Opinion: The impressively unimpressive work of Andre Ward
If you watched Andre Ward’s one-sided dissection of unheralded Alexander Brand on HBO this past Saturday, you likely took away very little from the fight. The fact that it went the distance was frustrating for many who know that Brand had no business being in the ring with a fighter the class of Ward. But, perhaps more importantly, there wasn’t a statement made with the victory as Ward gears up for a showdown with Sergey Kovalev in November.
How can one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet manage to let a 40-year-old guy off the hook who was fighting up a weight class and had never fought anybody the caliber of Ward?
The answer is easy, actually.
It was just another chapter in the impressively unimpressive work of Andre Ward.
I know, what the heck does that mean?
Andre Ward is Andre Ward no matter who he is fighting. He doesn’t take risks, nor does he go for things that are outside of his comfort zone. His style lends itself to being a counterpuncher who takes advantage of the mistakes his opponents make. It’s the reason why he put together a scintillating performance in knocking out Chad Dawson vs. his two performances against Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand. He remains relatively the same fighter but will take care of business if you come to him. If you watch with a keen eye and appreciate the tiny nuances that make a boxer a ring general, then you can enjoy watching Andre Ward fight. If you want blood and guts, Ward isn’t your guy.
And you should probably stop complaining about it because it’s never, ever going to change.
What Ward did against Brand was vintage Andre Ward. However, it did little to build momentum to the November showdown with Kovalev. Ward never planned on doing anything different than he needed to against Brand, who had not been knocked out in any of his previous 26 fights. He pitched a shutout and nobody watching was happy about it, except for Team Ward.
It makes sense because we expect more from Ward. It’s not necessarily his style that we are critical about as it is the opposition that he’s faced since returning to the ring after a year and a half hiatus. To put it nicely, they are inferior and undeserving of the opportunity to unseat an Olympic gold medalist and one of the best fighters on the planet. They may be decent fighters somewhere else, but for a boxer with the pedigree of Ward, they are mere tomato cans. And tomato cans are supposed to be crushed. Everyone has been looking for the Ward that decimated Chad Dawson but even that was a far cry from the Ward who competed in the Super Six tournament. In his last ten fights, Ward has two stoppages against Dawson and Paul Smith. Everyone else he fought was dominated in a display of deft boxing ability.
For some reason, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that Ward is somebody else when the same Andre Ward has been here all along. He’s dominant to the point that it is boring. And, frankly, that’s just not fun to watch. The drama is sucked out of the fight the moment Ward steps in because not a single opponent has figured out how to take him out of his comfort zone.
That’s where Sergey Kovalev steps in … we hope.
The hard-punching Russian possesses the skills and ability to force Ward to fight rather than cruise. At any given moment, Kovalev could put Ward on the canvas with a clean punch and rest assured that Ward is aware of the danger in facing an opponent with the power of Kovalev. This isn’t to say that Ward won’t figure out how to neutralize all of Kovalev’s weapons on fight night and dance the same dance we’re used to seeing. But this is the best opportunity to see Ward do something different because he is forced to.
But until Nov. 19 comes, all we can do is hope. We can be critical of his impressively unimpressive performances all we want. We can try to suggest that he be knocked down a peg from the pound-for-pound rankings because of the quality of opposition. But Ward is doing Ward: pitching shutouts and taking little damage.
You may be upset about it but Ward isn’t. And as long as he remains undefeated and his bank account swells, there’s nothing anybody not named Sergey Kovalev can do about it.