In November boxing got a rare treat: a showdown between two of the very best fighters in the sport, pound-for-pound. And while Kovalev vs Ward didn’t exactly remind anyone of Moore vs Durelle or Ali vs Frazier, it was still a damn good battle: competitive, suspenseful and featuring two very fine performances. Putting aside the controversial decision, which, in the eyes of this pundit, went to the wrong boxer, a rematch makes perfect sense. After all, it was a close fight that elevated the standing of both men, plus the bout’s contract included a rematch clause. Let’s do it again!
But instead of new agreements being set and signed and Mr. S.O.G. and The Krusher getting ready to go back to their respective training camps, Andre Ward is letting everyone know that he’s questioning the need for a second battle and is instead pondering retirement. In fact, he has released a series of statements since the fight which are at times baffling and collectively seem to add up to one of two things: either Ward is negotiating through the media and positioning himself to maximize his bargaining leverage. Or, he really, really, really doesn’t want to fight Sergey Kovalev again.
Then again, maybe he’s just very confused. That can happen when your ego is bigger than an aircraft carrier. As we have noted in the past.
So, on the one hand, Ward isn’t sure there’s really any need for a return bout. While he appeared very surprised in the ring when the official verdict was announced, Ward now insists that he clearly won and definitively proved himself the better boxer. So why bother doing it again? Yeah, Andre, good point! Why does boxing bother with rematches? Who needs ’em? To think we wasted all that time on Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling II, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the Gatti vs Ward trilogy and all those other stupid rivalries. What were we thinking? From now on, one and done!
But in the same breath Ward then says that if everyone just gives him all the credit he feels he deserves (is that even possible?), kisses his ass, hands over the lion’s share of the purse money and genuflects on cue, then a rematch can maybe happen. At least I think that’s what he’s saying here: “I beat the guy nobody said I could beat. My thing is, everybody involved, let’s act like that happened. Then there should be no problems putting together the type of fight and rematch that fans want to see and also benefits me as the champion.”
Andre, the whole reason the match was so attractive to fight fans in the first place was because no one really knew who was going to win. This idea that everyone was picking Kovalev to beat you is just that, an idea, in your brain and nowhere else. Because a quick check of actual betting odds from before the match shows you were in fact favored to prevail. So why this bullshit about “nobody” thinking you could win and demanding everyone treat you a certain way? Why not just be more blunt and honest and shout, “Show me the money!” Wouldn’t that make things simpler for everyone?
But now comes word that even a massive payday and the requisite amount of butt kissing is not going to be sufficient, that in fact Ward is wondering if it’s time to call it a career and say goodbye to boxing entirely. To which I say, “Can I have the privilege of fetching your coat and showing you to the door, Mr. Ward?”
Because, in all seriousness, should Andre Ward actually decide to retire (which he won’t, of course), what does boxing really lose? Look at the man’s record. Would we notice a huge difference if he wasn’t around? Would there be a yawning vacuum at the center of our sport, a gaping hole in the heart of boxing, if he never fought again? Would fight fans be suffering bouts of S.O.G. withdrawal and demanding that HBO and Jay-Z stop everything else they’re doing and bring him back for the legions of fans that can’t wait to see him perform again? I kinda doubt it.
Consider the fact that since January of 2012, Ward has competed a grand total of six times. Six fights in five years. And of those six fights, only two could be said to be of great interest to sports fans, those being his matches with Chad Dawson, in September of 2012, and Kovalev. In terms of genuine drama and excitement, that’s all that Ward has delivered for us. Six matches. Just two major fights. In five years. Take a second and let that sink in. And consider that just a few days ago this website celebrated an all-time great champion who once fought 27 times in a single year!
I don’t know about you, but I’m more than a bit tired of these entitled talents like Andre Ward acting as if they are God’s gift to the sport, like fight fans should get down on their knees every day and thank the lord above that they are still choosing to put their talents to use within the squared circle. Aren’t you? Sometimes it seems like they’re in a competition to see who can clown boxing fans more, or who can make the most money with the fewest number of fights.
These diva boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Ward have, arguably, done more damage to boxing the last decade or so than anything else as they have propagated the idea that it’s just fine for champions to not fight the most deserving contenders, to hold out for huge paydays while competing no more than twice a year, and to face the least deserving opponents they can get away with. Witness Cotto, he of the pink crocs, now taking on James Kirkland of all people and trying to convince us it’s a pay-per-view worthy match. This crap has got to stop.
Who else recalls how back in 2012, after having won the “Super Six” tournament, Diva Ward bluntly refused to take on Lucian Bute, the next logical opponent and top rival available in his division? Or how, after his win over Chad Dawson, he campaigned with a straight face to make fights happen with Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.? Leading up to the Kovalev fight, and over the course of almost three years, Andre took on Edwin Rodriguez, Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand. Not exactly a series of can’t-miss matches, is it? Truth be told, I missed all of ’em. Stupid me, I was wasting my time watching pointless rematches like Robinson vs Basilio and The Thrilla In Manila on Youtube.
Ward’s pathetic activity level and his penchant for fighting woefully inferior opponents made some doubt he would ever actually step into the ring against Kovalev. To his credit, he did face “Krusher” and he gave him one of the toughest fights of his career, but now that he’s being compelled to honor the rematch clause he agreed to, it’s all petulance and posturing. And I for one think boxing fans should call him on his bluff. So on behalf of every fight fan who wishes we could go back to a time when champions had some pride and integrity and actually wanted to compete, I say, Go ahead, Andre! Make my day!
Andre, you were lucky to get that decision. How all three judges could find more than six rounds to give you I will never know, but they did. (Though only after all three inexplicably scored the tenth stanza for you, one of Sergey’s best rounds of the fight.) The simple truth is the majority of ringside observers thought Kovalev beat you. While the fight was competitive, it was the Russian who won more rounds, not you.
But if you want to retire, Andre, by all means make your exit and let the sport move on. I dare you. Walk away from a multi-million dollar payday while letting down everyone who has invested in your career and helped you get to this position. Retire once and for all and go into something like risk management consulting work; you’d be good at that.
Bottom line: you won’t be missed half as much as you think. And with you gone, we can stop waiting to see if you give up your diva ways, and instead let the powers that be make some awesome fights in a very interesting light heavyweight division. The fact is they’re there to be made, if you hit the road and get out of the way.
Believe it or not, Andre, the sport of boxing can get along just fine without you. In fact, after just two major fights from you in five years, we’re used to the idea. Seriously, what’s the difference? So go ahead, Andre, retire. The truth is, most of us won’t mind one bit. And if that’s your next move, no one will be at all surprised. — Robert Portis