Last night was the first Roc Nation Sports promoted card and it aired on Fox Sports 1. It was a very significant night for Roc Nation owner Jay-Z and it was a big night for all of boxing, especially on the heels of Roc Nation Sports latest acquisitions Andre Ward and Gary Shaw Productions, which along with it came a stable of fighters that included Thomas Dulorme and heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings to name a few.
However, last night’s card seemed less about the fights, which were less than stellar on paper, and more about celebrating the significance of a potentially bright future.
I think, to a degree, the night was more of an Andre Ward celebration party than anything. If Jay-Z had signed any top fighter in the world it would’ve been noteworthy and substantial on many levels, but the fact that it was Ward held greater importance for many reasons.
First, Ward has been inactive for over a year due to his legal battles and contractual dispute with Dan Goossen. The battle waged on for what seemed like forever and it got ugly. After Dan’s untimely and tragic death, it seemed petty to mention the proceedings, although there was insider information being spread around that it was going to work itself out in a manner similar to this.
Last night was a celebration for Ward, Ward’s fans, and a sport that is always in need of talented athletes with the ability to raise boxing’s commercial profile. But the significance of Jay-Z signing an American fighter with number one pound for pound potential, not to mention a fighter with poster boy looks as well as being intellectually captivating, means that Roc Nation Sports is an official player in the sport.
Top Rank has Manny Pacquiao, Golden Boy has Canelo Alvarez, Al Haymon has Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Jay-Z/Roc Nation Sports has Andre Ward. If you consider all accounts it seems like Roc Nation Sports is in the best position from a pure boxing superiority standpoint. Pacquiao and Mayweather are both on their way out, Canelo is the obvious cash cow of the future, but he is a flawed fighter, and Ward is the best fighter that will by all accounts still be fighting at a high level in five years.
I’m never for storylines overshadowing the actual fights on a fight card, but in this instance there is plenty to celebrate and it would be hard to compete with the nostalgia associated with this momentous pairing.
“I’m excited, it [feels like] a million pounds lifted off my back,” Ward told a group of reporters ringside at throne boxing. “It’s been a rough two years. Those kind of situations can either make you or break you and I tried to, through my faith in God and through my family, just let it forge me. I feel like I got a nice long rest, I’m excited to comeback.”
Ward is obviously happy to know his future is now back on track, but Jay-Z should be happy, too. He offered contracts to the likes of Peter Quillin, Keith Thurman, Deontay Wilder, and Guillermo Rigondeaux, all of whom turned Roc Nation Sports down. In the end, Roc Nation Sports ended up with a better fighter than all of the aforementioned, a more proven fighter than the others, and perhaps the best attribute of all is the fact that Ward is Haymon-less.