COMMENTARY | If the collective wisdom of highly subjective pound-for-pound lists is to be trusted, the world's second-best fighter is Olympic gold medalist and undisputed super middleweight champ, Andre Ward.
Few could argue with Ward's resume -- a resume which boasts solid, decisive wins over 168 lb. elite Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler as well as visiting light heavyweight kingpin Chad Dawson. Ever since struggling against journeyman Darnell Boone in 2005, Ward has been virtually untouchable on his road to main stage status. One-sided wins over the likes of Arthur Abraham, Sakio Bika, Allan Green, and Edison Miranda augment his bulging resume and make the case that if he's not the best ever at super middleweight, he's pretty darn close.
On Nov. 16, the undefeated Ward finally returns to the ring after 14 months of injury, promotional squabbles, and opponent searching to defend his WBA super middleweight title against fellow-undefeated battler, Edwin Rodriguez at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Rodriguez is a legitimate top 5-7 contender at 168 lbs. and is coming off a victory over Denis Grachev in the final bout of the under-hyped Million Dollar Super 4 Tournament in Monte Carlo last July. He's the best available opponent for Ward, who is finding it increasingly difficult to find a meaningful fight.
Rodriguez may also be the last credible opponent Ward can face without having to seriously rearrange some of his contractual obligations and personal preferences.
In a division mostly populated by foreign talent either already defeated once by the Olympian or in no hurry to risk a defeat against him, Ward sits atop his weight class as the loneliest king in all of boxing.
The biggest and most credible opponent for Ward at this point is a reinvigorated Carl Froch, who has gone 3-0 since his unanimous decision loss to Ward in December of 2011 and will take on young UK prospect, George Groves on Nov. 23. Victories over Mikkel Kessler, Yusaf Mack, and Lucian Bute have made Froch the most solid No. 2 fighter in the sport and an obvious rematch possibility for Ward, except Froch, so far, has been steadfast in wanting to fight in his native Great Britain. Ward, however, has been just as stubborn with his insistence that, as winner of their first bout, he should not have the terms of the rematch dictated to him.
And while Ward may be right about having earned the honor to call the shots, his sense of fair play may also cost him some of the best possible opposition out there and a few legacy-defining bouts.
More and more, it's becoming clear that Americans are no longer undisputed rulers of the boxing universe. So what if Ward is the best super middleweight in the world? The leftovers and the second-tier players will be just fine fighting amongst themselves in the friendly confines of the Euro-boxing circuit. They'll concede the No.1 spot to Ward, apparently, just as long as the paychecks keep rolling in and the arenas keep filling up.
All of this leaves Ward in a tight spot. Probably just a couple of solid wins away from wresting all-time great status from Joe Calzaghe at super middleweight, there may be nobody worth fighting after the Rodriguez bout.
As things look now, 2014 will be the year of big decisions for Andre Ward.
The 168 lb. top dog will either have to swallow his pride and renew his passport for several trips overseas or contemplate a move up in weight and see if he can get fights his network home HBO will approve and ones that will earn him paydays that correspond to his status in the sport.
Ward is every bit good enough to earn recognition as the all-around best to ever compete in his division, but boxing politics, economics, and a changing sphere of influence in the sport may conspire to stop him short of the recognition he deserves.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Source: Yahoo Sports!
- Sports & Recreation
- Andre Ward
- Carl Froch
- Mikkel Kessler