Torn Bicep Forces Andre Berto to the Sidelines
By: Hans Themistode
Injuries are apart of any sport. Unfortunately for former two time Welterweight champion Andre Berto (32-5, 24 KOs), he is all too familiar with this headline.
Berto’s August 3rd showdown with once beaten contender Miguel Cruz (18-1, 12 KOs) will be placed on hold as he was forced to withdraw from the contest with a torn bicep. Unsurprisingly enough, Berto was still willing to enter the ring with the injury until he found out the severity of it.
“Saturday was the last day of sparring and I was trying to finish and keep going strong,” said Berto. “I threw a left hook and I felt a squeeze and a pop. I started yelling and cursing, because I knew what happened. I’ve had injuries before. Even though it was bad, I thought it was something that I could get a cortisone shot and fight with. But the MRI showed that the tendon was torn from the bone and I need surgery as soon as possible.”
Surgery and recovery for Berto will begin immediately. Fortunately this injury is not as severe as his previous shoulder affliction which took place back in 2013. It took Berto roughly 14 before he was able to step back into a ring.
“This injury and the surgery won’t be as bad as the shoulder,” Berto said. “The shoulder was a lot of different muscles and tendons that were torn. I had a sling on for six weeks, and I was immobilized for so long that I had frozen shoulder syndrome and I had to go through three or four weeks with therapy to just get it to moving. It took eight or nine months with the shoulder. If I do it right with this injury, I’ll be good in two or three months.”
The former two time champion has battled recent inactivity. In 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 he has entered the ring just once. It seems as though 2019 is shaping up to be another injury riddled year for the former champion.
Boxing Insider Interview with Andre Ward: Boxers of the Past Fought for Legacy First and Money Second
By: Patrick Mascoe
Floyd Mayweather was a great boxer and he made sure that everyone knew it. He was every bit as brash and assertive outside the ring as he was inside the ring. Andre Ward may very well have been as talented as Floyd Mayweather inside the ring, but that is where their similarities end. Ward never seemed to need or crave the attention the way Floyd did. He quietly went about his business and practiced his craft like a true professional. When it was all said and done, Ward retired from boxing on September 21, 2017, an Olympic gold medalist, undefeated after 13 years as a professional boxer with a record of 32 – 0, and was a two-division world champion.
On June 17, 2018, Ward appeared in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in support of the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club. He spoke candidly about his career and about his future.
Q. Tell us about your early years in boxing?
AW. “If it was up to my Dad, I would never have made it this far. At 9 he took me to a gym but said I didn’t have it. I needed to go back to playing baseball. But Virgil Hunter (who has trained Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo, Abner Mares, and Andre Berto) said, “Calm down, give him some time and he’ll figure it out.” Sure enough I did. I was fortunate to have both my Dad and Virgil on my side because I would not be the man I am today without them. My Dad used to say when I was 12 years old, “Son, don’t have fifty guys around you patting you on the back telling you how great you are. If you ever make it, just have a core group of guys that you care about and your family around you.” It was lessons like that that allowed me to avoid pitfalls.”
Q. Was it important for you to leave the sport of boxing while you were still on top?
AW. “As a little boy I used to study the sport of boxing and I would hear boxers talk a good game about making their money and making their mark and I’m gone. Then I would see them get to the top and have a good run, but they didn’t always follow through on the stuff they said they were going to do in terms of leaving on top. Boxers of the past fought for legacy first and money second. It’s a little bit different today. I promised myself as a kid that I would be one of the ones who would leave when I still had something left in the tank.”
Q. What do you think was your greatest achievement in boxing?
AW. “Against Sergey Kovalev, I got knocked down and I was behind in that fight. So I had to do something I’ve never had to do and that was come from behind. In most of my fights, I was usually ahead by four or five rounds. But not in that one. So I had to show another side of myself. I had the opportunity to do something I had never had to do before. Then all of a sudden, I win the fight. Then I hear chatter that maybe I didn’t win the fight. So I said ok, he asked for a rematch, so I gave him a rematch. But I think the way we won that second fight, the emphatic victory, we left no doubt. I thought this was the perfect time to ride off into the sunset.”
Q. You are involved in many benevolent causes. What is it about boxing that has stirred your interest in helping others?
AW. “Not everyone is supposed to be a fighter, but everyone has a gift or a talent and they should have the chance to exercise it as best they can whatever that may be. People need to put their money where their mouth is. In the case of helping youth, half the battle is just showing up. We are here, we support you, you have options, and you don’t have to make bad decisions.”
Q. Any thoughts of a comeback?
AW. “Just a brief thought, then poof it goes away just like that.”
Q. What does the immediate future hold for Andre Ward?
AW. “I’m involved in my church, I speak at schools, and in prisons. I have been doing some boxing commentary and had the chance to play a small part in the movie Creed. I’m also involved in Creed II. I enjoyed the action and I hope I get some more opportunities in the field of acting.”
Q. I know you have very strong Christian beliefs and that your ring moniker was ‘Son of God’. So what is your favourite Bible verse?
AW. ‘2nd Corinthians 12:9-10’. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” “That quote encompasses the story of my life.”
Many people confuse the words meek with weak. Andre Ward is not a weak man. He is meek, quiet and humble. When he speaks he often uses the word ‘we’ acknowledging those who have helped him become successful. He never felt the need to disrespect opponents or trash talk to sell tickets. His boxing spoke for itself. Andre Ward deserved to have a larger following and greater endorsements than he did during his career. That being said, he has left the sport with his legacy intact and, I assume, financially secure. I hope he continues to fend off the desire to return to the ring and just enjoys his retirement and his family, while he patiently awaits his call to the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.
PBC on Fox Preview: Quillin vs. Love, Alexander vs. Berto
By: Daniel Smith
This Saturday night, on August 4th, former welterweight world champs Andre Berto and Devon Alexander will mix it up within the square jungle in a 12-round main event. The undercard of the fight features former middleweight champ Peter Quillin vs. contender J’Leon Love in a super middleweight bout. The event takes place at the Nassau Coliseum in New York and will be televised live by FOX.
First and foremost, let’s sample the undercard before the main event.
Peter Quillin vs. J’Leon Love (Super Middleweight Division).
At thirty-five- years of age, the former WBO middleweight world champion, Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin is chomping at the bit for another world title shot. A shot and prospect which he believes is potentially within touching distance.
However, he first needs to eradicate his opponent and younger contender, J’Leon Love, from a long line of rapacious super middleweight fighters within a rough, tough and dangerously competetive division.
Both Quillin and Love’s professional records are blemished with a loss and draw a piece, and both men will be more than prepared to rage against the tide and be dragged into deep waters; dissolving all strategic-game plans, scrapping it out in a brutal tear-up in order to advance to the next phase of their careers and compete at the top level for a super middleweight title.
Until 2015, Peter Quillin was ploughing his way through middleweight boxers, accumulating and notching up an impressive score of 23 knockouts on his professional record. However, since suffering a vicious first-round TKO at the fast-flurrying, lethal hands of Daniel Jacobs back in 2015, Quillin began re-scaffolding his boxing career, and in 2017, he fought for twelve rounds and earned a unanimous decision against Dashton Johnson.
Now, “Kid Chocolate” seems raring to go and ready to steamroll his way to victory against the (24-1-1) J’Leon Love. But can he achieve it? Can Quillin, at 35, return to the sport after a hefty 21 month lay off, only to come back in heavier weight class and present a challenge to the top, youthful, title-hungry super middleweight lions? Well, all will be revealed this commencing Saturday night, where a cracking night of boxing should be on the cards!
The former Olympian, sports a professional career of (24-1-1) – a fairly decent record with its sole defeat coming from a the Rogelio Medina fight, where a steely left hook rendered Love out by the eight count. However, this fight is a “must-win” if he is to be thrown into the blend of fighters that present a serious threat to the division’s reigning champions, Groves (WBA), Benavidez (WBC), Ramirez (WBO) and Uzcategui (IBF). If so, J’Leon needs to execute his game-plan with precision and effect; deploying and detonating with hard, clean-crisp punches and convincingly winning the bout to aid his ascending climb on the competitive super middleweight ladder.
This weekend, we’ll see if Love has the skill, determination and calibre to be regarded as a genuine contender that possess champion material.
The Main Event – Berto vs Alexander (Welterweight Division)
The main event will showcase Devon Alexander vs. Andre Berto. The former two-weight class, unified world champion, Devon Alexander – a man whose held the WBC and IBF light welterweight titles as well as the IBF welterweight belt, will trade leather against the two-time former welterweight world WBC, IBF and WBA champion, Andre Berto. Berto will clash with the No 4 ranked IBF, welterweight contender in a fight (if he’s successful) that will potentially hurl him back in contention with the division’s elite welterweight warriors.
Let’s take a preview and analysis of both men going into the bout.
