The Best That Never Is - What Is Happening To Andre Ward?
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The Best That Never Is - What Is Happening To Andre Ward?
By Zito, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 3, 2014)

Andre Ward
Andre Ward
How does an undefeated record, fighting and beating the best competition in the world, and essentially clearing out the weight division earn a fighter inconsiderable sports recognition along with stagnated financial opportunities? Andre Ward may or may not know the answers to this riddle, but he certainly knows the feeling of being in this situation. Although the emotions, moods, and sensations of fighters are rarely visited or investigated, it may be somewhat unjustifiable to consider Ward at fault if he held the perception of gloved prizefighting as an unfair business practice attached to a sport? What basis would anyone have to condemn Andre for any notions of negativity regarding both the business and the sporting aspects of boxing? While multi-million dollar contract deals are flung with regularity at the biggest named participants in most other televised sports, the plight of a boxer differs dramatically. Every proffesional fighter has to endure the trials, experiences, and brutality of the sport within and outside of direct competition, but no single pugilist at this moment signifies the ineptness of prizefighting promotion more than Andre Ward.

We can begin by taking an observant glare over Ward's career inside of the ring. Andre has not lost a bout in 18 years (he is now 30), and he is the last USA male to win an olympic gold medal. As a professional, he has 27 wins with 14 ko's while having no losses and no draws. The world class level of his competition has included the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Edison Miranda, Sakio Bika, Authur Abraham, Carl Froch, and Chad Dawson. While most of these victories have come via unanimous decision, none of his wins can be rationally disputed or reasonably contested. Now we turn our focus on the person Ward is perceived to be outside of the ring. His nickname is S.O.G. (Son Of God). Andre is not known to have a questionable background, unscrupilous ties, or unprincipled affiliations that can be mentioned with validity. From all indications, Ward is a devoted husband and the proud father of three who regularly attends and sustains a committed involvement within the church. What is there not to like about S.O.G.? It appears that his dedication in and out of the ring are superbly fine-tuned. With an impecable all around track record, why then has Andre's career slumped to an unfortunate stand-still?

It is easy enough to blame the promotional warfare that has Dan Goossen on one side, and Andre Ward along with co-promoter Antonio Leonard on the other. The promotional differences came to the surface after Ward resigned with Goossen-Tutor promotions in 2011. Accounts from the Ward camp state that Gossen and Leonard were to co-promote Ward as had been the case in years past, but when Ward resigned with Goossen-Tutor promotions, only Dan Goossen's name was placed on the agreement. Ward and his representatives express that Goossen claimed he would put Leonard on the promotional contract once Leonard had acquired his promoters license from the state of California. In the fall of 2013, Leonard received his California promoters license. The Ward camp insist that Goossen still refused to put Leonard's name on Ward's promotional contract when asked, and that Goossen is also denying Leonard any of the profits from the Nov. 16 2013 Andre Ward/Edwin Rodriguez bout. Furthermore, Ward's team claims that Goossen is denying Leonard any profits from all of Ward's future fights. There are also accusations of Dan Goossen himself putting a stall on Andre's occupational progress. Team Ward declares that Goossen is not promoting Ward toward any substantial fights, and that Ward and his management team are purposely being disaccosiated from fight negotiations by Goossen. During the summer of 2013, Andre took his grievances to an arbitrator in order to terminate his contract with Goossen. Ward lost the case. Throughout this distraction of litigation, Ward informed Goossen that he would keep fighting under Goossen-Tutor promotions until the issue was legally resolved. Ward has only fought twice since the end of 2011. It should be acknowledged that Ward was slated to fight Kelly Pavlik on Jan. 26 2013 but injured his shoulder in sparring. The fight was postponed, during which time Pavlik subsequently retired from boxing.

The boxing public and media have had their share of opinionated intervention as well. Concerning the halt on Andre's career, many sports writers, commentators, fans, and some boxing experts are indicating blame towards Ward. "Why doesn't he move up to light heavyweight?" "If he wasn't being so difficult with his promotional contract, then he would be fighting and getting paid all of the time." "Ward can't even draw flies in his own home town." While these are the major criticisms that many people tend to speak, and think about Andre, we have to examine why some of these theories may be circulating in the air and if they are genuinely legitimate.

Ward appears to feel physically comfortable fighting in his Super middleweight skin. There may be other match-ups to be made at a heavier weight, but why should one of the best at his craft have to compromise himself? Would it not be improper to ask a chef to gain weight just to prove that he is a better cook? Ward has been the dominant power of the super middleweight division since the ending of the Super Middleweight Super Six Tornament, in which he won. It would be more sensable for others to either move up or move down to his division. Has anyone seriously asked Wladimir Klitschko to move down to cruiserweight because the heavyweight division is not competitive enough? Does Flyod Mayweather receive any real scrutiny because he does not move up to 160 lbs to face Gennady Golovkin? At 30 years old, Ward is able to comprehend the operational extent of his own physical anatomy better than anyone else. If he proclaims that he is not a light heavyweight, why pressure him to fight under those conditions?

