In a world where Twitter is the primary on-demand news source, professional athletes are well aware of their responsibility when communicating. In the social media world, nothing is deemed to be posted by accident and its repercussions usually expose the inner mental workings of high-level competitors.
That’s why when boxer Sergey Kovalev began a series of graphic tweets filled with negative racial epithets geared towards Andre Ward, more than an eyebrow was raised.
Kovalev has been so frustrated with his loss to Andre “S.O.G.” Ward last November that his ugly side is on full display. Replete with simulated faux text between Kovalev and Ward, the tasteless exchange uses terminology like “hoe ass n-word” and more.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for Kovalev. On his failed crusade to fight the elusive Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, Kovalev sent out a racist tweet comparing Stevenson to a chimpanzee with boxing gloves. He released a statement following the backlash that feigned ignorance of American cultural sensitivities.
“I apologize for my tweet about Adonis Stevenson. I really did not know it was bad. In the last few days my friends at Main Events teach me some history about the United States. It is very different to where I grew up in Chelyabinsk. I’m still learning here and I understand I have made a mistake. I hope I can be forgiven this mistake and I will not do such a thing again.”
But he did do it again and this time, it is worse since he pretends to speak for Ward with ignorance never before displayed by the champion.
Andre Ward is perhaps the classiest gentleman boxer since Joe Louis. He has elevated the game by obliterating the competition at super middleweight and then defeating the dominant Kovalev at light heavyweight. He is currently mentoring and acting as the co-manager of Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson. Fighters like Amir Khan and Andre Berto have flocked to Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter and the Bay area just for a bit of his quiet magic.
Competition drives professional athletes and when an undefeated athlete feels robbed by a decision, their emotions are likely to get the better of them. When Kovalev knocked Ward down in the second round, he felt that it was a testament to his prowess over the self-proclaimed “Son of God”. However, there is no excuse for stoking the embers of racial animus to justify any feelings of unfair play in professional boxing.
Kovalev’s classless displays during press conferences against other opponents in the past and distributed across social media have degraded his image irreparably. No longer is he seen as the foreign-born champion who, like Gennady Golovkin and Vasyl Lomachenko is respected for his in-ring merits and hard work. Now we see a man who, although an elite-level athlete, is scorned from a bruised ego and cannot handle the loss of his pristine record. His prior racial indiscretions against Stevenson shows a flawed humor and personality disorder rooted in the need to win.
Andre Ward has chosen not to address Kovalev’s actions and hasn’t stooped beneath his character in retaliation. It is the classy move that we expect from Ward and why he is a great champion for boxing. Kovalev will rematch Andre Ward in June to decide if the first unanimous decision was a fluke. Either way, Kovalev has shown the world he is not a great champion and far from a gentleman.
Kovalev has lost regardless of whatever the outcomes are in any of his fights in the future. During this great resurgence boxing has had, it cannot tolerate the divisive grumblings from even its best competitors. After all, it is the classy thing to do.