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Andre Ward silences critics after Kovalev stoppage

The Fight

It was just like all the other fights Andre Ward has had prior as somehow critics, writers and fans all seemingly intertwined into two opinions of group think via the power of social media. Some took aim at discrediting Andre Ward’s eighth round TKO victory over Sergey Kovalev at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada whereas others heralded the performance as a modern day masterpiece. Sadly, the most cynical voices, the detractors, are often the voices we look at first since negative opinions tend to get the most traction in a cultural of arguments and the reactionary culture of modern sports journalism.

In a fight that seemingly was for all the marbles and could alter the perception of either fighter’s career, it seemed with the end result it was a microcosm of today’s society. In an era, in which a president can run a campaign based off hatred and bigotry, you saw fans of Kovalev excuses unorthodox behavior such as threatening the well-being of Ward in stating he wanted to “…end [Andre Ward’s] career”, leave press conference early and simply look flat-out as displeased to be anywhere near the media as a whole.

The only thing is – Kovalev, has a grizzly past, one that includes injuring a man so badly in the ring that he actually died. The double standards rose as Ward’s missed press conference days after the Alexander Brand fight was mocked whereas Kovalev leaving in the middle of fight week presser was showing his competitive flair and focus.

I have never seen a fighter like Andre Ward, who is an American born, Olympic gold medalist, that a segment of boxing fans in his own country want to hound and ridicule. Ward, who spent over two and half hours with media at his Hayward, CA based gym for his media day was nothing short of cordial during professional obligations and though at times his laser focuses can be hard for reporters, myself included, he was there. Ward has an obsession with winning, Ward is if nothing else, a professional. At times it is relatable, because it seems like he would give up everything to be the best at any given moment.

I think of Ward as a superhero in the sense that he has a great power that only he has. That power is to beat people up, BADLY, but he can’t really explain it verbally nor does it seem he wants to, so he assumes another person like a Bruce Wayne of sorts. Ward is mean in the ring, but very cordial and polite outside of the ring, nothing short of a gentlemen and a role-model in the community, but don’t forget like some did, he isn’t a punk. Ward was raised in Oakland, Ca during an era of extreme violence to think that he is intimidated by another fighter in a sanctioned fight is quite silly.

The Shot

We can write all we want about the fight, but that is neither here or there. The fact is boxing is like baseball in a sense that it is one man’s judgement of what the strike zone or in this case the perimeters for legal blows. Once that is set, you have adjust one way or another, the shots at the end of the fight landed on the belt line, but that doesn’t mean they were low and the fact that referee Tony Weeks didn’t call them low means Kovalev needed to react as opposed to keel over on the ropes.

It is always funny how a fight that ends under odd circumstances will have people forgetting the moments before that. Those moments saw Ward land a flush right hand that wobbled Kovalev badly, a body shot that landed fully as well as Kovalev turning his back to Ward at one time as if he didn’t want to fight anymore. If you read the pundits, who try to discredit the win, you’d probably believe Kovalev was in complete control, when truth being Ward had taken the fighter over in the last three rounds with Kovalev making a last stand in the seventh and seemingly gassing out by the end of the round.

The other thing is the fact that if you bend over in the middle of the fight this also makes the zone of legal and illegal blurred since you now have a moving target that obstructs the zone not unlike turning your head to foe and getting hit in the back of the head with the foul not being called.

The Hate

The outcry on the internet and the hatred for Ward partially comes from people’s inability to say “…I got a fight wrong with my fight pick.” It is part of the reason why fight picks are so damning to the sport, it makes people at times who are uninvested in a fight grow a hatred for a fighter who seemingly is doing nothing wrong. A group of boxing fans who love power punchers and wanted Kovalev to win were partially flabbergasted and partially anger as they saw their beloved fighter quit against Andre Ward and couldn’t make sense of it since in their minds that was suppose to be what happened to Ward.

Much like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao this was to some fans wanted to see a their favorite fighter imposing his willing which reflected their hatred of a fighter in the ring. When that fighter wasn’t beaten – tensions rose. The only difference is Mayweather has had some blemishes in his past, Ward has never had one conflict with law enforcement, so the hatred is based around solely of spectacle. In essence, some people don’t enjoy Ward’s style so they wanted to see him get hurt by one of the most feared boxers in the sport.

It is not unlike the irrational hatred that saw Brian Stow viciously assaulted at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, it is a primitive and gang-like group think, that forgets that despite this being entertainment for the viewer, Ward and Kovalev have families and that no fight should be more important than the fight to see their children and family. This is especially true as Roc Nation Sports signed boxer Daniel Franco spent fight week in a medically induced coma in Iowa after being knocked out by Jose Haro, the week prior.

Some boxing fans are irrational, they look to either media members or Twitter accounts they deem cool and go along with those opinions as facts. We get some great people in the sport of boxing, but we get some fringe lunatics as well. For every great one we just as soon see a person who picked up boxing less for the entertainment or the knowledge one can obtain from it and more so to be “the expert” on boxing in their group of friends.

Even worse some pundits cater to this group to label their readership as “the voice of hardcore fans.”