As far as Andre being difficult concerning his promotional contract, how could this ever be interpreted with reprehension. Anytime a fighter takes the initiative in his own business career, it should be viewed as an absolute step forward. Most boxers throughout the history of the sport have been exploited by either their management, their promoters, or both. It is all too common for fighters to fight well past their competitive professional prime in order to earn a somewhat famished paycheck. While most other televised professional sports leagues have health insurance and pensions in place for their paid participants, boxers can only rely on their fight checks to provide themselves with these benefits. The majority of fighters in the sport of boxing only make between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per fight. Boxing has no official association, league, or confederation on a national or worldwide scale, which means that there is no true official regulation of the sport. With an abundance of promoters pocketing the majority of the money while not providing health insurance or pension benefits to their fighters, why would it be deemed as negative for a boxer to take possesion of his own career and the course in which he wants it to go?

Now a more complicated matter is why Ward is not a huge draw at the ticket office. Although Andre is not considered a knockout puncher, most of his recent fights have been exciting. Against Sakio Bika, Ward fought toe to toe for most of the fight. He outclassed Mikkel Kessler and Chad Dawson into stoppages. In his latest bout, Andre had to withstand and adapt against a forward moving hard hitting Edwin 'La Bomba' Rodriguez. The boxing world is always clamoring for competitive match making. Andre's most recent bouts have been more competitive than Flyod Mayweather's fights, except for vs Marcos Maidana. Ward has definitely fought a higher level of competition than Wladimir Klitschko. What then can possibly be the explaination for the lack of interest associated with an Andre Ward fight? Not only do we have to question the promoter, but there also must be an inquiry into promotion.

It is both the responsibility of the promoter and the fighter to publicize the latter. A fighter is tasked with finding the proper promoter for themselves, but for the most part, prizefighters promote themselves during fights. Individual fighting styles play a bit of a factor. Most hardcore fight patrons will watch any match-up with virtually little bias toward the outcome, but knockouts and hard punching have always produced dollars and generated interest among perimeter fans who generally have favorite fighters. That is where the promoter must play their part. Knockout punchers who can reach their targets are not found everyday. Many fighters have technical styles in which they will set up or wait for their opportunities to strike. These fights do not produce regular knockouts as would two hard hitting bangers that slug it out in the middle of the ring. Promoters have to be flexible. All fighters cannot be promoted in the same manner. One of the major functions of a promoter is to gain public interest in all of their fighters outside of the ring, but those are often not the circumstances. It is becoming standard practice to steer fighters toward easily winnable hometown fights instead of toward the best down the line financial matchups. Not to say that these fighters are not generating money, but would it not be feasible to build fighters up through enduring competition that will more than likely produce even more revenue? "You can take nutrients from a seed, but it will never yeild as much as the tree that it has the potential to grow into." When a promoter's sole interest is to expeditiously attain dividends, their contracted fighters tend to financially suffer under extreme physical conditions during the duration of their careers.

This takes us back to Andre Ward and his difficulties. At number two on most boxing pound for pound list, the boxing world seems to value Ward at less than what he is really worth. Wladimir Klitschko changes weight for no one. Floyd Mayweather is able to promote himself. Timothy Bradley is not a knockout puncher and cannot sellout in his own hometown either, but that does not stop his career. Each one of the aforementioned boxers deserve all of their financial accolades beyond a shadow of a doubt. Would it not be within the realm of logic to extend the same latitude to a fighter of Andre Ward's caliber? He is the proven best in his weight class. He is currently working to determine his own promotional direction. He is a skillfully impressive undefeated boxer, and there is always an open market for that. At times, the business of boxing can get ugly if not outright disrespectful. For Ward, the distastefulness that the sport has displayed to him is vastly unwarranted. The unpredicted misfortunes of a business decision should not prevent a person from accomplishing their ultimate acheivements. Yet, the boxing community continues to support a legitimate business where one individual earns the majority of payment from the physically rigorous labors of another individual without providing health care or financial retirement possibilities for the one being labored. Prizefighting is an overall demanding exercise where both fighters willingly give punishment to, and receive punishment from one another. After the bell rings, a fighter cannot go to the bench and call a timeout. Mistakes in prizefighting will not only cost a fighter points, the fighter will also have to pay with the currency of pain. Prizefighters are the ultimate competitors throughout all other existing sports. Why then are the ones taking the highest amount of risk not receiving the most compensation? How can it be morally, and sometimes legally appropriate to keep an individual from having direct control of their own careers? When primary participants in all other professional sports win championships, they are highly regarded and well rewarded without an outcry. Why does this championship standard not apply to Ward? Even though Andre is still somewhat high profile, an established undefeated USA gold medalist deserves more from the fans, the media, and his sport. All prizefighters deserve more.  

-- By Zito --

Buckle with the Knuckle is an installment of fight breakdowns, analysis, and predictions presented by Zito and Tai of The Fightin' Words Radio Show. Catch our host Zito, Tai, and Butch every Saturday at 6:00pm on The Fightin' Words Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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