Devon Alexander “The Great” (27-4-1) needs to be sharp and slick in this fight when utilising his solid three punch combinations. It’s clear that Alexander is capable and prepared to stand toe-to-toe and involve himself with terse and brutal, “fighting in a phone booth” slugfests – his battle against Ortiz springs to mind. However, “The Great” should get behind his jab, set traps and fire “in and out” with poised, venomous shots that rattle and breakdown his opponent.
With the No. 1 slot vacant for the IBF title, Alexander, absolutely needs to make this one count and do it in style, too if he’s to knock the top welterweight dogs from their championship spots.
Andre “The Beast” Berto – with 36 fights, 31 wins and 5 losses in his repertoire; Berto should be licking his lips at the prospect of causing an upset by defeating the bookies favourite in this contest. If “The Beast” emerges victorious as the underdog going into the fight, then it would certainly raise his stock and add further spice to an already fiery division. But only time will tell.
For this fight, both men should prepare for vicious trades within an ugly, Gran Prix paced scrap that displays fast hands, rapid combinations and hard, solid punishing blows. Both fighters can’t afford to get caught cold and both need to be vigilant and wired-up, yet capable to dispatch a dynamite, powerhouse ferocity that explodes “at the ready.” Essentially, a convincing win is definitely required from one of the two boxers. But who wins and who goes away with second prize from a two horse race?
Andre Ward Talks Hosting “Contender” Redux
By: Sean Crose
From 2005-2009, “The Contender” showed television viewers the struggles and triumphs of struggling boxers determined to crack through to the big time. With heavyweight star power like Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone, The Contender would offer viewers highlights of the contestant’s plights along with highlights of the contestant’s ring battles with one another. Now, The Contender is coming back. On August 24th, EPIX will run a new, revived Contender, which will feature 16 new contestants and the talents of host and mentor Andre Ward.
“It excited me for various reasons,” Ward said of The Contender’s comeback during a Tuesday conference call. Upon learning the show would be revived the recently retired great sprang into action. “I immediately called my lawyer,” Ward stated, referring to his plan to get in on The Contender’s return. For Ward, there’s more to the show than simple production values and ratings. “It’s about human interest stories,” he said. “It talks about human beings…you can relate to a human interest story.”
I asked Ward if he felt his personality, which is far from the showy personas many fighters like to showcase, made him a natural fit for a show which focuses primarily on people’s struggles, issues and dreams. “I genuinely love the sport,” he said. “I care about the fighters because I was a fighter.” The show’s executive producer, Eric Van Wagenen, had nothing put praise for The Contender’s new host, claiming that after “about a fifteen minute conversation with Andre, I felt the franchise was in safe hands.” A fight fan, Wagenen was impressed with what he saw in Ward outside of the ring.
“I gained a new respect for him,” he said of the new host, “how smart he is, how much he cares for the young fighters.” Ward, whose last fight was a second win over light heavyweight terror Sergey Kovalev in June of 2017, had not made specific plans for the future after his retirement. “At the time of my retirement, I didn’t know about Creed 2,” Ward stated, in reference to the upcoming film he’ll be acting in (he was in the first Creed film). According to Ward, it was important “to be a guy who left (the ring) on time.” It looks to have been a wise choice.“Sometimes,” he added, “you’ve got to take the leap of faith before these other opportunities come on board.”
Van Wagenen, a close associate of original (and current) creator Mark Burnett, promises a Contender that will be in tune with the times. “I was involved with The Contender in its original form,” he said, adding that, with better production values, the new Contender has “all the things that make a show successful now.” One of those things will be a social media presence, and also full footage from the fights, rather than just highlights.
Ward was asked if working on the show made him want to make a comeback to the ring. “Yeah,” he said, “but as soon as I got hit (in sparing)…that desire just disappears.”
Epix Sets Premier Date for The Contender, Reveals 16 Fighters Vying for Championship Belt
Premium pay television network EPIX® has announced the 16 fighters who will be facing off with one another for the championship belt on the revival of boxing franchise series The Contender this fall. The highly anticipated 12-episode season, from MGM Television and Paramount Television, will premiere on EPIX on Aug. 24, 2018 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Hosted by undefeated boxing champion Andre “Son of God” Ward, the first-of-its-kind competitive documentary series for the network will feature 16 fighters pushing their limits in grueling elimination-style fights and testing their grit and determination to achieve their boxing dreams. The fighters will be overseen by legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach, and renowned Philadelphia trainer Naazim Richardson.
“The Contender takes unscripted TV to its grittiest. It has incredible professional fighters and real professional fights. The edge of your seat drama and true stories sets a tone that our audiences will be expecting and I love it,” said Mark Burnett, President of MGM Television.
“With this new iteration of The Contender, the focus is on the gritty, personal stories of the fighters battling for boxing glory,” said Michael Wright, President, EPIX. “It was important for us to find individuals who not only displayed the boxing chops and resilience in the ring, but who also showed a depth of heart and humor outside of it. Our 16 fighters are vivacious, tough, funny, sensitive, driven and inspiring, and we are excited for our fans to get to know their stories and root for them inside the ring and out.”
The 16 Contenders come from a wide variety of professional boxing backgrounds and stations in life, bringing their unique stories, personalities, strengths and motivations to the series.
Each fighter will be vying to be declared the new 160-pound middleweight champion of The Contender and take home the winner’s six-figure purse — a prize, which, for all the fighters, represents a better life for their families and loved ones who have been there with them through all the ups and downs of their journeys.
The 16 fighters on The Contender this season are:
◦Ievgen “The Ukranian Lion” Khytrov, Age: 29, Rank: 20, Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.- A Ukrainian immigrant, Olympian, Ievgen Khytrov recently relocated to America to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion and to create a better life for his family. A dedicated, quiet, religious man. He’s also the one to beat.
◦Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker, Age: 34, Rank: 68, Hometown: Plaquemine, La. – Incarcerated at 15 years old and spent 14 years behind bars for robbery and attempted murder, Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker learned to box while in prison. He is now fighting for a second chance at life, living proof that it’s never too late to live out your dreams.
◦John “Apollo Kid” Thompson, Age: 29, Rank: 70, Hometown: Newark, N.J. – After losing his mother to AIDS at six years old, this married performing artist, painter and fighter, John “Apollo Kid” Thompson is here to prove to the world that he can’t be boxed into a single category despite holding impressive titles including the 2015 WBA-NABA Super Welterweight, WBO Inter-Continental Super Welterweight and Boxcino Tournaments.
◦Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister, Age: 27, Rank: 172, Hometown: Long Beach, Calif. – Always at the center of schoolyard fights growing up, Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister now channels his energy into helping others rebuild outside of foreclosure and his young, growing family. In boxing has built an impressive KO record and the 2014 Golden Gloves title on his journey to take the title of The Contender.
◦Brandon “The Cannon” Adams, Age: 28, Rank: Inactive, Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif. – A bold fighter in the ring, Brandon “The Cannon” Adams knows firsthand what it means to push through adversity and step up to care for his family when there’s no one else around to. Coming from a poverty stricken neighborhood, this larger than life father of two marks his return to boxing after a three year hiatus, initiated by a loss to fellow competitor, John Thompson.
◦Quatavious “Cash” Cash, Age: 26, Rank: 161, Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev. – This Atlanta native is the current record-holder for fastest KO in Georgia, a four0time Golden Gloves state champ and Bronze medalist. Quatavious Cash is fighting for his late mother and for the chance to prove that a life of fighting street gangs can be channeled for good.
◦Shane “Sugarman” Mosley, Jr., Age: 27, Rank: 149, Hometown: Santa Monica, Calif. – The lone single contender, son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Shane “Sugarman” Mosley Jr. is fighting to step out of his father’s shadow and carve out his own legacy.
◦Daniel “El Chapulin” Valdivia, Age: 25, Rank: 116, Hometown: Tulare, Calif. – A natural salesman and real estate agent by day, nicknamed “El Chapulin” (“Grasshopper”) for his boundless energy, Mexican immigrant Daniel Valdivia was born to step into the ring. With several titles including the NABF Super Welterweight Champion as an underdog, he’s chasing fame to prove giving up college for boxing was the right move.
◦Michael “The Silverback” Moore, Age: 31, Rank: 252, Hometown:Cleveland, Oh. – Reformed from a hard life on the streets, fraught with drugs, death and family suicide, Michael Moore is a natural hustler and leader. Married with two kids, Moore is constantly moving from state to state with his family in tow in pursuit of the boxing dream.
◦Gerald “G5” Sherrell, Age: 24, Rank: 216, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. – A fan of the original Contender series growing up, Gerald “G5” Sherrell is an undefeated and explosive fighter with a level of unrivaled and self-proclaimed swagger. Hailing from the projects, this multiple time Golden Gloves, Silver Gloves and Junior Olympic competitor, this local zoo security guard by day, and young father by night, is looking to bring boxing glory back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.
