Golovkin & Ward: Who Is Ducking Who?
As former super middleweight ruler Andre Ward gets ready for Saturday’s challenge against WBA/WBO/IBF light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, a phoney war between his camp and that of another Eastern bloc pound-for-pound star, Gennady Golovkin, continues to rumble on. The latest round of the back-and-forth battle-by-media occurred when Triple G’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, recently stated that his star pupil would defeat not only Ward, but 175 lb champions Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, too.
Sanchez poured more fuel on the fire by again questioning the validity of an offer from Ward’s camp for a proposed Golovkin vs Ward showdown made in the summer of 2015. Depending which side of the keyboard you sit, this offer was either a transparent attempt by Ward’s team to generate publicity off the back of Golovkin’s rising popularity, or irrefutable evidence that GGG’s team, knowing the American posed too much of a risk for their star asset, ducked the man some call “Son Of God.” So, who should we believe? Did GGG’s team duck a legitimate offer to face Ward? Or was the offer a dishonest attempt by Ward’s camp to con the public by pretending they wanted the fight?
To start, it is no coincidence that Abel Sanchez was behind the latest round of sniping in the media. Sanchez’s voice appears often in the history of this spat, and can be traced back to its early days and a March 2012 article published on ESPN. At that time Sanchez made the bold prediction that his fighter could go down in history as the second greatest fighter of all time (behind Muhammad Ali and ahead of Sugar Ray Robinson), and further stated that they were willing to face anyone from super welterweight to super middleweight, including Andre Ward.
At the time, Golovkin held the WBA middleweight title, but was still relatively unknown outside of hardcore boxing circles. A fully-fledged member of the “Who Needs Him?” club, GGG’s team was trying to establish him as a more recognizable name in the U.S. and entice some big-name opponents into the ring. In contrast, Ward had just emerged on top of Showtime’s tough and talent-filled Super Six tournament and was widely regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound players in the sport. Sanchez’s claim was therefore a significant one to make, and required some serious action to back it up.
Fast-forward two years: Ward had managed just two ring-appearances since his Super Six triumph, whereas Golovkin had demolished a string of seven challengers in the same period and extended his consecutive run of knockouts to 16 straight. Ward pressed the issue though, saying he was willing to fight anyone and criticizing Golovkin’s team for failing to back up their confident boast. “They went on the record and they’ve campaigned for years that [he] will fight anybody… and anybody means anybody. So I said that I have no problem fighting Golovkin and now all of a sudden it’s a campaign to stay at 160.”
As we moved into 2015, the fight looked no nearer to being made, but the cold war being fought in the media rumbled on. In June Golovkin gave an uncharacteristically angry interview in Russian, blasting the American for trying to generate publicity by using his name and accusing him of already turning down the chance to fight once in the past: “At our meeting with HBO they asked us whether we are ready to box. You know our answers – I said yes, you said no. You said something about your shoulder or promoter – I’m not interested in the reason, I only heard your ‘no.’” Golovkin ended with some particularly harsh words aimed directly at his rival: “As a man, you are dead to me”.
Precise details of the meeting Golovkin was referring to are not easy to find, though neither Ward nor HBO have ever denied it took place. Assuming the conversation unfolded exactly as GGG described it, Ward’s response indicates that it likely took place during his hiatus from the ring in 2013, when he was sidelined after tearing his right shoulder and also embroiled in a legal dispute with his promoter, Dan Goosen. As such, the fact that Ward said he was not “ready to box” at that time is hardly surprising.
Following surgery to his shoulder, Ward returned to action in November 2013, but his legal dispute dragged on and he spent a frustrating 2014 battling in the courts. In September of that year, Goosen sadly passed away, allowing Ward to resume fighting under a new promotional banner and in January 2015 he announced a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
That June, just four days after Golovkin’s fiery Russian interview, Ward finally renewed his career, easily defeating Englishman Paul Smith. The following month ESPN’s Dan Rafael published a report repeating team GGG’s assertion that they were willing to fight any of the big names “from junior middleweight to super middleweight”. Notably, the article quoted K2 managing director and Golovkin promoter, Tom Loeffler, who said that, “GGG would fight Ward on a 50-50 basis, the best 160-pounder versus the best 168-pounder [at] 164 [and] a 50-50 split on all proceeds”.
