Mailbag: Where does Ward rate?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

There's a little bit of everything, including some old and some new, in this week's edition of the boxing mailbag.

I respond to reader comments and questions about Andre Ward's performance against Allan Green, whether Mike Tyson belongs in the Hall of Fame, and whether the U.S. boxing media are highlighting the wrong fighters.

Let's get right to it.

Ward no Leonard

I am a big fan of Andre Ward. He was my pre-tournament selection to win the whole thing. However, I just don't see how he can be compared to Sugar Ray Leonard. Ward does not produce the same excitement in his fights that Leonard did. Ward doesn't explode with fast power punch combinations like Leonard did. Ward doesn't exhibit the same power punching ability Leonard had. He doesn't have the lateral movement Leonard did. Being able to adjust to a fighter's style shouldn't merit comparison to Leonard. Many fighters can adjust. Also, as much as I am a fan of Ward, I wonder if he would perform the same not fighting at home and with a referee who does not allow him to hold or come in with his head. I love Ward because he truly is a very talented, smart, crafty fighter who also happens to be a very classy guy, but I feel the comparisons to Leonard stop at winning a gold medal.

Nelson Rivas
Los Angeles

Nelson, read what I wrote carefully. The only comparison I made to Leonard was in talking about how both were perceived as pretty boys but that both men were also very tough and fierce competitors. I wholeheartedly agree that Leonard is the superior talent. He's one of the top 10 or 20 fighters of all-time. Ward, to this point, hasn't even been one of the top 10 fighters pound-for-pound active today. I think Ward is a tremendous talent, but I think you misread my comparison.

Will Ward change?

Kevin, first off I want to tell you that I'm a big fan and I always agree with you, for the most part. The most recent column I agree with is the article you wrote on Andre Ward. I've been praising him for years. I think his style is like Floyd Mayweather's, because he is a great traditional boxer. However, because he doesn't get the press he deserves, do you think he might have to change and start acting like Floyd? Floyd went from "Pretty Boy" to "Money" and started getting the big bucks and mega-fights in every fight, no matter who he fought. Will Andre have to change from being the good guy that he is to trash-talking in order to became a superstar?

Las Vegas

I think Ward is an elite talent, but I don't think he will change his personality nor should he. He'll never become the kind of attraction that Mayweather is, but if, as I expect, he wins the Super Six World Boxing Classic by going undefeated and reeling off five consecutive wins, he'll create a considerable reputation. His development as a pro was slowed by injuries and by moving him slowly at first.

Green took the night off

The Andre Ward-Allan Green fight was an absolute stink bomb. Only one guy came to play and his initials were not AG. I called it. Every single time Green came in, Ward simply sidestepped and smothered him, forcing him into the ropes where he beat the stuffing out of him. Is Allan Green just that inept as a fighter, or is Ward that good? I think it is a bit of both. Green reminds me of the kid who can kick anyone's ass until such a time that a real fighter pops up and smacks him dead in the mouth. Once Ward tagged him a few times you could see the steam just toot right out of him. His demeanor showed it. Ward turned a self-promoted tiger into a toothless putty tat. Ward, in my opinion, is a very good fighter but I really didn't see the brilliance of a young, middle-aged or old Sugar Ray Leonard (and yes I am old enough 47 to have seen Ray on several occasions in person.) I think Ward will win this debacle of a Super Six (why two-plus years to finish this stuff; it's too long and becomes stale) because of his superior athletic ability and his ability to keep his chin safe.

Mike Blackgrave
San Antonio, Texas

Green has been in and out in his career, but he's a talented guy. However, I agree with you, that by the fourth round at the latest, he'd given up and was looking to survive. And don't compare Ward to Leonard; he'll lose that every time. But if you compare him to his peers, he looks better and better each day.