◦Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch, Age: 34, Rank: 154, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. – Injury-plagued throughout his career, the Native American hailing from Southern Louisiana is a married father of three. Knowing that he’s old for the sport, Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch has one last shot at making his boxing dreams come true.
◦Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez, Age: 24, Rank: 104, Hometown: Fresno, Calif. – Having been bullied from a young age after an accident left him with burns on 30 percent of his body, Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez is fighting for his young autistic son, in hopes that he won’t be bullied the same way he was. With Junior Olympics, 2012 Blue and Gold titles and “Mexican-go-forward” style fighting he may be overlooked and underestimated.
◦Tyrone “Young Gun” Brunson, Age: 33, Rank: 39, Hometown: Philadelphia, PA – At a time when he needed to sell drugs to support himself at the age of 13, a stepfather’s ultimatum: be grounded or go to the boxing gym was his saving grace. Now a humble father of two, and sitting with one of the best rankings in the competition, his 24 KO’s send a signal that he will not fight silently but his cocky attitude has beat him more than just once.
◦Lamar “Omega” Russ, Age: 31, Rank: 115, Hometown: Wilmington, N.C. – One of four kids raised by a single mom and the first person in his family to graduate college, Lamar “Omega” Russ takes pride in being the underdog, and beneath the loud exterior is a boxer that needs to prove he can put his money where his mouth is. HBO, ESPN and a first round KO on Showtime do all the talking.
◦John “The Rock” Jackson, Age: 29, Rank: 63, Hometown: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – A divorced father of two, this slick and agile boxer, Virgin Islander John “The Rock” Jackson started fighting at 12 years old, following in his world champion father Julian Jackson’s footsteps at the Pan American Games and 2008 Olympics. He comes from wealth but cares for the underprivileged and dreams of making his island proud bringing visibility to those struck by recent natural disasters.
◦Devaun “Unique” Lee, Age: 30, Rank: 82, Hometown: Jamaica Queens, N.Y.
When one of his friends was shot and killed at 16, Devaun “Unique” Lee knew he needed a way out from the mean streets of Queens. Boxing keeps him straight. So do long hours fueling airplanes and caring for his five year old daughter. The real love of his life. Fatherhood and the sport are the motivation to take his NY State Middleweight championship to the next level.
The original Contender series ran for four seasons (2005-2009) and launched multiple fighters into contention for world titles, including title winners Sergio Mora, Cornelius Bundrage, Sakio Bika, and Sam Soliman.
Eric Van Wagenen serves as executive producer and showrunner of the revived franchise alongside Mark Burnett. The format is owned by MGM Television and Paramount Television.
EPIX is available nationwide through cable, satellite, telco and streaming TV providers including Charter Spectrum, Cox, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Dish Network, Sling, PlayStation Vue and, as of June 13, Comcast.
The Sport of Boxing is Alive and Well in Ottawa
By: Patrick Mascoe
The city of Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, has not had a live professional boxing card in over forty years. So is boxing dead in that city? Far from it. In the last twenty-four years, some of boxing’s greatest fighters have headed north to participate in ‘Ringside for Youth.’ The city’s annual fundraiser helps support the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. The money raised is divided amongst seven at-risk neighbourhoods across the city. The Club’s four key programming pillars are Education, Physical Activity, Leadership and Social Skills, and Creative Arts.
In 1994, Ottawa investment advisor, Steve Gallant, decided to volunteer his skills and find a way to raise money to support youth organizations in Ottawa. His idea was to make a connection with youth and professional boxing. Few people thought much of this bizarre idea. After all, this wasn’t Philadelphia or Los Angeles, cities with a strong boxing history. This was Ottawa, a government, white collar city. Gallant proved to be incredibly perceptive. He recognized that people from all walks of life have a fascination with legendary boxers and that those same boxers tend to have a soft spot in their hearts for kids. He saw this as a perfect recipe for success.
Heavyweight title challenger, George Chuvalo, was the special guest at the first ‘Ringside for Youth’ event. He told his story and fight fans were then entertained by watching a card featuring the city’s top amateur fighters. Since that time, some of the former greats who have come to Ottawa to share their stories include: Jake La Motta, Aaron Pryor, Roberto Duran, Ray Boom Boom Mancini, Marvin Hagler, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Thomas Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Flash ahead twenty-four years later to June 7, 2018 and undefeated, two division world champion Andre Ward adds his name to the list of greats who have shared their stories while attending this event. Ward said he had heard about the charity event and that his boxing idol, Roy Jones Jr., had once been the guest of honour. Needless to say, he felt a sense of accomplishment when he received this year’s invitation.
‘Ringside for Youth’ has continued to grow every year, becoming a staple on the social calendar of Ottawa’s elite. The event is unique in that it brings together a very eclectic crowd. Government workers dressed in suits share tables with professional hockey players and hard-core boxing fans. Numerous Ottawa Senator players were in attendance, including former 17 year NHL veteran Chris Neil, a man who knows a thing or two about fighting, having been involved in more than two hundred fights in his hockey career. When professional athletes come out just to hear another professional athlete speak, you know you have hit on a winning formula.
Andre Ward seemed to think so as well. “The city of Ottawa is putting its money where its mouth is. Half the battle in supporting our youth is in showing up and providing kids an outlet. We really don’t have anything like this in the U.S., but we should.”
According to former heavyweight title challenger, Gerry Cooney, “I could have used a place like the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa when I was a kid.” Cooney, a long time supporter of ‘Ringside for Youth’, now spends his time working with young people himself in Patterson, New Jersey.
The evening also featured a wonderful meal, live music, a silent auction, and a card of amateur fights that pitted local fighters from Ottawa’s Beaver Boxing Club against boxers from Gothenburg, Sweden.
It seems like Steve Gallant’s idea wasn’t so crazy after all. Andre Ward had the opportunity to practice telling his story before a full house. A story he will soon tell again one day when he becomes inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Boxing fans had an opportunity to be in the presence of greatness and a large amount of money was raised for the children of Ottawa. It is not hard to continue a tradition when everyone involved walks away a winner.
Andre Ward, Freddie Roach, and Naazim Richardson Join The Contender
Premium pay television network EPIX®, an MGM company, has announced that undefeated boxing champion Andre “Son of God” Ward will host the new version of the seminal The Contender boxing franchise. Legendary boxing trainers Freddie Roach and Naazim Richardson join as trainers in the iconic series that has launched multiple boxers into contention for world titles.
The all-new 12-episode season of the boxing competition series, the first of its kind to air on EPIX is produced by Mark Burnett and his longtime executive producer Eric Van Wagenen. MGM Television has joined forces with Paramount Television to produce, and filming will begin this Spring 2018 in Los Angeles.
As host, Ward brings his undefeated record and undisputed boxing expertise to The Contender. Throughout his incredible 13-year undefeated career, he’s held multiple world titles in two weight classes including, unified WBA (Super), WBC, Ring magazine, and lineal super middleweight titles between 2009 and 2015 as well as the unified WBA (Undisputed), IBF, WBO, and Ring’s light heavyweight titles between 2016 and 2017. Ward also won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Said Ward, “I have faced the unique challenges of professional boxing firsthand and know the focus required to succeed at the highest level. Hosting a show that has enabled so many talented fighters reach their dreams is an honor and I look forward to giving the fans unique insight into the life of a fighter and leading the audience through the thrills of this competition.”
“It is so important for The Contender to have the best and most trusted boxing experts which is why we reached out to Andre, Freddy and Naazim,” said Burnett. “They are the very best and can help create an experience almost never seen before. Eric and I are really excited to exceed the fans’ expectations. We love The Contender and we love boxing.”
Esteemed coaches Roach and Richardson will each oversee a team of eight fighters, pushing their fighting skills, strength and endurance to the limit in preparation for elimination competitions. The coaches will also act as the fighters’ mentor, helping them to navigate their everyday life as the competitors live and train together and fight each other in the ring. Each fighter will be vying to become the ultimate Contender and take the winner’s six-figure purse.
Roach is widely regarded as one of the most successful boxing trainers of all time. His roster includes the eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, five-time and four-division World Champion Miguel Cotto, former WBC Middleweight Champion Julio César Chávez, Jr., defensive master and three-time world champion James Toney, former UFC Middleweight and three-time Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, as well as top prospects Jose Benavidez, Peter Quillin, and Vanes Martirosyan, among many others.
One of the most respected trainers from the boxing hotbed of Philadelphia, Naazim Richardson has helped shape the careers of some of the biggest names in the sport over the past 30 years. From Bernard Hopkins to “Sugar” Shane Mosley, as well as others like Travis Kauffman, and prospect Khalib ‘Bigfoot’ Whitmore, Richardson’s work and his spirit continue to be part of boxing lore. The father and trainer of boxing twin brothers Rock Allen and Tiger Allen Richardson, Naazim is also known for discovering plaster hidden in Antonio Margarito’s wraps before the January 24, 2009 fight between Margarito and Mosley.