In September that year, a clearly frustrated Ward gave an interview to FightHubTV and insisted on referring to Golovkin as “Little G”, lambasting the fighter and his camp for turning down an official offer to fight. He also complained that a double standard seemed to apply in terms of how their negotiating strategies were portrayed by the media: “Now, if the shoe was on the other foot, if I said ‘I’m going to 75, and I’m not gonna touch Kovalev, I’ll fight this guy and that guy, but if I fight Kovalev he’s gotta come to 170 or 172’ – can you imagine what the headlines would read? And if my trainer and my promoters were talking like they talk, but there was no action – can you imagine what the headlines would read?”
On October 8th, just three months after Rafael’s report, Loeffler gave an interview to boxingscene.com explaining why the official offer was rejected, saying it was received after their unification fight with David Lemieux had been signed and therefore too late. He also claimed their primary aim was to unify the 160lb division, but admitted they would move up to 168 for “mega events” against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Carl Froch. As for Ward, Triple G’s “stardom” had now surpassed the American, he argued, and therefore a 50-50 split between the pair no longer made sense.
The following day Michael Yormak of Roc Nation, representing Ward, responded by pointing out that GGG’s team turned the offer down “in 36 minutes.” They had not known the Lemieux fight had already been signed, he claimed, and countered that since the proposal stipulated that both fighters would have one interim bout before meeting in 2016, essentially it made no difference to the deal. If they were serious at all about the fight, he argued, GGG’s camp would have engaged in some form of preliminary negotiations, or at least considered it for longer.
Tensions between the camps continued to simmer in the months that followed. Abel Sanchez accused the Ward team of being “all talk”; Ward responded by telling Sky Sports that GGG’s people were more concerned with posturing in the media than actually negotiating, and didn’t want to know about the fight “once we made them an official offer.” How seriously we should take that offer is of course the subject of much dispute, though none of the arguments from GGG’s side, I think, stand up to serious scrutiny.
Firstly, the fact the offer was sent after the Lemieux fight had been signed is not evidence that it was made in bad faith. In fact, it seems reasonable to take Ward’s team at face value when they say this would not have been a stumbling block, and that the proposed time frame (each fighting an interim bout before meeting in the first half of 2016) could have been made to work, since this format is the same deal that Ward’s camp later made with Sergey Kovalev’s people.
It’s also argued that Ward’s camp were deliberately treating GGG’s team like the “B-side,” presumably in the knowledge that this would scupper the bout while feigning the appearance of making a serious offer. This argument is also a strange one. Negotiations, after all, have to start somewhere. If Ward’s team were willing to fire the opening salvo, it can hardly be held against them if the other side were not willing to fire back, especially considering the offer met Loeffler’s earlier claim that they’d accept a 50-50 purse split. If Loeffler no longer believed 50-50 was fair, they had the opportunity to put that position forward at the negotiating table, but chose not to.
As to the weight issue, while Ward had not boxed below 168 since 2013, for the kind of money and exposure the event would produce, it’s fair to assume he would be willing and capable of stripping a few extra pounds. Sanchez also did the credibility of his team’s position no favours here by claiming they never made a catchweight demand, despite video being available on YouTube of him personally saying they’d only do the fight at 164, while other members of the team were already on record stating they’d go to 168 for Froch and Chavez.
A little context, I think, is also in order when assessing the merit of Ward’s offer. He has proven on numerous occasions his willingness to step up to a serious challenge. The Super Six tournament was a minefield of dangerous opposition, and Chad Dawson was also one of the most accomplished fighters in boxing at the time they clashed. And after taking time out to heal injuries and resolve messy legal issues, now he is stepping up to test himself against arguably the most formidable challenge available, Sergey Kovalev. It seems rather absurd to question the legitimacy of his desire to fight Golovkin when he has since agreed to a contest that is even more daunting.
