By Sean Crose
So now Bernard Hopkins wants to fight Andre Ward. What’s more, Ward might well be interested. Who can blame him? Ward is unquestionably a great boxer. His victory over Chad Dawson proved he can fight the best in the business and emerge victorious. Still, he hasn’t hit the big time yet, and by big time I mean big money fights.
So while boxing fans know who Ward is, the American public, in general, does not. Of course, none of this means Ward can’t be a financially successful and respected athlete. It simply means Ward can’t be a superstar unless he starts generating serious interest outside of his sport’s core fan base.
Unfortunately for Ward, he’s not the type of fighter who can do it on his own. Say what you will, Ward doesn’t draw attention to himself the way a Mayweather does, or the way a Tyson or an Ali did back in the day. Nor is Ward the kind of destructive fighter who lures fans in simply on the strength of his savagery. Sure, Ward can hit, but he’s not a consistent destroyer; a fact clearly evidenced by his record (26 – 0, with 14 KOs).
Also damaging to Ward’s earning potential is his nationality. He’s not from Eastern Europe, Central America, South America or the British Isles. He’s American and, as such, doesn’t feel the need to become a representative of his homeland. Besides, we Americans rarely make our athletes unofficial ambassadors. What’s more, we’ve become rather ambivalent about our athletes here lately.
So what can Ward do to catapult himself to a place he seemingly deserves to be? The answer is, he can go the Marvin Hagler route. This answer may seem strange at first, since Ward and Hagler are so seemingly dissimilar. Yet it starts to ring true upon the realization that Hagler slugged it out in the trenches for years before getting his big break.
Indeed, it wasn’t until a rejuvenated Roberto Duran gave him a run for his money that Hagler became a premiere attraction (and even then, all the praise seemed to go to Duran for performing so valiantly in a bout he lost). After defeating Duran, Hagler simply couldn’t be ignored anymore. Not by other fighters. Not by the media. Not by sport’s fans. Ward must find himself in such a place if he’s to enjoy Hagler-level success.
In order to get to such a place, though, Ward has to fight big names. Hopkins may not be an enormous PPV draw, but he IS popular. A Ward-Hopkins fight would surely get more play on SportsCenter than the Ward-Rodriguez fight will. One simply can’t escape the fact that a bout with Hopkins would increase Ward’s exposure, as well as – quite possibly – his earning potential.
Yet there’s a real danger to Ward meeting Hopkins in the ring. Hopkins can lose the fight free of consequences. Ward can’t. No one will fault a man near fifty for losing a boxing match. A man near thirty, on the other hand…
Before agreeing to a bout with Hopkins, Ward will have to accept that he may appear as Rocky Marciano to Hopkin’s Joe Louis. Ward will also have to realize there’s a real, albeit small, possibility he may appear as Michael Moorer to Hopkin’s George Foreman. That’s right, Hopkins could win the fight. Unlikely? Sure, but do YOU want to shrug off “the alien” at this point in his storied career?
Ultimately a potential matchup with Hopkins is truly a Catch-22 for Ward. Yet there’s only one real choice he can make. If, of course, he gets by Edwin Rodriguez. You never know in boxing.