Andre Ward Fills In For Roy Jones Jr & Reminds Us Why He Is The Next Big Boxing Superstar
Hopkins defeats Cloud via Unanimous Decision at the Barclays Center in New York
Boxing fans all over the world were surprised on Saturday as 48 year old Bernard Hopkins continued to evade father time during a Unanimous Decision Victory to earn the IBF Light Heavyweight Championship Belt. Hopkins set the record for becoming the World Champion of a universally acknowledged boxing organization. He had previously set the record in 2011 beating Jean Pascal. Before Hopkins, George Foreman owned the record after beating Michael Moorer for the IBF & WBA Heavyweight titles in 1994.
Andre “Son Of God” Ward fills in for Roy Jones Jr on the HBO broadcast alongside Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman. Roy was absent due to the death of a close friend.
We had the opportunity to view/hear a different side of the next big Boxing Superstar in unanimous #2 ‘”Pound For Pound” fighter in the world, 29 year old Andre Ward. Despite his flawless resume inside the ring Ward is often criticized for having little or even no substance (ie marketability) to his personality. We were able to hear Ward analyze the Hopkins vs Cloud fight.
Hopkins most recent loss was to Chad Dawson on 4/28/2012 by way of Majority Decision. The very same Chad Dawson that Andre Ward went on to destroy in a Super Middleweight bout on 9/8/2012 by way of TKO in the 10th round. My point is Ward isn’t very far removed from either of the two fighters he was analyzing in the ring.
Ward’s defenders claim just because he is a proud Christian who hasn’t had public controversy like Floyd Mayweather has (examples include his domestic assault charges in 2012 which led to an 87 day term in a Los Vegas jail & this public dispute with his father) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the potential to dominate both inside and outside the ring for many years to come. Ward’s candidacy for being the next true Boxing Superstar is outlined very well with this article by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix from September of 2012.
Within the article Mannix references one of the most exciting & marketable Boxers in the history of the sport in Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya discusses Ward here:
"People were excited to watch me fight," De La Hoya told SI.com. "There was drama, there was action; it was entertaining. You have to have all the ingredients to become a megastar. Andre Ward is a great fighter, a tremendous champion, a tremendous person. But he has to take chances. He has to engage in combinations where the people are going to cheer and scream. He has to engage more. He is just so talented; he makes his opponents look like amateurs. He needs that perfect opponent who stands right in front of him. Have we seen him against that opponent? I don't think so."
Who Is Andre Ward?
Ward is from San Francisco, CA, won a Gold Medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and has a professional record of 26-0 with 14 KOs. Ward’s most recent fight (and definitively his most impressive victory in my opinion) was against Chad Dawson. Dawson accepted the challenge of moving down a weight class to challenge Ward. The Boxing world expected Ward to struggle with a physically larger fighter who has experience against the top level of competition a weight class above what Andre faces. Ward dominated the fight and won by way of TKO in the 10th round.
Ward’s next fight was scheduled for January 26th against former Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlick (Youngstown, OH) but the fight was postponed and ultimately cancelled due to Ward’s right shoulder injury/rehab taking longer than originally expected. As of 1/19/2013 Pavlick officially retired from the sport and Ward’s next opponent is yet to be determined at this time.
How did Ward perform during his debut as an HBO Boxing Analyst?
Ward sat alongside Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley who are two of the most well respected boxing analysts in the industry. At the beginning I was a little skeptical of Ward’s ability to handle the spotlight due to his inexperience in this type of a role. During Ward’s first verbal interaction immediately prior to the fight I did find it to be a little awkward, but as the fight progressed what I heard from Ward was nothing short of very impressive. Ward provided extremely detailed, in depth technical Boxing analysis. You could sense the level of comfort Ward has with discussing the “Sweet Science” it was almost as if we (the listeners/viewers) were chatting with him in an Oakland gym as Ward gushed about the way Hopkins has mastered the art of Boxing while the younger Cloud was relying more on punching. Ward wasn’t overly critical that Cloud seemed to throw his entire pre-fight game-plan out the window as the fight went on, he instead discussed the difficulty between practicing/planning to fight one way and actually doing it between the ropes against arguably the craftiest veteran Boxer any of us will ever see.
Upon Lampley describing the bizarre situation that lead to Bernard Hopkins entering the ring second despite the fact that Cloud was the current IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion (due to Hopkins bargaining it came down to a coin flip, which Cloud lost) Ward acknowledged that he had never seen or heard of that happening before. Ward didn’t feel it was necessary to avoid admitting something occurred that he had never personally witnessed, he instead handled the issue with the poise of an industry veteran who still has things to learn about the sport we all love.
To the casual observer who may have tuned into HBO Saturday night, Ward didn’t make any attention grabbing statements (not a surprise to anyone) but what he did was reiterate that he is a true student of the sport who respects his peers and takes true pride in the techniques’ employed by each of the two prize fighters in Cloud and Hopkins.
Based on his excellent in-fight analysis of Cloud vs Hopkins I am even more sold on Ward as being the future Super Boxer for many years to come. It will never be a Superstar reign that replicates Mayweather, Pacquiao, Ali or even Roy Jones Jr, but in time there is no doubt that Ward will get the national recognition he deserves, even from the casual fan.
Hopkins talking to Ward immediately after the decision was announced:
Right after it was announced Hopkins had unanimously won he walked over to the far side of the ring and began talking to Andre Ward with what sounded/seemed to be him challenging Ward to be his next opponent. Ward acknowledged on the telecast that he didn’t understand exactly what Hopkins had said but shortly after the telecast had ended Ward took to twitter to clear up any confusion as to exactly what Hopkins had said:
Thanks for all the support!! I love doing this!! And no...B-Hop did not call me out. He said he would never fight me...that's what was said.