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10 Point must System by Devon Currer

Jesus Gonzalez is not a household name. He is a Mexican- American south paw who ply’s his trade in the super middle weight division. His record stands at an exemplary 27 wins against just 2 defeats. The last time he was inside a boxing ring he squared off against the much vaunted puncher Adonis Stevenson for the vacant IBF Intercontinental strap. Unfortunately for him, that bout ended the way most Stevenson fights tend to end – a first round knockout loss at the Bell Centre in Montreal. His most memorable fight is definitely worth trawling the internet in search of – a slugfest against Fransisco Sierra back in 2011. He won the vacant NABF super middle weight title that night in a bloody battle over 12 rounds where both he and Sierra traded knockdowns in all out bell-to-bell war.

As an amateur he was a standout and seen as a medal hopeful in the USA Olympic boxing team in 2004. His amateur record holds wins over some names that we talk about in professional boxing today - Alfredo Angulo, Sechew Powell and Andre Berto. All of these names pale in comparison to the name which he will likely hold in the highest regard for the rest of his life. This was the last guy that managed to beat Andre Ward, when they were both 12 years old.

Fast forward 17 years and we find ourselves in a peculiar situation. Two careers have taken different paths with the outcome being that the household name is the guy who lost all those years ago. Andre Ward is regarded by every boxing scribe as the universal number one super middle weight still breathing air today. His stacked trophy cabinet littered with medals includes a Gold earned at the 2004 Olympic Games. There is a man-sized Super Six Boxing Classic trophy which marked his coming out party as a professional. There are versions of the WBO belt on the bottom shelves. Lying somewhere on the middle shelves are the WBA and WBC world championship belts. The cherry on the top shelf is the Ring Magazine linear world title. With a perfect record that reads 26 wins, one would think that at the age of 29 he would be making regular appearances in the ring with bumper paydays around every corner. The perfect world scenario that was supposed to be playing out has hit a glitch in the projector room.

Andre Ward was named in the starting line up in the Showtime TV network Super Six World Boxing Classic back in 2009. The list of names read Ward, the German puncher Arthur Abraham, Danish super star Mikkel Kessler, former world champion Jermain Taylor, the unknown quantity in Andre Dirrell and the then undefeated British danger man Carl Froch. This tournament was a first in world boxing and was not without its pitfalls. Both Taylor and Kessler were forced to withdraw from the tournament due to medical reasons with Glen Johnson and Allen Green replacing them. The tournament that spanned a marathon like 2 years and 2 months ended on the 17th December 2011. The glittering final bout was contested at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City between Ward and the dark horse of the competition, Carl Froch. Ward poured on the pedigree that night where he trounced the Englishman over 12 lopsided rounds. Over the course of the tournament he not only remained undefeated but unified the WBA and WBC world titles. He also annexed the Ring magazine belt and the trophy forever proclaiming him as the winner of the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic.

His overall victory at the Super Six meant that he had just about cleaned out the division at the tender age of 27. The biggest challenge of his career would now begin in the form of finding him at HBO Sports but also provide him the pay that the super star so rightfully deserved. The turnstile of names spun around for months with the eventual name of WBC light heavy weight world champion “Bad” Chad Dawson. Dawson at the time was much vaunted with a record reading 28-1 and seen as a guy who would really test Ward to his limits. The only appendage to the contract was that the weight limit would require Dawson to work a little harder in the gym to boil down to the super middle weight limit of 168 pounds. Dawson had no problem making the weight with the added incentive that this would end up being a fight for all of Wards marbles and none of Dawsons’.

As a spectacle it was all there. The ring announcer for the fight was Hollywood comedian Nick Cannon who botched his way through the announcement of the main even in such a manner that he probably will never be seen in a boxing ring again. Ward dominated and overpowered Dawson and punctuated his performance with a 10th round TKO. Dawson just never really seemed in the fight with fingers pointed to the added weight loss to be the main factor conspiring in an undercooked performance.

It was in this fight where Ward did damage to an old shoulder injury. His next proposed fight was due to be against troubled American middle weight K elly Pavlik. This fight did not end up materialising with Ward pulling out and electing to have shoulder surgery with a full house of rehabilitation performed. This drove Pavlik around the bend into premature retirement. It also drove Ward and promoter Dan Goosen into the court room where a battle was initiated by Ward to nullify his contract with Goosen Tutor Promotions. Ward claimed that while he had been sidelined, Goosen was not in talks with HBO or any other promotional outfit in an effort to bring an opponent to the ring upon his recovery. The case was heard by and arbitrator for sport in California whereby the ruling was in favour of Goosen and that the contract enjoyed by both parties was still in play and valid. Since then both Ward and Goosen have both made peace with each other. Ward has recovered from successful shoulder surgery and is now ready to get back into the ring. It was also during this time that the WBC decided to force the issue for their lack of sanctioning fees on the horizon and enquired as to whether Ward would be fighting anytime soon. A classless move on the organisations part ended in Ward posting the WBC belt back to Mexico City with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ note attached to it.

HBO are in a drive to recover after the lost name of Floyd Mayweather who marched over to rival Showtime earlier this year. HBO are very specific in their need for a box-office pay-per-view hit. The fact that Ward cleaned out the division so early in his career has seemingly become a curse. The year out of a career at an age where most are ramping up efforts to become that super star of PPV has been spent as a commentator for HBO. Names that have been bandied about are South African and IBO super middle weight world champion Thomas Oosthuizen and former 2 division and light heavy weight world champion Zsolt Erdei. Wards promoter Dan Goosen has been locked in battle with HBO over a deal that he claimed to have been in place to fight Dimitri Sartison – a fighter with zero name recognition in the States. The idea has since been kicked into touch by HBO with their preference being for Ward to face Monaco Million Dollar Super 4 winner Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez. Rodriguez handlers have other ideas on where he will be headed next. Since Edwin recently penned a deal with super star manager Al Haymon, expect him to be angling for WBC title shot against Sakio Bika in the near future.

These are uncertain times for the best fighter in a very buoyant super middle weight division. The fact that he has achieved so much at a relatively young age without taking any punishment along the way is one fascinating feat. For now we live in hope that the business side of the sweet science is handled swiftly with a credible opponent being unveiled for Andre Ward by the time you have read this article. All we have to look forward to is hearing the voice of the best super middle weight in the world on HBO – a strange statement to make about a champion fighter in his prime and who was last beaten when he was just 12 years old.

Sakio Bika

Edwin Rodriguez and Denis Grachev