Mailbag: Ward takes patient path

Andre Ward, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, still isn’t a household name, despite defeating Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham during Showtime’s Super Six tournament and moving into the Yahoo! Sports Top 10.

But Ward, whose cut on the eyebrow forced him to postpone his Super Six finale match against Carl Froch from Oct. 29 until Dec. 17, isn’t particularly worried about recognition these days.

Andre Ward holds firm to his belief that hard work will eventually make him a superstar.
(Getty Images)

It takes time, he pointed out, and eventually the recognition for his skills will come.

“I’m kind of doing what I’ve got to do to get through this tournament and get my hand raised when it’s all said and done,” Ward said. “I can’t worry about the particulars of how much buzz I’m getting between fights. If you look at two of the biggest money makers right now, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, it didn’t happen overnight for these guys. I can remember when Floyd Mayweather was the champion at 130, 135 pounds. Obviously, he was still a great talent, tremendous fighter, but he didn’t have the buzz that he has now.

“It takes time. And when fighters start worrying about the buzz instead of worrying about winning, that’s when problems come in. I believe the end will be better than the beginning. I came in strong as a gold medalist. I’ve beaten everybody they’ve put in front of me and that’s all I’m going to focus on now. The buzz, the hoopla, I get a lot of that now, but it’s really going to come down the road.”

Ward said that though he was disappointed by the postponement, he doesn’t believe it will negatively affect his preparations. He was still five weeks out from the bout when it was postponed and said he hadn’t gotten into the “nitty gritty” of his training.

Ward hasn’t gotten enough credit for his mastery in the tournament and the dominating manner in which he’s won his bouts.

Froch is a quality fighter, but Ward still has all the makings of a pound-for-pound champion.

“He’s a good all-around fighter,” Ward said of Froch. “But sometimes, media and the fans, if they’re pro-Froch, they’ll overemphasize his strengths and talk about his grit and his determination. He does have that, but they’ll look at a fighter like myself and kind of paint me as a guy who wants to stay out of harm’s way. On other occasions, they’ll paint me as a dirty fighter.

“It’s all in how you view it and all in who you’re pulling for. It’s kind of tough to say there is one thing Froch does well that I have to worry about. I just know I’m taking him seriously, he’s a legitimate threat and that’s our mindset as we train. He has something we want. We’re both going after this Super Six Cup and this ring and, basically, the status of best super middleweight in the world. I don’t know what the one thing [about him I need to worry about], but I know I’ll be ready to do battle.”

Hooks and jabs

• So Victor Ortiz is pleading with Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch? He held a conference call on Monday, nine days after he was knocked out, in which he taunted Mayweather, said he punched like a girl and begged for a rematch. Had Ortiz fought when he had the chance, he wouldn’t need to be in the position to beg.

• HBO did a huge disservice to Mayweather when it showed the replay on Saturday. Just before the ill-fated punches that knocked Ortiz out in the fourth round, referee Joe Cortez can clearly be heard saying “Let’s go!” as the fighters were well apart. That was shown live, but when HBO replayed it, those crucial words were edited out and they picked up the fight-ending sequence as the fighters were embracing. HBO should have wound back about 10 seconds further so the viewers who may have missed it would have heard Cortez’s command to fight.

• Just wondering: Which champion has fewer credible challengers, middleweight champion Sergio Martinez or heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko?

• I voted for Floyd Mayweather Jr. first in the most recent Yahoo! Sports rankings, with Manny Pacquiao second. I have no problem with those who believe Pacquiao should be one and Mayweather two. I do strongly disagree with the 10 voters who put Mayweather third or lower, though. I just can’t make a case for anyone being better, pound-for-pound, than Mayweather and Pacquiao.

• Timothy Bradley still has no fight scheduled. He’s a brilliant talent who is letting his prime earning time dwindle away.

Readers always write

Rankings don’t make sense

How is it that Manny Pacquiao, by fighting unranked boxers and then fighting a ranked boxer who has been dominated by Floyd Mayweather Jr. before, lands the top ranking in your poll? I know Pacquiao became No. 1 because of Mayweather’s inactivity, but since Mayweather defeated Victor Ortiz, how can he possibly go down in the rankings? That seems crazy. Plus, he hasn’t lost. Do you think it’s just mainly because Pacquiao is just more likable?

Ernest
St. Robert, Mo.

As I said earlier, I believe Mayweather should be first and Pacquiao second. I look at the poll and base my vote on recent form, because the top boxers only fight two, or sometimes three, times a year. It’s not like in college basketball, where they’re playing several times a week. Given that, I tend to vote based on how I think the fighters have evolved and where they are at the time I vote. But there are a lot of people who vote who I believe say that if the top-ranked fighter doesn’t lose, he shouldn’t be dropped. So those voters stick with Pacquiao. There are some, I suppose, who do simply feel Pacquiao is the better fighter. In that case, they’re correct to vote for Pacquiao.

Is Martinez a legitimate middleweight?

I know Sergio Martinez is going to defend the middleweight belt Saturday against Darren Barker, but I honestly don’t care. Who is Darren Barker? More importantly, what has happened to the middleweight division? It used to be one of the greatest in boxing, but now it has a bunch of easy marks. I can’t tell how good Martinez is because of the bums in his division.

Anthony Spinelli
Philadelphia

There simply aren’t a lot of good middleweights, Anthony, though it’s cyclical. It’s unfortunate for Sergio, because I believe he’s a very good fighter. I don’t think he is at the level of some past middleweight champions of note, such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon or Bernard Hopkins, but he is a good and entertaining fighter and a worthy titleholder. Right now, there aren’t a lot of compelling matches for him at 160, which is why so many people are calling for him to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. But none of the top guys now are elite, nor will they ever be elite. It’s unfortunate for Martinez, but he’s not big enough really to compete at super middleweight and he’s too big to get down to a weight where Pacquiao or Mayweather would be viable.

Quoteworthy

“When in the boxing ring, you must always defend [yourself]. You are there to fight. What Mayweather did in there was right, in my opinion. The ref did say, ‘Box on.’ But even when he was hit with the first shot, the left hook, you could see Ortiz looking over at the referee, maybe thinking it was a foul and that he hadn’t said, ‘Box on,’ whereas really his hands should have gone straight up and he should have defended himself.” – Amir Khan, the IBF-WBA super lightweight champion, on the ending of Mayweather-Ortiz.

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011