Tyson no Hall of Famer

Kevin, how is Mike Tyson a Hall of Fame-class fighter? His reign of domination was brief with an unconvincing resume of second-class wins. Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tucker and Tony Tubbs? Those guys were flimsy titleholders, at best. James Smith was no Bonecrusher. Frank Bruno was a funny guy but, like Georges Carpentier, he delivered one noteworthy punch. Michael Spinks probably would not have escaped Rocky Marciano. I could go on. Big wins? Tyson walked through a 37-year-old Larry Holmes and, yes, he completely destroyed Tyrell Biggs. The truth is that in every career-defining fight that tested the mettle of a bullying "Iron Mike," the fearsome knockout artist showed limited skills and his fighting heart seemed to wither. His classless and repulsive behavior in the second Evander Holyfield bout should have disqualified this over-hyped fraud for who he was, a 1980s icon of little substance and questionable ring character with no more bite than a Duran Duran album. He never fought Renaldo Snipes, Michael Dokes, Gerrie Coetzee or Mike Weaver. None of them was great, but all could throw a heavyweight punch. The heavyweight incarnation of Michael Spinks could not. Mike Tyson failed in every true test of fortitude. His career mirrors Sonny Liston's and in some ways Sonny's rise and fall was more compelling.

Brian Fitzgerald
Reading, Pa.

I think Tyson easily qualifies for his accomplishments in the ring – he remains the youngest heavyweight champion in history – as well as for becoming by far the biggest draw in the history of the sport. I think you conveniently minimize some of his opponents: Guys like Thomas, Tucker and Tubbs are not Hall of Famers, but in their primes they were far better than the majority of heavyweights who are active today. He carried the sport to a large degree in his prime, however brief it was. He had one of the best punches in boxing history. Tyson won the title in November 1986 as a 20-year-old. Coetzee was retired from March 1996 until August 1993, when he made a comeback, so there was no real opportunity for them to fight. Mike Weaver was 35 when Tyson won the title and was at a point where he was fighting club fighters when Tyson became champion. Snipes, too, was taking a step down in competition when Tyson had matured. You also neglected to point out the wins over Razor Ruddock, who was very highly regarded at the time. Frankly, Brian, I'm shocked by your suggestion that Mike is not a slam dunk Hall of Famer. I don't think there should be so much as a question of whether he deserves it.

Gavin deserves Hall call

Did you know that my father, Al Gavin Sr., who worked more than 100 world championship fights, is not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame? He was Micky Ward's cut man in the Ward-Arturo Gatti trilogy, was Lennox Lewis' cut man for 13 years and overall, worked 3,000 pro and more than 10,000 amateur bouts. Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame? Everyone agrees he belongs, but due to the rigid requirements of the non-participant category, which accepts the LEAST amount of candidates, he is not.

Al Gavin Jr.
Bethpage, N.Y.

Your father was a terrific boxing man and deserves very serious consideration for the Hall. Just before he died in 2004, New York Daily News boxing writer Tim Smith wrote of Gavin Sr., "They don't have a Nobel Prize for cut men, but Gavin should have gotten it for his work with Micky Ward in his first match against Arturo Gatti. Ward's face looked like he had walked through a room full of flying knives, but Gavin kept him together long enough for him to win a decision over Gatti." I'm not sure how to evaluate cut men, but everyone I talked to since I've covered boxing raves about his ability to stop the bleeding.

RJJ can talk

I thoroughly enjoyed Roy Jones Jr.'s expert analysis on the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman card from Yankee Stadium in New York on June 5.What are the odds that HBO will use him again in the future? I think he makes a great addition to show.

David Wrought
La Porte, Texas

An HBO spokesman told me HBO has no plans to use Roy other than in that one-night pinch-hitting role he performed.

Media misses the boat

What is wrong with the U.S. boxing media? It often seems to me they build up an American fighter who just isn't that great, such as Paul Williams, Jermain Taylor, Victor Ortiz and Oscar De La Hoya. Or they build up a foreign fighter who can be considered overrated like Ricky Hatton, Mikkel Kessler, or even Manny Pacquiao. If someone can explain to me why we have heard more about Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz than Andre Ward, Devon Alexander or Tim Bradley, I would love to hear it.

Michael Henry

I think you're way off base with criticisms of Pacquiao and Kessler (I never thought Hatton was that great). But I've raved about Ward, Alexander and Bradley for years. I have never been high on Ortiz, either, and didn't jump on the bandwagon even back when he was with Top Rank. Other writers are going to have to explain themselves, but the bottom line is, the guys who get written about in the U.S. media are the guys being pushed by the major promoters and put on HBO and, to a much lesser degree, Showtime. You're delusional if you think De La Hoya wasn't great. No, he was never as good as the hype, but Oscar was an outstanding fighter who will make the Hall of Fame simply on merit, not his charisma and drawing power.

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