Everyone has an opinion, and we respect that but there comes a time when you must make a stand after watching the work of the world’s top-level pugilists.
For that reason, we must proclaim Andre “S.O.G.” Ward as the undeniable, “TSL Boxer of the Year” for 2016.
Conveyance of this honor upon someone means that they have indefatigably proven themselves this year as the best in the sport. Although other fighters have made tremendous gains and have had bigger moments, Ward has truly reached a culmination point to an already very decorated career.
Arguably the highest regarded fight of the year was when Andre Ward meet Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev on November 19th where he put it all on the line. His unbeaten record and reputation as one of the best boxing technicians were seriously threatened by the heat-seeking-missle power of Kovalev,yet he jumped weight classes and climbed the ladder to create this challenge.
Although many feel that Ward didn’t deserve the unanimous decision victory his technical prowess solidified that verdict. In round two, he felt the power of his opponent when Kovalev scored a flash knockdown, placing Ward on all fours from a short punch delivered from the inside. Ward stood back up, smiled at the faux pas, wiped his gloves and began to do what he specializes in, slowly adapting to his opponent.
Around round 4, Ward began to make the doubters embody Roger Mayweather’s catchphrase, “you don’t know sh*t about boxing,” with brilliant slips and avoidance of Kovalev’s relentless pursuit of his chin.
As the rounds peeled off and Ward delivered less offense and more skilled defense a la Floyd Mayweather, he turned the tide from the first four rounds and cinched the remaining 8 rounds with relative ease. Champions can adapt to any environment and Andre Ward has been doing so from his nascence in the sweet science.
Ward started boxing in 1994 and from 1998 to 2004 he did not lose a single match. In 2002, he won the Under 19 National Championship and was also a two-time U.S. National Champion in 2001 and 2003 at Middleweight. In 2004, he ended the eight-year U.S.A. Boxing top honors drought when he brought home the gold at the Athens Olympics.
Making his pro debut with a 2nd round TKO over Chris Molina in December 2004, Ward never looked back and exceeded everyone’s expectations on his long road to the top of the game. However, his defining moment came in the Showtime Super-Six Tournament where Ward truly showed he was one of the greats. Expected to lose by many to then WBA super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler, Ward won the first tournament and the belt due to an 11th round stoppage of Kessler from cuts before his hometown crowd at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA.
He followed that up with a second tournament win the following year defeating Allan Green by unanimous decision. From there Ward went on a tear, destroying the records of everyone in the super middleweight division while en route to an supposed eventual clash with reigning middleweight juggernaut Gennady “GGG: Golovkin. Depending on who you listen to, both sides claim the other was difficult to negotiate with but the result was clear, the fight might never happen.
With that outcome, a shoulder injury, clashes with the WBC that resulted in his being stripped of his title and a heated legal battle with his then-promoter, Dan Goossen, Ward sat out all of 2014 and returned in the middle of 2015. The layoff had people believing he would be a changed man and that ring rust would calcify the greatness he had shown during his career.
That proved inaccurate and after dispatching of Paul Smith via TKO in the 9th round of his return fight, Ward moved up to light heavyweight specifically to challenge Sergey Kovalev and solidify his dream of being a multi-weight class champion.
For this achievement and staying the course as a businessman, person of character and competitive top-level athlete, Andre Ward is our TSL Boxer of the Year.
Runner Up: Terence Crawford