Eric Van Wagenen serves as executive producer and showrunner alongside Burnett. The format is owned by MGM Television and Paramount Television.
EPIX is available nationwide through cable, satellite, telco and streaming TV providers including Charter Spectrum, Cox, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Dish Network, Sling, PlayStation Vue and, later this year, Comcast.
Andre Ward: Path of a Champion
By: Kirk Jackson
— Andre S.O.G. Ward (@andreward) September 21, 2017
Indeed he did it, shocking the world once more, Andre “Son of God” Ward 32-0 (16 KO’s) retired from the sport of boxing Sept 21. 2017.
On the phone with ESPN’s “First Take” last Thursday, Ward cited the physical toll the sport has taken on him as the primary reason he’s stepping away from boxing.
“Just the accumulative effect of all the training and all the fights, it starts to wear on you and … starts to take your desire,” Ward said. “And when you don’t have the desire and you don’t have the ability physically to go out there and prepare the way you need to, you shouldn’t be in a boxing ring. My goal has always been to walk away from this sport and retire from this sport and not have the sport retire me, and I have that opportunity today.”
“People see what I do fight night, they see under the lights, but they don’t see the toil, they don’t see the grind, they don’t see the physical pain that you go through, again, not just in the fights, but to prepare and get ready for those battles,” Ward said.
Ward departs the professional ranks as a five-time world champion, winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, unified champion at super middleweight and light heavyweight. He is also the ESPN, Ring Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Boxing Writers Association of America, 2011 fighter of the year.
Ward also accomplished amazing feats as an amateur. Maintaining an amateur record of 115-5, Ward hasn’t suffered defeat amateur or pro since the age of twelve and is the last American male to win Olympic gold in boxing (2004 Athens).
Amid his remarkable accomplishments, not everyone was a fan of Andre Ward.
Some thought of him as “Boring” and a “Hugger,” among other disparaging comments regarding his fighting style.
Certain people may not like him as a person and feel he is disingenuous.
Some fighters do not want to see him leave because they want another shot at him. Most notably, Russian rival, Sergey Kovalev, wanting the opportunity to settle unfinished business in his mind.
Although Kovalev offered a different perspective while discussing Ward’s retirement according to ESPN.
“I don’t care,” Kovalev told ESPN when asked about Ward’s announcement. “If he’s gonna retire, he has a right. He’s undefeated, with the help of judges — OK, no problem. It’s sport, and sometimes sport can be dirty.”
Some people may not want to see Ward retire because they feel he has more to offer to the sport and will miss what he represents. Especially the contingent of supporters from the San Francisco – Bay Area.
“It’s a blessing, what the Bay Area fans have always done for me and for what they do for their athletes, whether they’re homegrown or transplants from other cities,” Ward said in reference to Bay Area supporters.
“They just appreciate the people that go out there and represent them well. And they always return the favor.”
It’s fair to suggest Ward is a great representation of what an athlete should be. In an era featuring polarizing personalities such as Floyd Mayweather, Adrien Broner, Tyson Fury and others, Ward exemplifies the opposite.
Not to suggest one side or the other is right or wrong, not bestowing judgment, because all ends of the spectrum is necessary for the wheel to work.
Ward epitomizes the hard-working, grinding, hard-nosed, low-key mentality. Efficient and straight to the point.
His personality is comparable to his fighting style inside the ring. Not necessarily flashy, but extremely effective. Not ostentatious, but full of substance.
Boxing News writer Caryn A. Tate summarized Ward’s style in brilliant article, stating his style is “Formless.”
To expand, essentially Ward adapted to his opponents. Ward does not have a set-style; he can’t be conformed into a box due to his resourcefulness and adaptability.
Whether it’s in-fighting inside the trenches, inside the pocket, mid-range fighting, fighting from a distance, distance manipulation, immaculate footwork, utilizing various jabs, switching stances from orthodox to southpaw, unleashing lead right hands, slipping punches, overall defensive mastery, devastating body work, he could do it all.
Possessing the versatility to implement all of the aforementioned skills and tactics requires not only the athletic ability, but intelligence to adjust and make the necessary moves to succeed and overcome whichever weapon his opponent is armed with.
We could spend countless time analyzing the nuances of the scientific sophistication of the pugilistic arts utilized by Ward.
Watching him fight, you can visualize the influences of other great fighters who came before him. It’s a testament to how studious he is as someone attempting to learn and perfect their craft.
He has the ability to adapt and I believe his greatest strength as a fighter was his mental fortitude and intelligence.
Ward mentioned in his retirement statement, the rigors of training. The punishment the body and mind endures. It takes a special individual to overcome the physical and mental hurdles of fighting and life in general.
“I’ve faced a lot of adversity inside the ring. You know, some of it the public has seen. A lot of it, maybe, the public hasn’t seen in the many gyms or the many sparring sessions and everything you’ve got to do to get to a certain level in the sport.” – Andre Ward
It’s the same mental fortitude that pushed him to rise from the canvas when he met Kovalev in their first encounter. Not only did he get up, but he raised his level and overcame the bully in what was a Rocky-esque performance.
Ward knocked out Kovalev in the follow-up rematch earlier this year.
For those reasons and understanding the high-level of opponent Kovalev is, stand out as Ward’s greatest performances as a professional.
Although one can easily point to winning the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, running through the high quality opposition encountered during the tournament (Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham Mikkel Kessler), or defeating Chad Dawson right after winning the tournament, as his greatest or signature accomplishments.
I reflect back to Kovalev because again, mental toughness should never be underestimated or underappreciated.
“I knew what I had in me. I’ve been on the canvas before. I’ve been hurt in fights. I’ve been cut. Things have happened and, you know, my response has always been the same where if I’m physically able, I want to come get that back,” said Ward in reference to his battles against Kovalev.
From a personal end, I can’t say I know Ward in depth personally, but from what I’ve witnessed and experienced, I understand why he is admired by those sharing personal relationships.
He is appreciative, endearing to fans and supporters and we gathered a glimpse of that with his retirement message.
Ward has the respect and admiration amongst his peers:
The very first boxing event I covered was an affair featuring Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson as the main event for the card at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ca.
Experiencing the overall event, networking with other journalists, interacting with fans, spectators, fighters and trainers ranging from Adrien Broner, Larry Merchant, Shane Mosley, Jeff Mayweather, Ward and his family, was a great experience.
It was the validation I sought for what I was pursuing.
Few years later, I attended the 2016 USA Olympic Trials held in Reno, NV. It was a great experience, again interacting with spectators, trainers, fighters, some of the fighters obviously ended up representing the USA in the Olympic Games held in Brazil and other fighters who eventually turned pro and will represent the new infusion of boxing talent.
Other great fighters were in attendance, Shawn Porter, Terrance Crawford and Ward ultimately assisted with commentary during the Olympic Trial Finals.
At the time, I was competing as an amateur fighter and I had the chance to speak with Ward on multiple occasions throughout the weekend; one-on-one discussing boxing and a few other things.
He didn’t have to take the time to speak with me in depth, but he displayed genuine humbleness despite his acclaim and exhibited why he is a champion in and out of the ring.
@andresogward Happy retirement to one of the greatest fighters I've had the pleasure watching. First boxing event I ever covered was the fight against Chad Dawson at the Oracle in Oakland. Featured in this photo is Mike Martino, Pat Schellin, Andre and myself at the Olympic trials in Reno. Thanks for speaking to me one-on-one (more than one occasion and providing valuable insight and knowledge). Glad to see a Bay Area native shine on the highest platform. Thanks for all your contributions to the sport. Much respect and you're an undisputed champion in and out the ring ????? #boxing #bay #bayarea #reno #champion #unr #p4p #jordan #? #sog
I think this quote from an interview leading up to his second fight against Kovalev summarizes his mindset regarding giving back.
“So outside of my family, I didn’t really have a lot of ex-fighters that I could pick up the phone and call,” said Ward. “So I just try to be available, have my phone available, and make the time where I need to make the time (for some of the younger fighters). They’ll let you know what they need to talk about and what they want to talk about. If I have the answer, I’m going to definitely give them everything that I can give them.”
“If I don’t, I’ll try to help them find it because at the end of the day, whether it’s Claressa [Shields] or Shakur [Stevenson], I’m for the fighter. I’m pro fighter. We talk about [training] stuff but it’s also more about life—being stable and making the right decisions now so that down the road, you’re happy that you did what you had to do. It’s an honor and a privilege to be someone that any of those fighters would want to pick up the phone and call. I don’t look at it like a burden. It’s an honor and a privilege.”
It was an honor and privilege watching your career and I want to extend thanks to Andre Ward for his contributions to the sport of boxing. Mission accomplished.
