Who knows when it first happened. Could it have been in 2004, when a then younger Andre Ward, won an Olympic gold medal at light heavyweight? It could of been when members of the media attacked Ward for his slow climb up the ranks or the view of him being overrated and not worthy of the praise. Maybe it was when Ward brought fights to his hometown of Oakland, a city void of hope in many ways. It could of been a whole slew of things, but at one point, it happened. You can now make an Andre Ward joke and be in the fraternity of boxing fans and bloggers who gather via twitter, at events or in surrounding bars.
It’s this bashing of Ward, that makes it hard for many to fully credit him as the best super middleweight in the world and potentially, the best boxer of his generation. Ward doesn’t win on style points. His fights tend to be tactical and sometimes taxing on the viewers in attendance. The fact remains, you can like it or not, but Ward has yet to be stopped. Ward, an Olympic gold medalist, who fought above his weight class there.
Ward would go into the Super Six tournament on Showtime as the underdog, dethroning Mikkel Kessler to gain his first world title. The narrative could have started there. Ward, the underdog, major media outlets had him listed as barely having a chance to win the tournament, and not only did he win, he proved the critics wrong. Years ago Ward explained that, “…outside of the Bay Area I didn’t feel I got my credit.” It is as though Ward has carried animosity towards the media who bashed him coming up.
Ward is a mythic figure in Oakland, a superhero for a town that is in need of role models. He is doing positive things in his community. Stories from 2009 echoed Ward’s charity work in Hayward talking to high school students beyond the allotted time he was scheduled. Then there was the Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson weigh in where teenagers from McClymonds High School walked by the public set up looked at each other and said, “It’s him.” In Oakland boxing Andre Ward is Michael Jordan. He is a symbol of the highest level of excellence.
Yet things are getting even more cloudy. With minimal support from fans outside of the Bay Area, Ward is currently unhappy with his promotional situation. Ward is under the banner of Goossen-Tutor and is unhappy since the promotion has not gotten any major fights for him. Ward has spent the past years fairly inactive with a mixture of injuries, inability to find opponents, and just plan unhappiness with his current situation. Ward has hinted at the fact that he may just sit out this year for Goossen-Tutor. In late December Ward filed a lawsuit against the promoter to get out of his contract that he is signed with until 2016.
It’s this mindset that rubs some the wrong way. Ward is a top five pound for pound fighter, yet he is willing to take money as a broadcaster from HBO, and essentially sit it out just to get what he wants. It would be one thing if he was an amazing, thrilling fighter fit for PPV, but Ward is a fighter you watch to see masterful technique and excellence in execution. Ward is a perfectionist - the type who if he couldn’t get one exact detail right ,it could ruin a fight camp. He is the kind who wants to control every element of his environment.
Then came the other thing. In the build up to his bout with Edwin Rodriguez, Rodriguez proposed taking VADA testing for the bout. Ward null and voided the concept and the usual suspects who might attack Ward went silent. Who is to say the reasoning behind his decision.Ward is one of those guys where just a simple detail, such as people showing up randomly, could mess with his tactical nature, but the skeptics wonder if there are other reasons as well.
Ward is a tricky person in the modern world of boxing because he is skill in a sport where people more often then not, tune in for brute force. He is devoutly religious and has found himself to be a popular person only to be attacked on social media. Ward is now 30. He is entering the legacy realm of his career. He probably realized this sometime last year. Maybe that is the reason why he is so annoyed with his current state in the sport. Ward is the scapegoat. He is to the typical boxing fan “what is wrong with the sport.” It is easy to blame him for so much rather than look at what Ward has down for his city, boxing, and for himself.