So, does this mean that I’m a GGG “hater”? That I think Triple G “ducked” a Ward fight because he’s “scared” of him? Not at all.
I’ve no doubt that Golovkin, the fighter, would step in the ring with anyone, anytime. His team, however, have to be more scrupulous in their management, and they simply preferred to hold out for a lower-risk, financially more rewarding fight against either Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez. That is hardly a crime, but even granting that it was a sensible long-term business move on their part, it still runs contrary to their prior eagerness to “fight the best from 154 to 168”. Whatever you think of Golovkin the fighter, there is a serious mismatch here between his team’s words and their deeds, whereas judging Ward by his upcoming test next weekend, the reverse is true.
— Matt O’Brien
23 thoughts on “Golovkin & Ward: Who Is Ducking Who?”
Sounds like, ducking to me. Esp when Ward is fighting Kovalev. If you make claims to fight the best, then you gotta back it up. Esp if the trainer is starting the flame. GGG has ran threw his last 4 opponents, minus Wade. That was a paid sparring match. GGG has been relvent fot the last few years now, and Ward still has the pedigree of fighting the best five fighters in the world at that time. And Ward still has that O in the column. There is legit action that the fight could have and should have been made. If GGG is the fighter that he say he is, then he should have stepped up, pushed the politics aside and demand he fight Ward.
If Ward is the great fighter he’s supposed to be, he wouldn’t have moved up until he took GGG’s belts.
But he couldn’t.
They were never in the same division!
Don’t suppose it matterst now….ward light heavy king…in my opinion serg and ward to big for ggg. A good big boxer beats a good little boxer ….
That’s a good point mate. If GGG’s people weren’t prepared to go up 8lbs to meet Ward, moving up 15lbs is even less likely. To be fair though, I don’t think Golovkin’s people will want to consider moving up in weight until a fight with Canelo (hopefully) finally happens, in any case. And by then, the whole landscape at light-heavy could have changed. Plus both fighters will be getting to the latter stages of their careers by then. Timing-wise, this one might have already passed us by, unfortunately.
I mostly agree with the conclusion, but some important context was missed. Golovkin was poised for big things that year and Ward was an unreliable fighter who no one could be sure if was realizable enough to sign to fight. Kovalev did because his options were small and doing so couldn’t hurt him.
First, K2 stated Ward was propositioned to fight in 2014, when he had no injury, and his promotional issues were his own making. Either way, Ward had things to do. Fine. When Ward/Roc emailed k2, they were also in the midst of making huge moves for
Now Ward was with Roc, so was Cotto. Cotto was under great pressure to fight Golovkin and GGG was no doubt poised to (at least theoretically get the winner of Canelo fight) to get a few unification fights. I partly question if Ward offer wasn’t designed to help Cotto out. Either way, it seemed to be it was timed to fail. No way Golovkin was going to go the Ward rout with what was manifesting for him.
When they first said anyone from 154-168 they were struggling to get any big fight.
But when Ward sent his 18 month long build up offer in Late summer of 2015 (fight was to be held fall of 2016), Golovkin
was finally getting shots at completing a long time goal. He’s on record saying he wanted to unify 160 in 2012.
Golovkin had signed the Lemiuex fight. He also was poised to get the winner of Lee v Suanders (although with Suanders it’d take awhile), and he was to get the winner of Cotto/Canelo.
K2 had to sit back and decide, would roping themselces with Ward (who had not really been fighting but once since 2013 at the time) or to tell Ward that it wouldn’t be until later, and go for the unification fights. They told Ward possibly in 2017. Ward wanted 2016. That’s hardily not wanting the fight.
And considering that Golovkin has now theee of the four titles, a possible Canelo 2016 fight (biggest in boxing), and Suanders sounding like he is ready, k2 made both the better decision for his legacy and his business career. It took longer than wanted, with Canelo pushing it back a year, but that’s hardily on ggg or k2. If k2 would have aimed ggg at Ward late 2016, no way De La Hoya feels the pressure to make the Sep. 2017 Golovkin fight.