The lack of professionalism in terms of media in boxing and the sheer embarrassment of some of the fans actions towards some fighters, Ward included, shows why boxing has fallen so far off the main stream essence.

The Excuses

Despite an outcry of childish remarks from media and fans, who wished to discredited one of Ward’s biggest wins was the debacle of Kovalev and his promoter Main Events, headed by Kathy Duva, in which it just seemed at best – unorganized and at worst like people losing it. Diva took to the presser after the fight to explain how the fight should of ended in a disqualification, when members of Ward’s family as well as well as notable Oakland, CA celebrities such as Golden State Warriors players, Marshawn Lynch and legendary rapper Mistah F.A.B., began to boo, Duva began to scold the crowd.

It was as if everything Ward had said about Kovalev and his team prior to the fight was true. Ward spoke of the excuses Kovalev made and after a fight that ended more so, because of Kovalev’s inability to engage. We saw every member of his team Kovalev and himself included act surprised that Tony Weeks intervened despite Kovalev bent over on the ropes idle.

To hear Kovalev’s side, it would appear as if he was doing well, got hit low once was not given time to recover and the fight was stopped. It seemed like the type of response you would say if you acted solely out of emotion and didn’t think about what had happened in a clear state of mind. Even Kovalev’s trainer, John David Jackson, said that it was time for Kovalev to move on from Ward, which also could be a sign that Jackson could be removing himself from Kovalev’s camp.

Part of Kovalev’s excuses though seemed rational as it looked as though I saw the child who grew into a fearsome puncher through tough circumstances and training. A person, who could never be honest with himself, because the truth was ugly and he wanted to dream big. Kovalev’s greatest strength was to never believe he was anything less then the most fearsome boxer in the world and when that was brought into question he appeared unable to respond or take it. It was like Kovalev was in denial as he sat in the press conference afterwards.

For lack of a better word, it looked as though part of what made Kovalev so fearsome was the fact that a part of him hated adversity so much that he wished to put it on others and uphold a demeanor that would imply no signs of weakness. When his mystic was gone, all that stood was a world class fighter, who looked confused as to why he had lost and looked vulnerable as well as agitated heading into his second fight with Ward.

Simply put Kovalev was no longer the bully, that he had been for his whole career and that seemed to unnerve him. Ward on the other hand saw the talking from Kovalev as signs of weakness not unlike a quote from Frank Lucas. Ward prodded at Kovalev to add further strain. Kovalev trained seemingly by himself in Big Bear with conflicting reports of how engaged John David Jackson even was involved. In a fight, that was suppose to define Kovalev’s career, he looked more like Andrew Golota than Ivan Drago.

At the same time, Ward is not free of blame. Ward did fight Kovalev at times dirty, but it was simply, because in my observation, he didn’t think Kovalev could handle a tough fight mentally and physically.

If it is now fine to mock people for standing up for social justice than the polar opposite of that, the ones who hold vindictive grudges and mock undefeated fighters with hall of fame resumes, should of gotten their come uppins-, but instead it was more of the same stale narratives and cliches that have made boxing mocked so heavily in the collective mass. Instead of praising Ward, we got either piece of praise or pieces written in angst. Boxing is in trouble, because the professional standard to write about boxing is so lax that fans disguised as media shape the perception of fighters to the public and even worse, interesting dialogues are being thrown to the background for 30 second Instagram videos instead.

Ward won his crowning achievement stopping the boogeyman that gave him his only close fight of his professional career. Rather than praise, we saw the Kovalev camp discredit him and the media become silent. Ward is essentially what we want in boxing a fighter, who in his era fought the best fighters, yet for some reason, he is not beloved for ambiguous reason which are often hid behind racially coded words such as “…I find him arrogant”, with an inability to expand on the sentence from there.

We live in a world full of alternative facts and false truths, a world in which entertainment and entitlement outweighs substance. It is a world that can’t appreciate a craftsman such as Ward. As colleges shutdown and a war on intellectualism begins, you see the lingering effect in boxing when cards of seemingly little importance to the top of the division merit a bigger outcry than seeing the #1 pound for pound fighter versus the #2 pound for pound fighter in the world.

As I have watched Andre Ward’s career over the last four years or so, I can’t help, but wonder if he feels he was born in the wrong era. Media days and interviews tend to focuses less so on the fight it is intended to promote and more so on quick hit monetized YouTube clips about other fighters. 

Ward is boxing’s Kobe Bryant, a figure who often was not understood, but always respected. He is a pro’s pro. You talk to most boxers and they will explain that they respect the focus and pose of Andre Ward, fighters who are at the highest level have confided to me in private that they even model aspects of their camp around what they envision he would do.

So I guess that is what is so weird to me. Ward is the best of this generation and seemingly doesn’t get the adequate praise an all-time great should get, but he gets it ten fold from his peers and from the Bay Area.

It is just the way of Andre Ward, I suppose.

Nonetheless, Ward’s greatness can never be questioned even if it is from a rival Los Angeles based media or fan base who has been against him seemingly since the amateurs.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle