The Marquis of Queensbury Rules for boxing were written long before Andre Ward’s parents were born. The World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association were formed long before Andre Ward was born. The ideals of “clean punching”, “effective aggression”, “ring generalship”, and “defense” were placed into the verbiage of scoring a professional boxing match long before Andre Ward laced up his first glove. Therefore the “blame” for his ability to win within the rules of the sport by which he has made his living cannot be placed on his shoulders.
Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KO’s) is a polarizing figure. Mention of his name usually sets off one of two responses; one of the best fighters pound-for-pound on the planet, or one of the least-watchable grapplers in boxing. No matter which side of the fence one falls, the truth is that he is one of the most successful pugilists in the game. He sports an undefeated record, he has earned millions in his career, (including $5 million in his last bout with Sergey Kovalev), and he has taken what appears to be very little punishment to accomplish this.
As for what happens once the bell sounds, Ward’s style has been called “negating”, “spoiling”, and “unwatchable”. He has been called a great wrestler who holds and hits and uses his head. However, the goal at the beginning of every bout is the same, to leave with a victory. He has done this every time he has entered the ring at the paid ranks. The fact that he wins this way is that the rules, which he did not author, allow for his tactics. The referee, who he did not provide the license to, neither did he train nor pay, allows for him to use his “guile” on the inside. Critics of Ward say that he should be penalized for his excessive holding, initiating clinches, and holding and hitting. It would make the bout more viewer-friendly, and provide Ward the impetus to show more “fighting skills” instead of the “spoiling skills” he most often displays. That certainly is within the jurisdiction of the referee, but until the sanctioning organizations or the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) make this a “point of emphasis”, Ward will continue to use these bending of the rules to accomplish his task. His objective is to employ what methods he must to win the bout. The onus is not on him to change the rules, it is on the commissions to either change them or their enforcement of them.
From the ring apron, it has been said that Ward has been given the benefit of the doubt too often in close rounds. However, he is not responsible for the scorecards that are turned in by the judges. He doesn’t appoint, train, or pay them. He has merely found the right methods to employ to gain their favor. There is only one clear way to win a bout, and that is with a knockout. When that concrete result transforms into the nebulous game of “winning rounds”, he has used the experience of his years to do what he feels the judges want to see. This is not what the fans want to see, but that is not his goal entering the ring. The blame cannot be put on Ward for playing to their favors. If he performs the same way bout-after-bout, and has yet to lose, there is no reason for him to do anything different than he has done in the past. Until the organizations identify what one thing is truly important in a round, rather than spread it over four different criteria (giving judges an easier excuse under the heading of “subjective”), Ward will continue to play to what has been most successful with the judges in his prior bouts.
Andre Ward has done what has been asked of him in his career. He has taken on very good fighters (Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Sergey Kovalev) and been rewarded with a ‘W’ each time. Maybe he has not distanced himself from these fighters in terms of ability, but he has not been bested by them, at least in the eyes of the judges. For him, in his profession, that is the perfection that he has sought, and to date, maintained. He has stepped into the ring, not been knocked out, and awarded the decision. Any blame for the results of his bouts, or the “watchability” need to be placed on those truly responsible, whether it be the lesser talents he has faced, the referee, the judges, or even the sanctioning organizations. He will take on Kovalev again on June 17th, 2017. Ward will once again do what he has done in his career–take on stiff competition, and fight in the same manner he found that judges seem to favor. He is a dog who has yet had no reason to change to a new trick. When the time comes that he must, that is when fans will see a different Ward.