HBO rejects Andre Ward vs Dimitri Sartison fight

Scott Heavey

HBO has reportedly told Ward not to bring that weak stuff into their house again, then wagged their finger at his laughable attempt at a lay-up against Sartison. I may be dramatizing this.

Andre Ward and Dimitri Sartison were ready to go for September 28, with Ward defending his super middleweight crown against a former paper titlist and current fringe contender, with contracts ready to be signed. HBO, however, decided to pass on the fight, which means with no outlet, there's no fight.

This is something of a sticky situation for HBO, which has put a lot of stock into Ward (26-0, 14 KO) as a centerpiece of its boxing brand, if not quite the new franchise player after the departure of Floyd Mayweather and the entire Golden Boy stable (including potential future stars in Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, and so on), and the decline of Manny Pacquiao, who remains the top star at HBO for the time being.

And not only has the network backed Ward big-time, but they also employ him as an expert analyst and color commentator on HBO Boxing After Dark. Ward and HBO boss Ken Hershman go way back, so to speak, as it was Hershman who created and pushed the Super Six World Boxing Classic at Showtime, which was the platform Ward used to spring from prospect to bona fide champion and elite pound-for-pound contender.

Ward has been sidelined this year by a shoulder injury, which scrapped a lukewarm fight between he and former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik early in the year, and hasn't fought since decimating Chad Dawson last September in Oakland. There appears to be a legitimate chance that Ward won't fight in 2013, which is really not what he needed as he tries to go from "star" to actual star, which would help him become what HBO wants (or needs) him to be. There are also simply not that many credible foes at 168 for Ward anymore, as he's basically cleaned out the division, and he's indicated no interest in moving up to 175. There are few guys at 160 available to move up, either. It's a bad situation overall, for both Ward and HBO, and they'll need to figure out something soon.

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