We live in a country where sensationalism is king. One need look no further than the Presidential race and ultimate election of Donald Trump to understand this.
In sports, it is no different. We tend to forget that the word coupled behind it is usually entertainment, an axiom lost in the physical attributes of the competitors. But the brass know it to be true, that you cannot have athleticism without the entertainment, and athletes that can match their gifts with a dash of flash are heralded as the best of their genre.
It is why high-level competitors like Andre Ward are constantly left in the fray of the popular culture and forgotten. A champion he is, yes and gilded with the respect he rightfully deserves as a U.S. Olympian and multi-weight class titleholder.
However, Ward’s substance over style, understated demeanor and quiet confidence doesn’t translate well to a voracious boxing audience that seeks hype first. It must be stated that while the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. blueprint of marketing was being laid, Andre Ward was recovering from a shoulder injury, roiled in a vicious legal battle with then promoter Dan Goossen, and waging a standoff with some of boxing’s sanctioning bodies.
On March 23, 2013 the WBC stripped Ward of the WBC super-middleweight belt for being inactive and failing to face a mandatory challenger, however they granted him champion emeritus status. Ward revealed he had a shoulder injury that required surgery, but the WBC didn’t accept that, claiming that he had not provided any medical evidence or a rough availability date.
On May 2013, Ward relinquished the champion emeritus title, stating that he did not believe the WBC had the right to strip him of the world title because he was willing and able to defend it within the period specified by the WBC's rules. Ward was praised for standing up to the WBC, which was a grave thing to do during a time when his career was in limbo.
In 2014, while recovering from his injuries, Ward was also feuding with promoter Dan Goossen, who had promoted him to that point for his entire 10-year career. Ward had attempted to break the contract by arguing that the promotional agreement was in violation of California Labor Code Section 2855. That section of the code says a contract for personal services may not be enforced beyond seven years.
However, the court rejected the contention that he was under a personal services contract. Ward re-signed with Goossen for three years in April 2011 and received a $550,000 signing bonus. Earlier that year, Ward launched an effort to get out of the promotional contract by suing Goossen in California, claiming that he has violated the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act for failing to disclose all forms of income generated by his fights. It was his fourth legal attempt against Goossen, who denied the charge and counter sued for $10 million.
Ward spent all of 2014 inactive, until Dan Goossen died of complications from liver cancer in September 2014. Ward announced his signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports in January 2015 and began his climb back into the spotlight, even though The Ring reportedly stripped him of his Ring Champion belt a month later due to him not having defended his title against a Top 5 contender in the last two years.
Since, Ward has dispatched Paul Smith and entered the light heavyweight fray, defeating Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand en route to this weekend’s opponent, Sergey” Krusher” Kovalev.
The fight is the first pay-per-view for Ward, and as the old adage goes, numbers don't lie. If the HBO PPV broadcast does well and if Ward does indeed win, hopefully America will embrace one of its true talents and bearer of the elusive Olympic gold medal.
With the antics of Adrien Broner taking more precedence today than the slick in-ring wizardry of up-and-coming talents like Terence Crawford, hopefully Ward's newest challenge will act like Dap in School Daze and force people to "WAKE UP!"