Andre Ward is one of the very best fighters in the world - even if he seldom fights in recent years. For a long while Ward was in a promotional dispute with the late Dan Goossen which kept him terribly inactive for a number of years. But now that that situation is over with and he's signed with Roc Nation Sports, he's looking to get right back to the status he was at when he ran through the Super Six tournament several years ago. That tournament defined Ward as a genuine top pound-for-pound fight, but there has to be some balance between what you've done and what you've done lately.
Since signing his deal with Roc Nation, Ward signed a fight with Paul Smith, someone who really didn't have a snowball's chance in hell at winning. That fight was criticized some, but others gave him a pass as it was considered a "shake the rust off"-type affair.
Now, with Ward recently signing a three fight deal with HBO, he'll be kicking off the contract by fighting Alexander Brand (24-1, 19 KOs) on the Cotto-Canelo undercard. Despite his record, Brand has faced really soft competition and is another virtual no-hoper. And once again Ward is hearing the harsh criticism.
"No disrespect, but I don't make decisions based on opinions. Doesn't factor in at all," Ward told The Times on Saturday in his first interview following the fight announcement.
"I don't owe any explanations for anybody I'm fighting. I do feel at times like I'm always proving myself. But I also feel that I'm proven. I've proven I can get to the mountaintop. ... People are entitled to their opinion, I respect them, but it doesn't mean they're right."
But are they right? Ward certainly has proven himself, beating the likes of Edison Miranda, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, among others -- but his last recognizable challenge was three full years ago against a man who wasn't at his optimal weight.
Now that's not to say Ward wouldn't have thrashed Dawson anyway, but there's only so long you can live off your past accomplishments as an active professional before the criticism of your match making becomes justified. Nobody wants to see Ward fight Brand, in fact, most people would rather fast-forward a full year to see him take on Sergey Kovalev, but Ward is intent to just ignore the critics and make his own decisions.
"I'm on a mission to be one of the greatest fighters who ever laced up a pair of gloves, a guy who they say fought the best and beat the best," Ward said. "And when it's over, all the debaters, they can debate. I know what I dedicate to the sport and what kind of fighter I am -- with or without the support of some of the boxing media. What I'm telling you is, don't believe how the critics are trying to leave me perceived. It's not accurate."
"Once Kovalev is over, then guess what? It'll be someone else. I understand the game, I've studied the game. There are biases and double standards in the sport of boxing."
Biases and double standards, you say?! Well, this is the sport of boxing after all...