Vanquished foes talk generously of Andre Ward’s talent, the head of HBO Sports sees 2014 as a breakthrough year for the undefeated super middleweight, other fighters’ promoters speak of him like they represent him – and Mike Tyson is among fans and observers who say he’s not exciting.
Hours before Ward improved to 27-0 with 14 knockouts by dominating the previously undefeated Edwin Rodriguez (24-1, 16KOs) in a masterful performance of hit-and-don’t-get-hit boxing, Tyson made it clear he’s among those who like to see more action
“There have always been guys like that; they’re not exciting, but great fighters can’t beat them,” Tyson said before the fight at Citizen’s Business Bank in Ontario, Calif.
The venue about an hour east of Los Angeles holds 11.089, and announced attendance was 4,158, a crowd HBO’s commentators noted was not impressive for a card featuring the man widely considered to be the second-best in the world.
After the fight, Ken Hershman, HBO Sports president, who said pro sports and other events made it tough to find an ideal venue, countered, “That talent; how do you not get excited by that talent?”
Because, Tyson and more than a few fans say, you want to see boxers bang it up like Manny Pacquiao – who was knocked cold with one punch in his last fight – and Brandon Rios, who fight on Saturday.
“Look what happened to Pacquiao,” Ward said after hearing Tyson’s thoughts.
Fair play to Tyson, said Ward, for the style he employed in the ring, if not for what he took as implicit criticism.
“Tyson said watching Floyd Mayweather was like watching grass grow so that tells you about his perspective, which I think is disrespectful,” he said. “The way Mike fought, he was going to get you or he was going to get got. “I’m not that kind of fighter.”
Or human being.
“I’d love to make $25 million, but I’m not going to throw chairs and stuff like that,” the 29-year-old said after his first fight since September 2012. “I’m not going to give up my integrity for money.”
Tyson and Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter agree that the 29-year-old, who dominated and stopped Chad Dawson before his 14-month layoff, needs to fight someone special.
“Dawson was a very, very good fighter, but Ward needs a star,” said Tyson, who got huge cheers from the crowd when he was introduced.
Goossen acknowledged that Ward needs someone “fresh and dangerous.”
That’s no small problem, though, said Lou DiBella, who promotes Rodriguez.
“At that weight, there’s nobody in the world right now that can fight with Andre Ward,” DiBella said at the post-fight press conference.
Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic and resident of Worcester, Mass., was no less complimentary.
“He does a lot of good things right,” the 28-year-old said after his first defeat and what he vowed was his last fight at 168. “He’s a very smart fighter. His jab is very good.”
And that performance was far from what Ward can do, according to his trainer, Virgil Hunter.
“For him to have rust was inevitable,” Hunter said. “I was very pleased with how he adjusted.”
Tyson tossed out the thought of Ward fighting big-punching light heavyweights like Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev at catchweights.
“They could fight at 170,” he said. “Ward goes up two, they come down five. Why not?”
Ward has long said he’ll retire sooner than people might expect, with his faculties in tact, commented that what’s next is wide open, if it makes business sense.
“I’m at a stage of my career that it’s – whatever,” he said at the post-fight press conference, adding that he’d love to take on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., in a pay-per-view fight.
The father of four who turns 30 in February knows it’s time to stay true to himself as a fighter and a human being, and capitalize as best he can after 20 years of fighting and working.
“I’m working on my exit strategy right now,” Ward said.