When Sergey Kovalev once again displayed his racism and bigotry in a since deleted tweet a few weeks back, there was no uproar (but plenty of apologists), no backlash and no chastising from the sport at large. Kovalev’s history of racist comments towards African-Americans as well as his increasing anger since losing to Andre Ward last fall was a dropped ball in the days that followed, but when Ward skipped out on the scheduled HBO Face Off with Kovalev to promote their rematch, all hell broke loose.
Apparently, Ward skipped out on the traditional meeting with Kellerman because Kovalev did not show for their on air interview on the Canelo/Chavez Jr card. Feeling that he didn’t need to do Kovalev a favor, Ward went back home and left Kovalev at the alter in what was sure to continue to push an already irate Kovalev further into his state of rage. Not more than a few hours it seems was Ward painted to be unprofessional and cowardly by Team Kovalev, and the sport at large followed. This act of defiance and self-interest is nothing new to the two-division champion.
When it comes to Ward, I can very much understand his stance and convictions and I applaud him for sticking to them, but Ward is not as smooth of an operator outside of the ring as he is inside of it and that leaves no surprise as to why he’s a forever marked man by the establishment. He simply pisses too many people off for doing what he wants to do. He’s a fighter who is flaunting his independence he put his career on hold for, and that’s not sitting well with the powers that be.
Ward/Kovalev II is a pay-per-view event that is going to need every ounce of promotion it needs to not end up another rousing failure for HBO and the associated parties. The heavily anticipated first fight did a horrendously low buy rate of 160k that it came as a surprise the rematch would follow the same script. Ward’s high guarantee for both fights mean the bar is set high to make a profit, and he’s done nothing since beating Kovalev a few months ago to build anticipation to the rematch.
From a business side of things, Ward is the asshole here. Kathy Duva made it evident that she wasn’t happy working with Ward the first time around, HBO has pretty much hated working with Ward since they originally signed him after the Super Six tournament and Kovalev is the house fighter of the network. It’s a one-sided promotion if he let it be, but Ward is content playing to the beat of his own drum and they are not liking it one bit.
To be fair, if Kovalev indeed no-showed the scheduled interview first, then why should Ward cater to him the next day? This is the same guy who posted the racist propaganda a few weeks ago and whose associated team made no reach to account for, so why pander to them? If Ward wasn’t contractually obligated to rematch Kovalev, chances are he would have left him and Main Events in the dust stewing in their own anger, and that’s almost exactly what he did with a series of nonsensical retirement talk at the beginning of the year.
Of course, that’s not the way this is going to play out. With a month to go and barely a mention of the fight, the anti-Ward rhetoric will be in full swing again and once the pay-per-view fails, we’ll know whose fault it is when it does. Should Ward win, it won’t be enough to erase the fact that he’s now twice beaten one of HBO’s white stallions and will even further cement him as the enemy of the state.
The problem is that guys like Ward, the anti-establishment guys who keep winning and thumbing the eye of everyone who tries to put them down, just keep getting bigger and bigger, and that means that Ward will continue his inadvertent run as boxing’s bad guy.