Super middleweight world champion Andre Ward has swelling in his right knee that has limited his recent training and forced him to withdraw from his Nov. 21 light heavyweight debut on Wednesday.
"I'm extremely disappointed that I'm missing this opportunity on Nov. 21, but at the same time, I'm encouraged," Ward said. "Anytime I have had a minor or major setback in my career, by the grace of God, I've come back stronger, and this will be no different. I'm looking forward to a big 2016. Thank you to all my fans for your support and patience."
Ward, whose exclusive three-fight contract with HBO was announced last week, was supposed to face Colombian slugger Alexander Brand (24-1, 19 KOs) in the first bout of the deal in the co-feature of the HBO PPV card headlined by the mega fight between middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
However, Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), 31, of Oakland, California, has been suffering what promoter Roc Nation Sports termed "significant inflammation and constant pain in his right knee that is severely restricting his mobility. He has been advised by his physician to immediately rest and begin rehab on the knee to reduce the inflammation."
"Andre's injury is a huge disappointment, not only to him, but all of us involved with this promotion," said David Itskowitch, COO Boxing of Roc Nation Sports. "We have no doubt that Andre will come back stronger than ever once his knee heals and that he will be a force in the light heavyweight division."
Ward's contract was supposed to include the fight on Nov. 21, a second fight around April, followed by a fall 2016 showdown with three-belt light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs), who is also under contract to HBO. That fight would match two of boxing's undefeated, pound-for-pound best fighters.
Last Thursday, HBO and Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, Ward's promoter, announced his television contract and that he would fight on the Cotto-Canelo undercard.
Roc Nation, which also promotes Cotto, said the plan is to find a new fight to take the place of Ward-Brand so it can keep the pay-per-view telecast at four bouts.
"We are working diligently to make an intriguing fight that will deliver a level of excitement commensurate with this great event," Itskowitch said.