By Johnny Walker
Carl Froch accused Andre Ward of being arrogant in the lead-up to the final of their Super Six finale, and Ward was visibly upset. After all, just because a guy calls himself the son of an all-powerful supernatural deity, it doesn’t mean he’s got a high opinion of himself.
Or does it?
I was almost ready to take Ward at his word, and then I arrived at Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey and got my program. Soon I was reading the glowing biographies of each fighter: the bio of Carl Froch was written by his promoter, Eddie Hearn. Fair enough.
Then I read the bio detailing the many outstanding qualities of Andre Ward.
It was written by none other than … Andre Ward!
OK, so Andre Ward has a very high opinion of himself. He might even verge on being a bit narcissistic. In a boxer, that’s not always a bad thing. Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali used to tell everyone how “pretty” he was in comparison to opponents like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier (he modeled much of his act on famous wrestler Gorgeous George). And he made it work for him.
But there was a playfulness about Ali that is missing from born-again Andre Ward. Ward doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor, especially about himself. He’s a po-faced type. With Ali you always saw the glint in his eye that said, “I know how ridiculous I’m being.” You felt like you were in on the joke.
With Ward, there is none of that. The SOG is a VSP (Very Serious Person).
Another thing about Andre Ward: God must be a fan of illegal boxing tactics, because his Son is one “hell” of a dirty fighter.
Ward definitely won the Super Six finale, and he won it the way he wins most of his bouts: by using his elbows and his head along with his boxing skills (which are considerable). Ask Mikkel Kessler about that.
Even the Ward fans sitting near me were gasping at the replays on the big screen which showed their hero punching Froch and then following through with an elbow to the face. Referee Steve Smoger played the role of Ward’s wingman, especially during the crucial first stages of the fight, when he refused to break the fighters during long clinches and left a bewildered looking Froch to deal with the array of elbows, forearms, and skull shots coming his way.
As Ward began to tire down the stretch, in part from Froch’s hard body shots, he really started to use his head, grinding his skull into Froch’s reddened face during clinches, and attempting to come up from underneath and ram Froch’s chin with his rock-hard dome. Froch, who is a clean fighter, just didn’t seem ready to deal with the roughhouse tactics Ward employed. He seemed a bit shocked and confused by them, when what he really needed to do was fight fire with fire and punch Ward straight in the groin after receiving one of those elbows.
My friend and colleague Philip Anselmo says, “what do you expect, Walker, it’s boxing!” and do I see where he’s coming from. But man, Ward really is dirty. If he’s going to be the next boxing superstar that so many in the American boxing media now say he will be, is he going to continue to fight in this way?
Perhaps with Andre Ward, it’s all about the packaging. Just as we’ve seen many corrupt American politicians and televangelists hide under the banner of the almighty, Ward’s overt born-again religiosity is a giant signifier that covers over his many pugilistic sins.
After all, if you’re the Son of God, anything you do has already been blessed in advance by the bearded fella seated on that golden throne in the sky.
Finally: with the outwardly non-religious Froch as an opponent, Ward was God’s automatic choice, but what will happen if and when the SOG faces the equally devout Lucian Bute?
What side does God choose in a fight between a born-again and a Roman Catholic?
If that sounds ridiculous, well, it is. But it’s the kind of thing that is the logical outcome when religion gets mixed up with sports.