Andre Ward Retires From The Ring
By: Sean Crose
Andre Ward, the light heavyweight mutli-titlist, former Olympian and one time king of the super middleweight division has announced his retirement from the sport of boxing. The news took the fight world by surprise, as Ward is currently regarded by many as being the pound for pound best in the sport of boxing at the moment. Still, the thirty-three year old made clear in a message on his web page that it was time for him to move on from the dangerous sport which has made him famous. “As I walk away from the sport of boxing today,” he wrote, “I leave at the top of your glorious mountain, which was always my vision and my dream. I did it. We did it.”
Ward steps away from the ring with an unblemished record of thirty-two wins and no defeats. His last fight was a rematch against light heavyweight powerhouse Sergey Kovalev, who he beat decisively by way of a viscous body attack. That fight confirmed that Ward was indeed one of the smartest boxers in the sport, but also showed that the man had power to hang with the hardest of hitters and still emerge victorious. Such battles, however, have clearly taken their toll on the man. “I want to be clear,” he writes, “I am leaving because my body can no longer put up with the rigors of the sport and therefore my desire to fight is no longer there.”
Although Ward may technically be just slightly removed from his prime, at best, he has proven to be the rarest of athletes in that he’s stepping away from the sport which has earned him enormous sums of money and accolades while remaining on top of it. Future big fights, perhaps with middleweight powerhouse Gennady Golovkin or fellow light heavyweight titlist Adonis Stevenson might remain, but it’s clear that Ward, who would be a certain favorite against either fighter, no longer feels the need to prove himself. Most would agree he doesn’t have to. “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!” Ward posted in a tweet that was accompanied by an impressive one minute video.
Along with two wins over Kovalev, Ward bested former light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson, and esteemed junior middleweights Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham and Mikkel Kessler, among others. Although he never became the household name that contemporaries Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did, the reserved, spiritual Ward left a huge imprint on the sport of boxing.
“Above all,” he wrote on his site, “I give God the Glory, for allowing me to do what I’ve done, for as long as I have.”
Boxing Thoughts on an Eventful Summer
Boxing Thoughts on an Eventful Summer
By Adam J. Pollack
Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn. It is sad that all of the outrage about the alleged robbery actually robs Horn of the accolades that he rightfully deserves. That was a close fight, not a robbery, and Horn fought the perfect fight. Overall, he dictated and was more in control of matters than Pacquiao. Horn had awkward head movement, in-and-out side-to-side footwork, altering the tempos and rhythms of the fight, attacking ferociously, mauling and outworking Pac on the inside, pulling his head down (which Referee Mark Nelson allowed), occasionally butting, then moving and ducking again, showing his versatility. Horn fought the better fight, and had the superior generalship and energy in the contest. Except for the 9th round, Pac never could time or get a read on him, and his range was off. His energy levels overall were fairly low, and lower than they needed to be when he most needed energy late in the fight, when most thought Horn would fade from all of his work. But Horn was in great, superior shape, and Pac was not. All three judges had it for Horn unanimously.
Pacquiao did almost no fighting on the inside, but that is where he needed to work, because he was the shorter fighter with shorter arms, and often was falling short or missing from the outside owing to Horn’s footwork, head movement, and superior height and reach. But Pac was getting manhandled by Horn’s strength, particularly since Pac mostly tried to hold on the inside, rarely worked while there, rarely countered when close, and used a passive defense, which only encouraged Horn.
Let’s face it. Pac has gone up a lot of weight divisions over his lifetime. He looked like a blown-up lightweight fighting a thickly built middleweight in there. The size disparity was quite obvious. Horn’s height, reach, size and strength were big factors in the fight.
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev. First of all, due credit must be given to Ward for being one of the most courageous champions in the sport. He always has been willing to fight the best out there, and he has proven it consistently, against guys still at the top of their games, which is more than one can say for a lot of so-called champions in this sport. That alone places him at the top or near the top of the pound-for-pound list. His resume features the who’s who of his division’s elites, from Kessler, Abraham, Froch, Dawson, and now Kovalev, not once, but twice. Even some of the lesser-known guys he has fought, like Edwin Rodriguez and Sullivan Barrera, have been real fighters who would be tough outs for anyone but Ward.
As for the Kovalev rematch, before the fight I said that if Kovalev thinks he can just go in there and overpower Ward, and not engage in some real honest reflection about some of his mistakes in the first fight, he was doomed to lose again. Andre Ward is a very smart fighter. Regardless of his poor start in the first fight, he was the one who made the adjustments to make that fight close, whereas after Ward adjusted, Kovalev did not. It likely would be the case that Ward, having learned a great deal from the first fight, would come into the second with a better game plan. I said that if Kovalev did not work on his inside game, footwork, relaxation, punch volume and gears, he was going to lose by an even wider margin this time, though I believed it would be via decision.
In the rematch, after the first few rounds, Kovalev looked lethargic, listless, and confused. He had even less energy than in the first fight. He made no adjustments, mentally was not all there, and seemed more fatigued than the relatively slow pace would have made one think he would be. Now some of his fatigue might have been owing to the occasional low blow, which oddly enough, Referee Tony Weeks either failed to see or failed to warn Ward about. Getting hit low tends to wear you down. But we all know that if the referee does not help you, you need to help yourself. But Kovalev did very little to help himself in any way.
Conversely, Ward’s defense was near perfect, he landed the cleaner crisper blows, particularly to the body, but also several solid jabs and lead rights to the chin. Kovalev clearly was hurt by the body blows, and he was affected by some solid blows to the chin. Like the first fight, after a competitive first 3 rounds, as of the 4th round, one could tell that Ward had adjusted and slightly taken over, and felt more comfortable, whereas Kovalev seemed more confused. By the middle of the fight, it certainly appeared that Ward was en route to another victory.
All that said, it doesn’t change the fact that Ward landed several low blows in the 7th and 8th rounds, and the final blow which doubled over Kovalev and led referee Tony Weeks to stop the contest, was low. True, Kovalev had been hurt by a right to the chin, but he was finished with a low blow. It should not have been stopped at that point. Kovalev should have been given a recovery period and the action allowed to resume, per the unified rules. The referee deprived Kovalev the opportunity to recover from the foul blow, Ward the opportunity to win cleanly and without controversy, and the fans the benefit of their bargain.
Kovalev subsequently has issued a statement that making weight has affected his endurance, and it might be time to move up to cruiserweight. We shall see.
Perhaps the more controversial fight was on the undercard: Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Moises Flores. Rigondeaux should have been disqualified. He clearly and flagrantly held and hit, which set up the knockout blow, which was thrown and landed after the bell rang. How in the world anyone could watch that and say Rigondeaux deserves to win by knockout is beyond me. It is a reflection of the utter lack of integrity in this sport. Sure they changed it days later to a no contest, but one has to wonder how they got it so wrong on fight night. The result that night was absolutely wrong. If you don’t want to be disqualified, don’t commit flagrant harm fouls. The reluctance to disqualify a name fighter for egregious breaches of the rules is in part why boxing does not have the same level of respect as a sport.
The July 15 fight card at the Forum in Los Angeles might not have the biggest names in boxing, but there are some really good match-ups that should prove entertaining.
Miguel Berchelt vs. Takashi Miura. Both guys come to fight. Junior lightweight Miura is a bit more of the unpolished tough brawler, and Berchelt a bit more of the boxer, but Berchelt also has the power to hurt as well, having scored 28 knockouts in his 31 victories. Berchelt hasn’t lost a fight in over three years, his only defeat, and is coming off a KO11 victory over then undefeated Francisco Vargas. Southpaw Miura, 31-3-2, has 24 knockout victories to his credit, and is coming off a KO12 over 56-11 Miguel Roman. He has a common opponent with Berchelt, having been stopped in 9 rounds by Francisco Vargas in a fight in which both fighters were down. Naturally Berchelt is the clear favorite, but Miura is no easy out.
Joe Smith, Jr., 23-1, 19 KOs, vs. Sullivan Barrera, 19-1, 14 KOs. This might well be the best and most intriguing match-up on the card. This will be a true test for Smith. There still are a lot of question-marks surrounding him. Right or wrong, folks can find ways to explain away his recent big victories – Fonfara got caught cold, Hopkins was 50 years old, had been beaten up by Kovalev, and hadn’t fought in two years. There is no doubt that Smith is a very heavy-handed puncher who probably can hurt anyone he hits. But does he have the power, skill, and condition needed to beat Barrera, a guy who went a competitive 12 rounds with Andre Ward in his only loss, and who has knockout victories over sturdy guys like Karo Murat and Vyacheslav Shabransky? That question makes this fight very intriguing. There definitely is a real aura of danger for Smith in this one.
