It’s easy to forget that when Showtime’s Super 6 tournament started at the end of 2009, Andre Ward was not considered a favorite. In fact, many had him after Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, and Arthur Abraham, but that’s why they decide it in the ring, right? It didn’t take long after the bell sounded to find out that the last American Gold Medalist in boxing (all the way back to Athens, 2004) was deeply underrated.
It’s not just that he defeated Kessler, then Abraham, and finally, Froch, it was the relative ease with which he appeared to do so. Ward, known to himself and in some circles as “the Son Of God,” methodically forced both his will and skill on all three champions, leaving them if not decimated, clearly dispirited. Not only did Ward handle all three fighters, taking unanimous decisions in each bout, but against Kessler and Abraham, he was hardly giving away any rounds. Even the Froch fight, which found two score cards at 115-113, seemed nowhere near that close. The third judge scored the fight 118-110 for Ward and by far, that seemed the most reasonable card. One need only consider the rather macho Froch’s avoidance of Ward since then to understand even the Cobra didn’t think it was that close. Carl Froch bangs no drum for a rematch against the S.O.G.
What was even more interesting about Ward’s five wins in the Super 6 (he also dispatched Sakio Bika and Allan Green), was the way he did it. If you want to brawl, Ward can to do that. If you want to box, Ward can do that. If you want to get dirty, the S.O.G. can be an S.O.B. While Ward may not have had an electrifying knockout in the tournament, his skill level, flexibility, and dogged toughness quickly established him as the class of the Super Middleweight division.
Perhaps Ward’s greatest triumph came nine months after the Super 6, against Chad Dawson. Dawson was 31-1, coming off a solid majority decision (two cards had Dawson up 117-111, the third somewhat mystifyingly came in at 114-114) against the great Bernard Hopkins and coming down from light heavyweight to challenge Ward. Dawson, a slick and often frustrating technically skilled boxer, would seem to have been a tough challenge for Ward. The opposite turned out to be true. Ward bashed Dawson all around the ring that night, sending the bigger man to a knee three times before Dawson effectively told the referee, his corner, and everyone watching at home that he had had enough in the tenth.
In just under three years, the 28 year-old Ward had cleaned out the Super Middleweight division and seemed to have the boxing world all but at his feet. Since then? Almost nothing. The Dawson fight took place on September 8 of 2012. Ward has fought only once since then against the B+ level Edwin Rodriguez, who he predictably outclassed in November of last year.
Part of the inactivity between the Dawson and Rodriguez fights can be blamed on a shoulder injury suffered in training. However, the root of Ward’s pugilistic slumber can be directly traced to his feud with his promoter, the late Dan Goossen. Ward’s beef with Goossen (the only promoter Ward has ever known) stems from his belief that Goossen was not allowing Ward and his team enough input into the promotion and match making of his future fights. Which in boxing terms, seems to be among the milder disputes between pugilist and promoter.
It’s hard to say which actor in this play has the better part. Unlike most feuds of this kind, you can see, at least on some level, both sides. As boxing promoters go, Goossen’s reputation was certainly superior to that of Don King and Bob Arum, and Ward is definitely regarded by some as among the classiest and most articulate fighters in the game. Just this August though, the animosity turned even darker when Goossen responded to Ward’s accusation–under the Ali Act–that the promoter was tardy in paying out the fighter’s winnings with a $10 million defamation suit.
It’s hard to say if Goossen’s death on September 29 of this year from liver cancer will expedite Ward’s way back to the ring or not. On the surface, Goossen’s passage would seem to reduce the level of complication involved therein, but this is boxing and as we all know, in the fight game, there is many a lip betwixt a cup and a lip. It does however seem to provide an opportunity to clear the way.
For Ward’s part he released the following statement that could serve as the beginning of a pathway forward.
“I was deeply saddened to learn the news of Dan Goossen’s passing early this morning. My thoughts and prayers have been with Dan and his family since I received news of his illness last week. While Dan and I recently had our professional struggles, he was a great man, father and husband. He will be greatly missed by the boxing community. I will continue to keep the Goossen family in my prayers.”
However, Ward is still signed to Goossen Tutor Promotions, and that knot will still need to be unraveled. Perhaps the Goossen team taking over the full operations will be more amenable to Ward’s concerns and maybe, just maybe, the grief that all concerned must be feeling will soften some hearts. A tall order in the world of fisticuffs, but one can hope.
What we do know, is that all of 2014 has gone by and many people’s #2 pound for pound fighter, Andre Ward, has not fought once and has nothing on his schedule. Ward did turn 30 this year and his contract with Goossen Tutor was found valid by the California State Athletic Commission in April. Ward will be 33 when the contract expires. He will then be free to fight whomever he chooses. There will be other contracts and other bouts. There will however be only one prime. Andre Ward’s is slipping away.