPN reports.
“I proved that I belong at the top level with my performances against Arthur Abraham and this is a challenge that I am relishing. Andre is a top pound-for-pound fighter and someone I respect a lot, but he has only boxed once in almost three years and I will give it everything I have got.”
Ward had been linked with a rematch with Carl Froch this summer, but the ‘Cobra’ is currently sidelined with an elbow injury and is considering his options ahead of a possible return later in the year.
Meanwhile, this will likely be the last chance for Smith to land himself a title, but the opportunity to face Ward will certainly be a worthwhile risk.