By Ivan G. Goldman
In the aftermath of Andre Ward’s thorough beatdown of Edwin Rodriguez Saturday night, it’s worth comparing Ward, the Number Two pound-for-pound fighter, to Floyd Mayweather, longtime holder of the Number One slot.
How are they different? Let us count the ways:
1. In a de facto network trade, undefeated super middleweight Ward left Showtime to fight on HBO, which will try to build him into a pay-per-view attraction. Showtime enticed Mayweather, a PPV welterweight who sometimes competes as a super welter, away from HBO with a dazzling six-fight contract.
2. Mayweather, who’s defeated a murderers’ row of opponents over the years, is exceedingly well-known, one of the few fighters today who’s actually recognizable to the general public. Ward is known to hard-core fans and to much of the general public around Oakland, his hometown.
3. Ward earned $2 million against Rodriguez. Forbes figures Mayweather earned somewhere above $80 million in his last outing, against Canelo Alvarez.
4. They show up in shape, ready to go, and don’t seem to tire. And they’re both accurate punchers who are hard to hit. This frustrates opponents into sometimes doing crazy things. Victor Ortiz, in full view of the world, launched a hideously purposeful head butt meant to crush Floyd between a rock (Ortiz’s head) and a hard place (the not terrifically padded ring post). Flustered Ortiz then neglected to protect himself at all times while referee Joe Cortez neglected to keep his eyes on the fighters as he signaled the timekeeper. Exit Ortiz.
Rodriguez, unable to beat Ward in a boxing match, tried switching to a cage-less cage fight, also borrowing WWE tactics when he caught referee Jack Reiss with a sloppy left hook. Fortunately for fans, Reiss, one of the best referees working today, found a way to reshape the circus act into a regulated fight. Too bad he wasn’t on the job for Mayweather-Ortiz.
5. Their styles differ, but both fighters can call on a tremendous jab. Floyd doesn’t always use his, but he frequently employs his lead right as though it were a jab, getting it in and out before the opponent can react. Ward drives into his man with a jab that works like a power right, but Ward is more likely to add shots and make it a combination. Mayweather, more defense-minded, doesn’t need many combinations to win rounds. If he’s throwing them, he may be finishing someone off who just can’t touch him. For example, he used combinations against tough, outclassed Diego Corrales as he wore him down and knocked him out.
6. Mayweather calls on secretive, media-avoiding Al Haymon to represent him in negotiations and Golden Boy to promote his shows. Over the course of the last few years, Haymon, apparently New York-based, has created an empire. As an “advisor” he requires no license to do whatever it is he does and won’t talk about. He doesn’t even have a publicist. We never learn much about the state of Haymon’s relations with his fighters or his piece of the action. However, many of them thank him and God for their victories. Sometimes they thank just him.
Ward is promoted by L.A.-based Goossen Tutor, which is overseen by Dan Goossen, who has an actual office with phone lines, desktops, and all that stuff. Ward has tried to break away from his promoter, claiming Goossen had violated clauses. Last June, the California commission ruled against Ward. Goossen is no small player and no dummy either, but his outfit is dwarfed by Golden Boy and Bob Arum’s Top Rank.
7. Ward is a dedicated family man. Mayweather oversees a harem.
8. Ward proved – as did all the other fighters in the Showtime super middleweight tournament – that he’ll fight anybody. No one in that tournament knew how the brackets would play out until they did, and he defeated everyone whose number came up.
Mayweather, though he’s beaten a formidable list of fighters, has long been dogged by accusations that he cherry picks them. He remains adamantly opposed to facing Manny Pacquiao, which has long been the biggest fight that could be made in the sport. When Pacquiao loses, Mayweather says he won’t fight him because he’s unworthy. When Pacquiao wins, Mayweather finds other reasons. He’s already had to pay an unspecified sum to Pacquiao for claiming with no evidence whatsoever that Pacquiao was juicing.
A dedicated legion of worshipful Mayweather fans claims, against all evidence, that it’s Pacquiao who dodges Mayweather. They have much in common with the Flat Earth Society. There’s not a welterweight or super welterweight on earth who dodges Mayweather. Stepping into the ring with him earns a fighter millions and millions. Pacquiao would make gazillions, as would Mayweather. This stain on Mayweather’s legacy won’t wash out. What transpires next Saturday in Pacquiao’s contest with Brandon Rios may tell us whether this ship has already sailed.
Except for Pacquiao, it’s tough to find a formidable opponent for Mayweather unless you start talking higher weights. Some fighters who get mentioned are middleweight Gennady Golovkin and even light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins. None of this makes much sense. Floyd, 45-0 (26 KOs), easily makes weight at 147 pounds and shouldn’t be asked to fight opponents 13 and 28 pounds bigger. When fighters go way up or way down in weight just for the money, that’s not a fight. It’s a circus act.
Thanks to the Showtime tournament, Ward has pretty much cleaned out his division, but good young middleweights naturally evolve into super middleweights, and rock-fisted Golovkin looks like a more sensible opponent for Ward than he does for Mayweather.
On the other hand, pro boxing is a business, and as it stands, Golovkin and Ward haven’t risen to pay-per-view status. Both prefer to make a ton of money to take such risks.
9. Finally, Ward, 27-0 (14 KOs), is 29 years old. Big future. Mayweather will turn 37 in February. How long can he keep this up? No one knows, and that adds to rather than subtracts from the excitement.
Ivan Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter, set in the boxing world, was nominated as a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Available online & at better bookstores everywhere. Information HERE
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