by Matt Gerovac
Andre Ward’s calm temperament, methodical style, and likable blue-collar persona would be welcome in any other profession. But in boxing, where glamour and glitz seem to be a requirement for monetary success, nice guys can tend to finish last, even if they have proven skills like Ward. So, what does the low-key Ward need to do to improve his earning potential? Is it all about skill in the ring or does Ward need an image makeover? Real boxing fans appreciate boxing, but how does a fighter transcend the sport’s glass ceiling?
Since Mohammed Ali , many have attempted to imitate his method of big words and bigger actions. But Ali came at a different time when the the civil rights movement was in full swing and his imprint, whether he realized it at the time or not, carried much more gravity. Today, when guys like Adrien Bronner or Floyd Mayweather start spouting off about their skills, it’s old hat. It sort of goes in one ear and out the other. Fighters and their management teams feel pressure to create a story, something people can really grab on to. In reality, a fighter’s image can have less to do with his boxing skills and more to do with the surrounding circus-like antics and rigamarole.
It’s certainly debatable as to whether the big-ticket guys like Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins are better boxers than Ward, but their antics are certainly more spectacular. Mayweather, a once-in-a-generation talent, has made his money embracing a sort of super-villain status. People love to hate Mayweather, with his gum chewing and sunglasses, but they’re still willing to pay to watch what they hope will be his first defeat. Bernard Hopkins has adopted his new “The Alien” moniker, supposedly because he must be of another world to continue to be excelling in a young man’s sport despite his advanced age. Although the new pseudonym may have been created to help him continue to cash in on pay-per-view dollars well into his fifties. But who can blame either of them? They’re just the big time players in what has become an increasingly competitive, complex, and completely whacky circus we call boxing.
So, Andre Ward seems to be an upstanding, hard-working, supremely skilled boxer that no one can beat. But, he’s still not bringing in the money that his boxing skills should warrant. What can he do? He could enter the ring on a unicorn, wearing tasseled trunks and a green mask. Maybe he should have Lil Wayne as his trainer and Justin Bieber as his cut man. If all of this sounds absurd, then there is still hope for the sweet science.
What Andre Ward should do is simply continue to focus on boxing. After big wins over Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, and Chad Dawson, Ward has shown that it’s possible to be one of boxing’s good guys and still earn a paycheck. In the tradition of fighters like Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Ray Mancini, Andre Ward has chosen to focus on the business of being a boxer, not the sideshow. The American public should do whatever possible to reward his work ethic, humbleness, and boxing skill.
This Saturday, Andre Ward will put his WBA Super Middleweight Title on the line against the undefeated Edwin Rodriguez. Hopefully the ratings numbers will indicate an appreciation for the sport of boxing, not the circus.