Especially considering how hard Ward is to deal with. Ward only fights were he is hometown fighter. He never leaves the U.S. and would presumably demand the same things he did from Kovalev.
And if Canelo and Suanders fights happen, and Ward actually beats Kovalev on even ground in the rematch, then there is little doubt that Golovkin and Ward would be on a eventual crash course to meet reach other.
Thanks for your detailed reply, Timothy. Some very fair points there. Obviously, in terms of context, I had to leave a few things out just for reasons of space – this thing’s been going on so long that to get all of the details in would have made it a book rather than an article! I’ll try and give you my take on some of those things you mentioned that I didn’t have room to expand on in the article.
I agree with you that there were some issues in terms of Ward’s reliability due to his lack of activity. However, he was back in the ring with a new promoter and injury free, so if they were willing to make an offer I think it at least deserved being taken seriously.
As to the timing, according to the information I found the offer was for the fight to take place in the spring of 2016 (or “the first half of the year”), not the autumn. So it wasn’t actually that far away and, as stated in the article, the Limieux unification fight could still have gone ahead.
It’s also worth remembering that it was only about a month after Loeffler publicly stated they’d do the fight that the offer was sent. So saying “we’ll do it in 2017” after saying only a few weeks earlier they wanted the fight and would do a 50-50 split, is a pretty clear U-turn, I think.
I also agree with you that from their perspective it may simply have been a more sensible long-term business move to wait for Canelo, as I stated in the conclusion (although it’s worth considering that the argument that he could’ve beaten Canelo then got a better cut vs. Ward down the line runs both ways: if he’d have gone up and beaten Ward, he could have got a better cut vs. Canelo down the road, too). In any case, I disagree that it was obviously a better move legacy-wise, because beating Ward at 168 would have been massive historically, and moving up for one huge fight wouldn’t have prevented him from unifying at 160 afterwards. Also have to remember that his teams’ repeated assertion was that they wanted to “fight the best from 154-168” – not that they only wanted to fight Canelo and/or whichever fight brought the most money.
Lastly, I think there’s an awful lot of “what ifs” and possibilities regarding GGG’s fights at 160. Maybe Canelo will finally fight him… maybe Saunders will unify… maybe he’ll make a deal with Jacobs… etc. etc. While GGG is hardly to blame for those guys not stepping up, the fact is the fights haven’t happened – which was the point I was making in the last sentence: GGG’s team repeatedly said they wanted to fight the best, but ultimately they still haven’t. Ward said he wanted to fight the best, and ultimately he did (Kovalev). As I said, I don’t think that’s because GGG was “ducking” him, but I do think it means something in terms of how seriously we should take Ward’s offer.
Actually, Loeffler said twice and Ward said once it was for fall of 2016, a year and some months away.
But more importantly, ggg could have done his other fights, but are we really expecting he should jump to 168 to fight Ward as his first 168 fight.
Lastly, at time Ward just fought at LHW. Rumor was he couldn’t make 168.
And now he says he struggles to make 175. Ok, Ward is shady.
And then Ward after the Kov fight tries to say they emailed Golovkin in 2016, and K2 told him 2018. Ward knows that’s a lie.
It’s a lie they didn’t know. About Lemiuex, we all knew, and I’m not a boxing insider.
Ward knew dang well he had only opened his (seriously, a email of all things) after just about anyone could of figured K2 would say they were busy, Golivkin is on a crash course to Canelo, and wards team knew it.
Just like with Floyd, Ward then went to the media and made up petty nick names. The guy just fought at LHW, why is he making up petty names for a MW whose not even big. Why did he do it to Floyd?
I don’t for a second believe Ward’s team expected K2 to say yes at that point. Ward said nothing when Rafael reported Loeffler said it would take a 50/50 to get ggg to move up. And even then he said unifications were more important.
Regarding the proposed date, it’s clearly stated in one of the articles I referenced that Ward’s team made the offer for “the first half of 2016”. I’ve never heard or read GGG’s team dispute that.