Terence Crawford, 31-0, 22 KOs, might well be the actual best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now, and he’s fighting to become the first undisputed and undefeated champion in his weight division in quite a long time. On August 19, he will be taking on undefeated southpaw Julius Indongo, 22-0, 11 KOs, who is awkward, tall, long, and strong, and should not be underestimated. This should be a worthwhile junior welterweight matchup. Watching Crawford is like watching poetry in motion. But Indongo is the type of guy who will do whatever it takes to muck it all up and make it ugly, if he can.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr., 49-0, 26 KOs, vs. Connor McGregor, pro boxing debut, on August 26. You know, it makes me laugh and roll my eyes a little just to write that a guy with 49 pro boxing fights is fighting a guy making his pro boxing debut. It reminds me of when Floyd Patterson defended his world heavyweight championship against then pro debuting Pete Rademacher. But you know, as ridiculous as that fight was in its inception, at least Rademacher had actual boxing experience, and had won an Olympic gold medal, in boxing.
To the best of my knowledge, Connor McGregor is an MMA fighter. Sure, stand-up boxing is an element of MMA, but it isn’t what the sport is. Thinking this is a real fight is like taking the best ping pong player in the world and matching him in a tennis match with Roger Federer, or vice versa. Or taking the best bicyclist and putting him on a track to run against the world’s best 10,000 meter runner. At first blush, some might say ‘Maybe, they are similar,’ but anyone who understands the real differences between the sports understands it is more like apples and oranges than one might think. McGregor has no more chance to defeat Floyd in boxing than Floyd has to defeat McGregor in MMA.
Sure, McGregor will last some rounds, owing to the fact that Floyd is extremely careful, cautious, defensive-minded, and minimalist offensively. But don’t let that fool you or give you the wrong impression about McGregor’s performance. Floyd’s caution is all the more reason why McGregor has almost zero chance – Floyd won’t give him the opportunity to land even a lucky punch. He’s going to methodically pick him apart and bust him up.
The fight is non-competitive in its inception. If folks want to buy that, and there is a market for that, then so be it. If you purchase and pay for it, all you are doing is encouraging more ridiculous fights like this to occur. Floyd is a businessman who wants to make the most money for the least risk, so if the fight earns him a lot of money, from a business perspective, one cannot fault him. It certainly is the least risk possible. It will be the easiest money he has earned in a long time, perhaps ever. But from a sporting perspective, he deserves excoriation.
Mayweather is banking on the fact that there is a market for the freak show, the side show, the curiosity. This isn’t boxing as much as it is show business. This is like a circus, with promotion which will be akin to wrestlemania, and like the ringleader and circus master P.T. Barnum once said, “There is a sucker born every minute.” Back in 1910, when Jack Johnson defeated James J. Jeffries, who had been the betting favorite despite not having fought in six years, one observer wrote, “We fool ourselves every day more than other people fool us.” This fight is a fight to fool fools who will help fool themselves.
Perhaps some MMA folks will watch to see how well an MMA fighter can do with an elite boxer, and some boxing folks will watch to see the boxer pummel the MMA fighter. Some might liken it to Rocky. Some folks will be hoping that McGregor, like Rocky, shocks the world with his performance. But we all know what happens in real life.
Japan’s world superflyweight champion Naoya Inoue, 13-0, 11 KOs, is one of the best, most talented pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but amongst the least known top fighters. He will be fighting Antonio Nieves, 17-2-2 on September 9 in California. Check him out. You are in for a real treat.
Andre Ward crushes Sergey Kovalev and shows he is King
Andre Ward crushes Sergey Kovalev and shows he is King
By: Kirk Jackson
Silencing the opinions of fans and critics amongst the media, Andre “SOG” Ward 32-0 (16 KO’s) defended his WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles defeating Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev 31-2-1 (26 KO’s) via eighth-round technical knockout in their highly anticipated rematch.
Ward picked up where he left off in their first encounter; using lateral movement and angles to navigate inside the Kovalev’s dungeon of danger. Ward avoided the full brunt force of the hazardous, powerful 1-2 combinations (straight right hands, left jabs) of Kovalev while unleashing his own devastating attack.
As menacing as Kovalev’s punches can be, Ward proved again his will and fistic sophistication is even more demoralizing.
“I think it was plain to see that I broke him mentally and physically,” said Ward in a post-fight interview.
“I’m not a person that demands respect or none of that. You don’t have to respect me and I don’t demand anything, but at a certain point and time, you got to give a person their just do. I’m 13 years in and I’ve been doing it against the best.”
In crushing Kovalev from a physical standpoint, the emphasis of Ward’s attack was towards the body. A successful strategy utilized in their initial encounter.
After taking command during the first half of the first fight, Kovalev slowly succumbed to the constant pressure applied from Ward; squandering his lead and losing his titles in the process.
As the bigger man and the fighter thought of as the more threatening figure based off his destructive punching power, Kovalev looked worn for wear heading into the later rounds. The “Krusher” looked deflated after a hard fought highly competitive battle.
The same strategy proved successful the second time around.
“When I saw him react to the body shots that were borderline, I knew I had him,” Ward said. “Go back down there. Why get away from it?”
“Then I hurt him with a head shot and I just had to get the right shots in there to get it over with. That one’s probably borderline – he was hurt, I went right back there again, he wasn’t reacting, right back there again and the referee stopped it.”
And as with the first fight, the second fight also appears boiled in controversy. In which HBO, the network responsible for broadcasting the event contributed to regarding confusion the first time around.
Whether it’s the dubious scorecards from longtime HBO judge Harold Lederman, or the questionable calls of analysis from play-by-play commentator Jim Lampley, more times than not, the casual fan is misinformed regarding the content and story of the fight.
The controversy regarding the results of the rematch stems from the interpretation of what is perceived as effective body punches or illegal low blows.
Critics, most notably Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, points to low blows from Ward as a reason Kovalev lost yet another fight to Bay Area boxer. HBO analyst and boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. suggests otherwise.
“We saw earlier that he [Kovalev] was complaining from a borderline body shot and anytime someone fakes that much from a borderline body shot it makes it hard for you not to go back down there if you a seasoned veteran,” said Jones.
“It was borderline but when your cup is above your navel, the ref usually tells you I’m not gonna call these shots low right below the belt, because your belt is above your navel.”
Bob Bennett is the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The bout between Ward and Kovalev took place in Las Vegas, NV.
Bennett talked to the referee in charge of the fight, Tony Weeks. Bennett also expressed his confidence and belief that Weeks made the correct decision regarding the bout between Kovalev and Ward.
“I felt we had it right the first time. And I thought Tony did a great job this time,” Bennett said to USA Today.
“I’ve reviewed the fight this morning. I looked at those punches that were allegedly low, and even spoke to (HBO’s) Tom Hauser, who sent me a video, saying one of those punches was low but it was very hard to determine because Kovalev’s arm was by his waist, and the punch looks like it comes up underneath and hits on the belt line.”
Bennett continued, “It’s rather interesting at the end that when Ward hits him in the stomach at the end, he sat on the ropes. And the punch looked good. Weeks was in good position to see where those blows landed and they’re right on the belt line.”
“Are they close? Sure. But do they look good? Yeah. Did he have one or two low blows where Tony told him to keep them up? You could argue that he did. But at the same time you could argue that Kovalev put Ward in numerous headlocks and Tony had to reprimand both of them. I think the stoppage was good.”
Bennett’s assessment, along with Weeks’ assessment of where Ward’s punches landed regarding Kovalev’s belt line, reiterates the observation and analysis from HBO analyst Roy Jones Jr.
What we have from Duva and Team Kovalev is a litany of excuses. Ironic as the theme for this particular event is “No Excuses.”
“Excuses” correlates to the main reason Kovalev suffered defeat against Ward not only once, but twice.
This isn’t just the physical element at play. Yes this is a sport, this is boxing, the highest form of competition, one on one battle, where physicality matters. But there was a psychological war waging as well.
Kovalev’s foundation and mental makeup is constructed as a carefully crafted portrait of a cerebral, cold blooded killer. What was left out is the mountain of lies and excuses shadowing this illustration.
There are two types of people.
The first type makes excuses for their shortcomings and lacks accountability.
The second type recognizes and accepts their flaws and weaknesses, while making necessary adjustments to correct mistakes and progress forward.
Excuses can be regarded as a sign of mental weakness.
As great of a fighter Kovalev is, rising to the top of the sport bullying fighters and relying on intimidation; mainly predicated from his punching prowess, he lacks accountability regarding his deficiencies.
He mocked fighters, singled out and disrespected groups of people varying in sex and background en route to his rise of success.
Whether it’s suggesting to the two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields, that women should be at home making family life comfortable, or addressing Haitian-Canadian, light heavyweight rival Adonis Stevenson as a monkey, referring to Ismail Sillakh and African-American fighters as “negros,” along with other references aimed at “dark-skinned people,” is uncalled for.
Referring to Grover Young as a “thoroughbred nigga” further implies ignorance and immaturity.
Utilizing memes and videos, attributing idiotic stereotypes based on someone’s skin complexion and background is another red flag.
Former light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan, expressed his belief in Kovalev’s narrow-minded bigotry in an interview with Ring Magazine.
“I was shocked when I heard about his racist comments that he said in reference about African-Americans. There was no misinterpretation or lost in Russian-to-English translation of what he said,” Shumenov said.
