Many fight fans have learned their lesson regarding big fights and thus refuse to believe Andre Ward will face Sergey Kovalev before 2016 comes to a close. However, if you’re of the glass-half-full disposition, you enthusiastically welcomed this week’s announcement that Andre Ward’s next engagement will take place on August 6. It was long-known Ward wanted at least one more tune-up before facing the Siberian beast, so having that preliminary actually signed and sealed brings us closer to the fight we really want to see, at least in theory.
That said, notification of a tune-up bout usually elicits more yawning than the release of a new set of noodz by a Kardashian. But in announcing his next match, Andre Ward went against the grain by regaling us with an intricately layered tweet that just begs for the attention of a $200-an-hour shrink. Unfortunately–or tellingly–Ward, and/or his team, deemed it best to delete that same tweet less than 48 hours later. But for a few glorious hours, using fewer than 140 characters, the so-called “Son of God” provided a rare chance for those few who care to poke into his psyche, to glimpse his state of mind, and to mark up our calendars, all in one shot. Jam-packed with substance like no public service announcement ever could be, and infinitely more interesting than your run-of-the-mill press release, Andre Ward’s now defunct tweet was a post-modern piece of virtual art:
Given The Fight City’s budget constraints, it’s fallen to Yours Truly to analyze Ward’s tweet. Let’s break it down then, starting with the text. The tweet evokes, first of all, relief, providing a hint as to the ordeal it is for a boxer of Ward’s stature and name recognition to come up with an opponent, land a date on the network that employs him as an analyst, and collect the juicy checks Jay-Z is contractually obligated to hand over for even the crappiest of matches Ward will accept.
Crucially, the message also portrays Ward’s self-regard as a wise, benevolent, but world-weary figure, one who strives to please everyone, only to be buffeted by a heartless, profit-driven industry that has hurt him so much his default setting is now perennially set to maximum defensiveness. His “You have no idea…” sounds like it should be followed by “…and you don’t want to know. Trust me, you’re better off not knowing what I know. I carry this heavy burden for all of you, fans and haters alike. We all have our crosses to bear; this is mine. You’re welcome.”
Moreover, “How many opponents we had to go through,” has a distinct “How many roads must a man walk down,” sort of vibe to it. And just like a quintessential Dylan lyric–or a biblical quote, for that matter–Ward’s message is also frustratingly vague. What exactly is Andre referring to? Is it the amount of rivals he has bested through a long and winding career to get to be regarded as one of the top fighters of his generation? Or is he talking about the piles of potential opponents that, for whatever reason, weren’t available to fight on August 6?
We’ll likely never know, and thanks to Ward’s consideration towards us, we don’t have to know. There’s no need for us to take a bite out of the fruit from the Tree of Wisdom when the Son of God is willing to choke on its forbidden sweetness for us. Thank you, Andre.
As revealing as the text is, how about that beauty of a poster? It’s impossible to overlook the fact that there’s something conspicuously absent from it. The omission is so glaring it makes you wonder whether August 6 is the date of Ward’s next fight or his upcoming glove-signing session. Where the hell is Ward’s opponent?
If you’ve been paying attention, there’s a perfectly good reason only Ward is featured on the poster, and it’s that his upcoming opponent doesn’t matter. Not when a showdown with Sergey Kovalev has been penciled in for later in what will be HBO’s leanest year in quite a while. Hopes were “S.O.G.” would find someone who could help him prepare for, assuming it actually happens, what might be the toughest fight of his career after years of legal procrastinating and dismal opposition.
Instead, he found the ironically named Alexander Brand, an opponent whom HBO and Roc Nation hold in so little esteem that they didn’t even give him a chance to photoshop his face out of his driver’s license so that they could paste it on the poster. To add insult to injury, not only was Brand’s name typed in a blatantly smaller font than Andre’s, it wasn’t even given the dignifying glossy treatment that the A-side’s name enjoys.
“So what?” you might say. “Does it really matter what the freaking poster looks like?” The answer is a resounding Yes! The poster layout and the way Brand was not so much disrespected as glaringly ignored, says loads about the kind of fight Ward vs Brand will turn out to be. That Ward so badly outclasses his upcoming rival in the graphical design department not only foreshadows the imminent mismatch to come, but also shows Ward and his team are not even trying to mask it. Do you still think the poster doesn’t matter? On the contrary, my friend, the poster is everything.
So there it is. Thanks to Twitter, you now know that on August 6 you’re much better off checking out the new sushi buffet downtown than you are plopping your ass on the couch to watch the main event on HBO. Because Alexander Brand is not just relatively unknown in the same way Donald Trump is relatively unhinged. In fact, more to the point, if Brand, at a lively 39 years of age, is known at all, it is for losing an eight-round decision to Badou Jack four years ago. “You have no idea how many opponents we had to go through to get here.”
So evidently, it is exactly this adversary Ward and his minions endured incredible hardship to finally find and secure. They scoured the earth, tirelessly searching for the lone man who could fulfil their fixed, precise and meticulous needs, much as an exacting oenophile might spend endless hours choosing the perfect vintage, or a genius chef might travel countless miles in search of the remote, secret garden from which to harvest the essential strand of tarragon required for his Coq au Vin. “Seek and you shall find,” sayeth the Lord. And the “Son of God” searched and searched, and finally, at long last, found Alexander Brand. And on August 6, Mr. Brand will provide about as much in the way of serious competition as an organic, free-range Cornish hen would for our eager Gordon Ramsay wanna-be.
Taking all this into account, it’s hard to understand why Roc Nation and HBO are willing to pay good money for Ward vs Brand, especially given the network’s self-reported budgetary constraints. Ward may be willing to fight Kovalev in the near future, but HBO will pay dearly for it, and in the meantime The Network of Champions must fork up a big chunk of the seven-figures Ward will command for yet another pointless tune-up. In the meantime, someone like Chocolatito Gonzalez, the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and arguably a bigger draw and stronger ratings magnet than Ward himself, struggles to secure half-a-mill for a genuinely dangerous fight. Awesome job, HBO!
Then again, this kind of match-making is routine in boxing now. And the bottom line is, if Ward vs Brand means Ward vs Kovalev actually happens, then we’ll take it. With a big shit-eating grin on our face to boot. Because, let’s face it, given recent history, Ward vs Brand is far from a serious fight fan’s worst fear. That’s reserved for when a truly excellent match-up and big money fight that should happen as soon as friggin’ possible is marinated for so long that it turns to tasteless mush.
Will Ward keep his promise and take on Kovalev before the end of the year? Or will that promise evaporate into thin air faster than you can hit delete on an over-revealing tweet? Alas, in the “Son of God” we trust. –Rafael Garcia