Should we expect him to jump to 168 and fight Ward in his first fight? Hell yeah. Why would we NOT have expected that? It’s what other past greats have done and it’s what GGG’s team repeatedly stated he’d be prepared to do. We had every right to expect that.
Ward is not always consistent with his comments and recently (since the article was written) he’s definitely said some incorrect things regarding the dates, but he’s been consistent regarding his move to light-heavy: he made the decision to commit to the higher weight when it became clear the GGG fight wouldn’t happen. He was clear that he’d be capable of and prepared to still make 168 if they’d accepted the fight.
I don’t think you or anyone “knew” about the Limieux fight because you can’t “know” anything in boxing until it’s signed, sealed and delivered. There’s just too much posturing and posing in the media for leverage in negotiations. Fighters think they have big fights in the bag all the time, only to find promoters “switching” deals at the last minute. Regardless, the Limieux fight simply wasn’t a stumbling block according to the offer presented.
As for the Canelo fight, again – as I’ve said many times – I think the potential of that fight happening was a legitimate reason for GGG’s team to turn down the Ward offer. But it is still inconsistent with their earlier claims that (a) they were ready and willing to fight “anyone from 154-168” and (b) that they’d fight Ward for a 50-50 split.
For the same reason, I don’t think it makes much sense criticizing Ward for “saying nothing when Rafael reported Loeffler’s 50-50 demand” – because within weeks his team met that claim with an official offer, and were declined.
Ward is so dishonest, and i feel like somethings were left out here. The super six tournament had Ward fighting in his backward of Oakland the entire time. The only fight that didn’t take place there was the fight with Froch; that fight still took place in the U.S. Ward also drained Dawson down an entire division for their fight, so he can’t complain when GGG’s team wanted a catchweight.
Also, the same format that the Kovalev camp made with Ward? You mean that wonderful tune up fight that resulted in Ward fighting a low ranking 175 pounder and a bum 168 pounder before being handed 5 million dollars. A purse that was double that of Kovalev’s own?
Plus how did Ward’s team not know that the Lemieux fight was gonna happen, everyone knew it was close to being signed. It’s never smart to sign a deal for a fight later down the road. In 2015, Loeffler thought that Golovkin could get the IBF belt, and Canelo in the ring with maybe getting another title in the process like the wbo belt which was held by Andy Lee at the time. Why would it be fair for Ward to get 50% of the purse if Golovkin accomplished those things and fought on ppv?
Also, the 50/50 split offer was simply a starting offer to Ward. Golovkin would fight Chavez and Froch at 168 because they were the A-side. He would sure as hell fight Ward at 168, but Ward never wants to make concessions to anything. And why would fighting Ward historically be better than fighting Canelo? The guy who beat Lara, Trout, Cotto and fought Mayweather even. Ward had been out of the ring for years at that point.
And finally, on the topic of youtube video contradictions, how come Ward was on video saying he has the emails of the conversation with team GGG turning down the fight then said he can show reporters. However, when asked by a reporter Ward said “I don’t wanna do that man. I like people to believe my word.” He has proof, but won’t show it. Sounds like a bunch of B.S. to me.
Ward likes to pretend he is a angle, while acting petulant
Thanks for the detailed reply, Phil. As I said above to someone else, I didn’t really have room in the article to address every claim or issue in the debate because there’s so much to cover, so you’re right that I left some things out – but I’ll try to answer your points from my perspective as best I can here.
Regarding the Super Six, it’s true that Ward did have home advantage in all of his fights. Winning the tournament was still a fantastic achievement though, and he beat some excellent fighters – including the tournament favourite in the first round. I disagree that Ward “drained Dawson down”, too – Dawson publicly asked for the fight and said he’d be willing to meet Ward at 168. That may not have been a sensible move on Dawson’s part, but he made the call, not Ward.
When I said “the same format that the Kovalev camp made with Ward”, I meant regarding the timings, not the finances i.e. they’d each fight an interim fight then meet later. This kind of format is used all the time by promoters trying to build/sell a rivalry, so I disagree that it’s “never smart to sign a deal for a fight later down the road”.