“He will have to live with the derogatory words that he said in print and video. A lot of my team are African-Americans, and they are more than members of my team, they are family to me. They have my back and I have theirs, and I have zero respect for racist views of any kind.”
Do you notice a pattern here?
Whether its disrespectful remarks hurled towards peers, distasteful comments and tweets, or thoughtless posts across various social media outlets, character is often revealed through particular actions.
The “Krusher’s” character is on full display.
But what happens to the bully once he’s confronted? The bully usually folds. The case with Kovalev and Ward is a classic example. Ward stood up to Kovalev.
Regarding their fights, it’s why entering the jaws of death (fighting in range of Kovalev’s punching power) was imperative for the success of Ward.
It leaves a psychological effect; telling the bully I’m still here regardless of your tactics.
The “Krusher” openly and adamantly discussed his desire to end Ward’s career. Time and time again, his tag line for the rematch and this was directed at Ward, “I’m going to end your career motherfucker!!”
Perhaps it was just for promotion for their fight, although there appears to be genuine dislike between camps.
After suffering consecutive defeats and the last by TKO to Ward, it now appears Kovalev’s career is heading down the drain.
The question is who will fight Kovalev now? He is still a great fighter and arguably still one of the best fighters pound-for-pound.
But that’s the underlying issue; he’s still a great fighter, possessing terrorizing power, but lacks leverage or incentive to garner fights.
So which upcoming challenger is going to take the risk of fighting him? The question beckoning for that challenger is the financial compensation worth the risk of potentially losing?
It’s unlikely he and Ward will mix it up for a third time. The option of WBC and Lineal light heavyweight champion Stevenson appears improbable due to failed negotiations of the past.
As far as figuring Kovalev’s next step, these duties fall under the promoter and management team correct? The same promoter responsible for paying Kovalev.
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) June 15, 2017
Or not paying him, depending on the live gate and pay-per-view success of this past event.
Duva is clearly frustrated, displaying emotional discomfort during a trying time for her fighter who is short on options.
It’s also fitting the fighter and promoter in this instance is paired together.
Now this isn’t an obituary for Kovalev or his promoter Duva.
The 34-year-old former champion can work his way back to title contention, it’s just a matter of how he decides to do so and if he decided to remain in the light heavyweight division.
Regarding the winner of last weekend’s festivities, Ward proved yet again, he is the best fighter pound-for-pound.
Speaking to HBO after the fight Ward said, “Let me ask you the question, can I get on the pound-for-pound list now? At the top?”
Five time world champion, winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, unified champion at super middleweight and light heavyweight.
He overcomes every test and every adversity placed in front of him; whether it’s nagging injuries, criticism from fans and the media, or physical and psychological challenges of his opponents. No excuses, he rises to the occasion.
After conquering the super middleweight division, he moved up to a loaded light heavyweight division and just knocked out the biggest bully in boxing.
Enough said, crown him.
Kovalev Gets Shafted by Ward and the Referee Again!
Kovalev Gets Shafted by Ward and the Referee Again!
By: Ken Hissner
Foul’s ended two fights while the Nevada commission allowed this to happen on the PPV event. The event was held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Events Center in Las Vegas, NV. Another black eye for boxing!
WBO, WBA and IBF light heavyweight champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward, was given the stoppage over Russian Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, 30-2-1 (16), of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, at 2:29 of the 8th round.
In the opening Kovalev outlanded Ward who did more clinching than fighting. In the second round Kovalev used an effective jab. Ward hit Kovalev low and referee Tony Weeks gave him a minute rest. In the third round Kovalev landed the best punch of the fight up until that point a right to the head of Ward. In the fourth round Ward got in a jab and right hand though Kovalev continued to press the action. Looked like the first round Ward won.
In the fifth round Kovalev bloodied Ward’s nose. In the sixth round Ward landed a good left hook to the chin of Kovalev. Kovalev continues to outpunch Ward. In the seventh round Ward outlanded Kovalev in a close round. In the eighth round Ward rocked Kovalev with a right to the head hurting him. Kovalev did his best to hold on but was hit low for the third time without losing a point. The fourth low blow doubled Kovalev over while the referee Ton Weeks suddenly stopped the fight not DQ’ing Ward but giving him the win.
Judges Glen Feldman and Dave Moretti had Ward ahead 67-66 while Steve Weisfeld had Kovalev ahead 68-65 as did this writer.
WBA Super World Super bantamweight champion Cuban southpaw Guillermo Rigondeaux, 18-0 (12), of Miami, FL, hit Flores “after the bell” but the referee was overruled by the Executive Director Bob Bennett ruling a knockout over IBO Super bantamweight champion Moises “Chucky” Flores, 25-1 (17), of Guadalajara, MEX, at the end of the 1st round.
For some reason referee Robert Byrd was allowed to talk and influence Bennett while referee Vic Drakulich wanted it called a NC. Bennett said it was a punch before the bell sounded though the replay showed it was after the round. Bennett said he got word from the truck confirming it was before while HBO commentator Jim Lampley of HBO said he called someone in the truck and got the opposite answer. Roy Jones, Jr. agreed it was a knockout despite watching the replay show it was a punch “after the bell”.
In the first round Flores did all the punching until the 10 second warning when Rigondeaux grabbed Flores behind the head and hit him with a pair of uppercuts to the midsection when the bell sounded Rigondeaux hit Flores with a left hand to the head and to the canvas.
USBA Middleweight champion Luis Arias, 18-0 (9), of Milwaukee, WI, stopped Arif Magomedov, 18-2 (11) at 1:16 of the 5th round.
In a close 4 rounds Arias was allowed to clinch and hit Magomedov in the kidney and behind the head without warning from referee Robert Byrd. In the 5th round during a clinch referee Byrd out of position behind Magomedov grabbed him by the arms while Arias “sucker punched” him to the head. Referee Byrd only warned Arias without taking a point. Within 30 seconds a right hand from Arias dropped Magomedov. After beating the count Arias jumped on him causing referee Byrd to halt the fight.
WBA World light heavyweight champion, Dmitry Bivol, 11-0 (9), of St. Petersburg, RUS, stopped southpaw Cedric Agnew, 29-3 (15), of Chicago, IL, at 1:27 of round 4.
In the opening round Bivol dropped Agnew with a combination to the head. In the following 2 rounds Bivol beat up on Agnew who kept his hands up and threw very little in return. In the fourth round Agnew suffered a bloody nose and swelling under both eyes. Bivol landed a left hook driving Agnew back a few steps forcing referee Russell Mora to wisely call a halt.
It was a sad night for boxing. NV insists on using their own referee who are average at best. The PPV buyers got shortchanged again!
Ward Stops Kovalev With Violent Body Attack
Ward Stops Kovalev With Violent Body Attack
By: Sean Crose
No one could have predicted this. No one.
For Andre Ward stopped the frightening Sergey Kovalev…with body blows in the eighth round. Truly, it was a stunning and brutal end for the light heavyweight title fight. For it was Kovalev who was long known as the terrifying ring monster. Ward, on the other hand, was seen more as the tactician. Yet ultimately the bout came down to tactical destruction. Seeing Kovalev crumpled helpless by the ropes was simply stunning for fight fans to see.
Photo Credit: HBO
It was some kind of fight.
And, sure enough, the fight seemed VERY close throughout. Kovalev’s shot were hard and he was as aggressive as they came as he stalked Ward about the ring. The night, however, ultimately belonged to Ward “I’ve never been the most talented,” Ward claimed after the bout, as he thanked Jesus. “I’ve never been the biggest.” He didn’t need to be, either. Even though it looked to this writer that he was losing almost as many rounds as he was winning, Ward’s body attack took a brutal toll on his Russian nemesis.
Kovalev claimed that Ward hit him low on several occasions. On the last occasion, however it seemed as if Kovalev was feinting injury from a submarine shot that wasn’t actually a submarine shot. Indeed, the shot seemed to land on the beltline at worst. Perhaps Ward sensed it, too, for Kovalev was clearly hurt shortly thereafter. And then the Oakland native went for the kill, ending things by tearing into the body rather than the head. It proved to be a perfect strategy, as referee Tony Weeks stepped in and stopped the bout.
It was an interesting night of boxing in other ways, as well. For Guillermo Rigondeaux knocked out Moises Flores with a shot that clearly landed after the bell closed the second round of their super bantamweight fight. Whether the shot was launched before or after the bell rang was a matter of some debate – but it was the Miami resident’s bout…at least for the time being.
In earlier fights, Dmitry Bivol stopped Cedric Agnew in a light heavyweight bout that made it clear that Agnew no longer has the skill which once troubled Sergey Kovalev a few years ago. Earlier still, Luis Arias dominated Arif Magomedov in the fifth round of a middeweight affair.
