Saturday, November 16, 2013

Andre Ward VS Edwin Rodriguez: The Real Champion Is Still The Real Champion

On HBO tonight, Andre Ward rightfully defended the only title that matters at super middleweight- Ward's weight- the weight class he owns. That's THE title which he defended. Not A title, but THE title. Jose Sulaiman has no say in this matter. Gilberto Mendoza has no say in this matter. While Carl Froch, Robert Stieglitz, Sakio Bika, are all three very good fighters, they are all current contenders. No rational fan dare calls them or anyone not named Andre Ward "the super middleweight champion of the world" with a straight face. They know better. We all know better. Well, save the casual know-nothings who simply don't care, and the media who care even less by way of mere mention of these other title holders as the world champion. Ward's performance tonight is an example of the absurdity that boxing operates under, where the definitive champion just isn't definitive enough to avoid "dispute".

This is why the concept of an "undisputed champion" in boxing has gone from a slight problem to a Steve-Martin-Level absurdist's wet dream. Since boxing isn't supposed to be a comedy, this would be a bad thing. To be clear, if we wanted boxing to be hilarious, and to mock what men like Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov have recently done for it, then this would be great. Sakio Bika loses to Andre Ward, now he's slated to defend Ward's earned title as his own. Carl Froch gets completely dominated by Ward, and he is now scheduled to defend "a version of" Ward's title as his own. Robert Stieglitz has his title after beating Arthur Abraham, who was decisively beaten by...? Ward, of course. It's Ward's division. He owns it. He dominates it. Every fighter in it must be connected to Ward because he is where they're supposed to want to be and every title must be taken as a joke unless it's Ward's title.

Can you picture the following discussion taking place amongst NBA basketball fans?

Fan 1: The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are both the defending NBA champions this year.

Fan 2: I don't understand. How did that happen? I thought Miami beat San Antonio. 

Fan 1: They sure did, but then San Antonio went and played Dallas and won a version of the title, so now they're both claiming to be 2013 NBA champions. So, they're both defending the title this year. Oh, and Chicago, they're also claiming to be champions and all the announcers announce them as 2013 champions. 

Fan 2: Chicago? How did they get a claim to be champion? 

Fan 1: They played for a vacant title against Boston, because an organisation said they were the top two teams in their own organisation's estimation, whereas San Antonio played for a version of Miami's title. You see, Miami is a super champion, having won the year before and San Antonio are regular champions. So, yes, all three are considered champions and we're going to call all of their games "title matches" and boy will they be big events. 

This utter nonsense is what it amounts to in boxing and everyone with a motivation to do so (most of the media) acquiesce to these concepts whenever it's comfy. Andre Ward is the Miami Heat of 168-pound fighters and this is what is happening to what he earned. He is not alone but he might have the single worst example of how dysfunctional the sport of boxing can be for even its best and most accomplished fighters. Ward's performance tonight brings home yet another bout of nausea for me, having to think that this crooked, absurd system is one where the contenders, very good fighters though they may be, can basically have their own nights to play pretend champion, and media and fans will follow suit, like children playing cops and robbers. It's all make believe- pretend titles, pretend champions, pretend defences, pretend title challenges. No one can get hurt if you're a citizen in an imagination. Except, boxing does get hurt because of this.

Unfortunately, these fake title fights are real fights with real risks. It's sad that the fights themselves and the fighters are stained by this dirty marketing ploy that shouldn't be allowed. This pretend title circus leaves a bit of permanent slime on every incredible night that happens. Kessler VS Froch I & II? What fights! What fighters! But because they were also billed world title fights, for a title that wasn't anyone's but Ward's to contest, all was tainted. It confuses fans, makes marketing the actual champion as the champion more difficult and therefore makes merit the least invested in and least understood treasure in the sport. It devalues something that has a rightful owner. That is ethically wrong and Ward is being cheated because of it. Make no mistake, in that there is a difference between the mess of having the best unable to find a political avenue to fighting each other and picking up reasonable enough (for this day and age) claims to be called a champion and the super middleweight picture, where the best did face each other and we sorted out the rightful champion.

Do not forget. Do not pretend. Andre Ward is the reigning super middleweight champion of the world. The real champion is still the real champion. Nothing has changed. No one has shown the ability to take that away from Andre Ward. He has not lost his title. He has not lost THE title. Froch has not won THE title. Stieglitz has not won THE title. Bika has not won THE title. Andre Ward is THE champion. Accept it or try to take it from him in the ring. Everything else is just make believe stuff. Congratulations, Mr. Ward. You are still the champion.

Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing   

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