Why would it be fair for GGG to get 50% of the purse? I think the fact that his own promoter was publicly on record only a couple of months earlier stating that they’d accept 50% is a good enough reason. Obviously, negotiating positions change, and if they believed 50/50 was no longer acceptable that’s fair enough, but they had the opportunity to put that position forward at the negotiating table, and chose not to.
Why would fighting Ward historically be viewed better than fighting Canelo? I think firstly because he’d be moving up in weight to fight someone bigger rather than taking on someone from a division below, which is immediately more of a challenge. Secondly, because style-wise it was viewed as a much more difficult fight, and he’d likely start as an underdog compared with starting as a favourite against Canelo. And lastly, because even though Ward had been out of the ring, he’d still beaten an array of very good fighters – and much bigger ones than Canelo had beaten – and he’d also been widely regarded as higher on the P4P lists before his absence from the ring. So there’s a very strong case for why historically it would carry more significance.
Lastly, on the topic of Youtube contradictions – I agree Ward is not exactly Mr. Consistent with some of the statements he makes. I’m not saying he is always right or that we should always believe him – which is why I referenced a variety of sources from both sides in the article. I can understand though why Ward would not want to publicly post a private letter containing numerous contractual, legal and financial details. That’s probably not a very sensible move. So he’s not really contradicting himself in that particular instance by saying he has the letter but won’t show it – there’s good reasons to keep that kind of thing confidential (and Loeffler himself admitted the email and its contents were real anyway, so I’m not really sure how refusing to show it is much of a problem).
I guess Golovkin was supposed to make this fight happen with the same promoter Ward was in litigation to break his contract with. Not to mention this article fails to mention the fact they agolvkin was fight three times a year while Ward didn’t fight for almost two years.
Actually, to be fair I wrote: “Fast-forward two years: Ward had managed just two ring-appearances since his Super Six triumph, whereas Golovkin had demolished a string of seven challengers in the same period and extended his consecutive run of knockouts to 16 straight.” Agree that GGG can’t be blamed for Ward’s legal problems during that time, but equally can’t say Ward was “ducking” if he had genuine reasons to be out of the ring.
Likewise you can’t falsely accuse Golovkin of ducking when there were no formal talks & the only evidence of a fight was an e-mail Ward sent AFTER Golovkin had agreed to fight Lemieux
With respect, I think I was pretty clear in the conclusion that I wasn’t “falsely accusing Golovkin of ducking”. Also addressed the other points in the article.
The fact that Ward is contemplating retirement as opposed to giving Kovalev a rematch tells you all you need to know
Personally, I think the fact that Ward stepped into the ring with (and beat) a fighter considered more dangerous than the one he was accused of “ducking” tells us a lot, too.
So why isn’t he willing to give Kovalev the rematch he deserves?
Many opinions out there this was a gift victory for Andre Ward
Many people think that; many respected observers do not. Regardless of the merit of the judges’ verdict, this is an entirely separate issue from Ward’s willingness to fight the best. His detractors said he was “ducking” Golovkin; he responded by seeking out and getting in the ring with an even more formidable opponent – thus proving the detractors wrong.
It was a close fight. In a close fight you have to take it from the Champ. Ward does seek advantages that I don’t think you find true all-time greats looking for. History will judge it, just as history will judge Mayweather’s legacy. Otherwise, Ward-haters aside, it is a fine article. Wish I had read it sooner.
something VERY important left out, here, probably the most important detail. GGG was mandatory for the WBC, and the lemieux unification fight was part of the step aside deal GGG agreed to so canelo cou fight cotto. the other part of that deal was that canelo would immediately defend the WBC against GGG if he won. therefore, GGG was committed to TWO fights, but of which would pay him more than ward and were in his own division. ward’s offer was not only admittedly sent AFTER GGG signed to it lemieux, but the canelo fight was agreed to be next as part of the deal. what GGG’s camp was saying was 100% accurate. ward was not available to fight when there was demand for it, when ward’s people sent their contract GGG was already committed, and the ward contract did not compare financially to the fights GGG had already committed to.