Re-Visiting the Ward vs. Kovalev I “Robbery”
Re-Visiting the Ward vs. Kovalev I “Robbery”
By: Matt O’Brien
In the immediate aftermath of Andre Ward’s unanimous victory over Sergey Kovalev in their first fight last November, emotions from both sets of fans were running high and the controversial nature of the decision elicited some intense scrutiny of the judges’ scorecards. Cries of “robbery” flooded the web, with a deluge of fans enthusiastically taking up the “boxing is crooked” narrative. With the immediate rematch looming, here I take a look back and re-examine some of the perceptions, misconceptions and post-fight reaction to their first encounter.
One of the most widely circulated post-fight misconceptions has been the idea that the deficit created by the second-round knockdown fundamentally altered Ward’s chances of victory on the judges’ cards. See, for example, the myriad variations of the argument that, “there’s no way Ward won – especially with the knockdown!”
Somewhat counter-intuitively though, mathematically speaking the 10-8 round made no difference to the final outcome. Which sounds silly on the face of it, until you do some pretty basic maths: 7-5 in rounds gives a score of 115-113; minus a point from the winner’s score and you are still left with exactly the same winner. In fact, the only scenario where a knockdown ever plays a decisive role in the scoring (assuming no further point deductions occur, which they did not) is where the twelve rounds are evenly split at six each between both fighters.
So while it may be tempting to fall for the idea that Ward’s second-round trip to the canvas gave him a mountain to climb on the cards, actually the task facing him remained the same: he still needed to win a total of seven rounds in order to take the belts home. Of course, whether or not he deserved to win seven of the remaining rounds is a contentious issue, but assuming he did, the knockdown in round two is a moot point.
Perceptions vs. Reality
It’s also often been said that, having climbed off the canvas, Ward was then given too much credit in the scoring simply because he wasn’t “getting beaten up as badly as he was earlier”, rather than for actually winning the rounds. And there is some merit to this idea. After all, anyone who was expecting and/or hoping that Ward would be the superior boxer going into the fight would have found enough reason to justify their pre-fight narrative based on the way he responded in the ensuing rounds.
However, this kind of perception cuts both ways. The most tangible and dramatic moments are naturally the ones that leave the most lasting impression in our minds, and with the Russian continuing to be the aggressor after flooring Ward in the second, the lingering sense that he was still dominating the action even after the seminal moment had passed was not an easy one to shake off. As Max Kellerman noted for the HBO commentary during the sixth round: “Psychologically I think it sways observers to think that Kovalev is doing maybe a little better than he’s actually doing.”
The reality unfolding in the rounds following the knockdown was probably somewhere in-between these two perspectives. Kovalev continued to be the aggressor, but he was never quite as effective as he was in the second round; meanwhile Ward did begin to get a foothold in the fight, but had not established any kind of firm control.
The Late Rounds Rally
One of the main bones of contention from those who cried robbery was Ward’s virtual whitewash on the scorecards over the second half of the fight, in which Kovalev was only awarded a single round (the twelfth) by a single judge. With most of these rounds being closely contested, many fans cited the near clean-sweep as evidence of the judges’ incompetence, since there was no way Ward “dominated” Kovalev so conclusively.
The problem with this argument is that rounds that are decisively won and those that are nicked by the finest of margins are both scored 10-9, and judges are supposed to view every round as an individual entity, not try to “balance” their scores according to how close the action has been overall. In other words, a series of rounds that are edged by one fighter produce a lopsided score total that does not necessarily reflect just how competitive the action as a whole has been. Consequently, even though Ward did not “dominate” Kovalev over the second half of the fight, in the sense of putting a beating on him and decisively winning every single round, that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to “dominate” the scoring on the cards, assuming that he was consistently doing better – even by the tiniest of margins. And there is evidence to support the idea that this was actually the case.
Firstly, the punch stats indicate that Ward was the more effective boxer from round seven onwards. Although Kovalev recorded a slightly higher number of landed punches over the fight as a whole (10 more total punches) over the last half of the fight it was Ward who connected with more (80-74 in total), landing more in four out of the last six rounds. He also connected at a higher percentage in every round from 7-12, even though Kovalev threw more shots in all except the seventh – indicating that while the champion was still the aggressor, it was the challenger who had the much superior accuracy and defence.
Secondly, it’s also worth bearing in mind Kovalev’s own words in the buildup to the rematch. Speaking on HBO’s “24/7” program, the former champ admitted that, “[the] first four rounds, I didn’t feel it. But in the fifth round, my energy finished… I mean, I finished the fight, all the twelve rounds. But I just don’t know how I managed all the remaining seven rounds.” Again, this would seem to indicate that Ward’s second-half resurgence was much more than just a figment of our imaginations.
The Swing Rounds
HBO’s Harold Lederman is a respected analyst and the broadcaster’s longtime on-air scoring guide. He had Kovalev winning the fight comfortably, by a margin of 116-111. Taking the scorecard of someone who had Kovalev clearly winning the fight as a benchmark then, is it really so outlandish to suggest that Ward should have emerged the winner? The evidence says no: in fact, even using a card that favours Kovalev so widely, it only takes three swing rounds out of twelve to produce a different result. And it is not difficult to find three such potential rounds on his card.
Consider, for example, that after eight completed rounds Lederman had Kovalev in a 5-3 lead. Notably though, Lederman’s colleague Max Kellerman stated during the eighth round: “In terms of the scores, Harold has given two rounds to Kovalev that I thought could have been given to Ward”. Swinging just one of these rounds on Lederman’s card would then put the fighters dead even at four rounds each going into the last third of the fight. Then consider Lederman’s view of the ninth round, which seemed way off base. Ward clearly landed the more eye-catching blows and according to the punch stats it was actually his best round of the fight (Kellerman again immediately voiced his opinion that he thought Lederman’s reading of the round was wrong).
Far from needing to give Ward “every benefit of the doubt” then, in fact using Lederman’s card we’d only need to swing two rounds out of the first eleven to put Ward into a 6-5 lead going into the final round. As it turned out, the twelfth was another close one in which the official judges and many pundits were split – a classic “swing round” that could reasonably be scored in either direction.
The upshot of all of this is that whether or not you thought Ward deserved the decision, it makes no sense to claim that the judges’ verdict was implausible. The truth is that it was a close fight where both men had palpable moments of ascendency. Kovalev made an excellent start, but his lead was far from insurmountable and Ward clearly fought more effectively over the second half of the fight. From the third round onwards there were several swing rounds where a good case could be made for either boxer; which way you saw those rounds essentially determined how you scored the fight.
So if you thought Kovalev deserved to be the winner, by all means state your case. But let’s not pretend the first fight was a robbery – the sport has enough problems without adding phony ones to the list. The two men will settle their difference in the ring tonight, so let’s hope the result will be more clear cut this time whichever way it goes, and just sit back and enjoy a rematch between two of the best fighters in the sport.
The Best Match In Boxing Is Going Down This Saturday…Does Anyone Care?
The Best Match In Boxing Is Going Down This Saturday…Does Anyone Care?
By: Sean Crose
While the sports world focuses on more frivolous matters this week, the best matchup in all of combat sports is going down this Saturday. No, it doesn’t involve a loudmouthed Irishman or a flashy hedonist with a perfect record. Believe it or not, it doesn’t even involve a red headed Mexican and a Kazakh knockout machine. No, the best match in all of combat sports involves a Russian immigrant and a churchgoing Californian who are set to collide in the city of Las Vegas. Few outside of the world of boxing even know it’s happening. Perhaps few inside the world of boxing even care.
And that, friends, is really too bad. For Saturday night’s Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fight for light heavyweight supremacy promises boxing at it’s best. Exquisite skill. Frightening power. Two men with a lot to prove. Ward-Kovalev II has it all. The first fight between both men last fall wasn’t a classic, but it was damn good, with Ward pulling off a close, yet controversial decision win. Each man now aims to settle things once and for all. Oh, and they don’t like each other. Or at least Kovalev despises Ward. In fact, he despises Ward so bad, he’s made it clear he wants to hurt the man.
Considering the fact that Kovalev has already ended one life, that’s legitimately frightening stuff. Not that the Russian is actually looking to kill Ward, he’s just looking to dispense a world class ass kicking. Ward, on the other hand, is clearly looking to take his opponent to school. And by the way, the guy’s really good at taking opponents to school. One suspects Ward’s also looking to let Kovalev know he’s no pushover. In other words, there’s a lot to look forward to here. The question, however, is whether or not anyone’s actually looking forward to it.
This writer is, and no doubt others are, as well. Probably not too many others, though, and that’s a shame. Neither Ward nor Kovalev has an enormous fan base. People aren’t going to fly across the Atlantic by the jet full for this fight. Nor is an army of people donning hats declaring its preferred fighter the best ever going to be spotted around Vegas this weekend. Nope. This fight is for the purists. As George Foreman once said, boxing is like jazz, the better it is, the less people like it.
Here’s hoping for some seriously good jazz this weekend.