Andre Ward will end a 19-month absence from the ring on June 20 when the WBA super middleweight champion fights two-time world title challenger Paul Smith Jnr at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Ward, 31, has endured a nightmare time during the last three and half years after a legal battle with former promoters Goosen Boxing, but will make his debut for rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation outfit in the summer.
The ‘S.O.G’ has only recorded victories over Chad Dawson and Edwin Rodriguez since claiming the Showtime Super Six crown against Carl Froch in December 2011 and boasts a career record of 27-0 with 14 stoppages.
Opponent Smith comes into the fight having lost back-to-back against WBO champion and former Ward foe Arthur Abraham, although the 32 year-old Briton will be ineligible to take Ward’s belt on the night as the contest is non-title.
Smith’s stablemate Scott Quigg is close to formally announcing his next opponent after a fight with divisional rival Carl Frampton failed to get off the ground. The Manchester fighter, who holds the WBA ‘regular’ super bantamweight title, offered the Irishman a £1.5m cheque to face him in a unification on July 18, although the IBF champion and his team spurned the offer as they wanted a co-promotion.
Step in Kiko Martinez, the Spaniard who was defeated twice by Frampton recently, for a challenge to possibly win a second world title as rumours grow of an agreement between both parties to fight at Manchester Arena.
Finally, a welterweight clash between Paulie Malignaggi and Danny O’Connor is close to being official for May 29 at the Barclays Center and will be a ten-round co-feature to the headlining bout between Amir Khan and Chris Algieri.
Malignaggi, 34, hasn’t fought since his devastating loss to Shawn Porter in May 2014, but could potentially set-up a rematch with his compatriot with victory, or better still with the winner of the main event, although defeat against 30 year-old O’Connor could spell the end of a colourful career.