Andre Ward, Boxing and Social Media. The ability to reach out and touch someone!
In recent weeks former unified super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward has been in an ongoing conflict on social media for comments he’s made on various topics with several large scale YouTubers.
Many would say that Ward’s popularity was bolstered by his social media presence, even when his career had seemingly stagnated. In December of 2011, Andre Ward was at the pinnacle of his career. He had just won the Super Six and was staking his claim as one of the best boxers on the planet.
However, unbeknownst to outsiders, Ward was having an internal conflict with his promoter Dan Goossen. This would cause him to have a nine month layoff. During his layoff, he filed a lawsuit against Goossen.
Ward would briefly get a reprieve with a spectacular win over fellow pound-for-pound star Chad Dawson. Afterwards, the situation would take a turn for the worse.
Ward would lose in court twice to Dan Goossen, and only fight twice in three years. In the meantime, it would be his social media footprint that would keep him relevant and ultimately sustain his career.
Enter, Gennady Golovkin
During Ward’s extended absence, another fighter would start to make waves; Gennady Golovkin. When Golovkin and his team claimed they could beat anyone from 154lbs to 175lbs, let’s just say Ward was willing to be his huckleberry.
Even though Ward wasn’t fighting, this fight was only second to Mayweather vs Pacquiao in internet mentions. Even a quick internet search about Ward vs Golovkin will produce endless links and videos.
The divide between Ward and Golovkin would literally reach its zenith when the YouTube boxing community would actually divide into two factions.
Ward and Golovkin actually birthed another matchup. Many on social media complained that Ward was a bully for trying to fight GGG. Consequently, calls from social media groups arose him to fight unified light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
Things took a turn for the worse when the rival fan bases took a racial divide.
The Kovalev and Wilder Controversies
Ward would defeat Kovalev in a razor close fight, where he’d have to pick himself up off the canvas. This prompted one of the largest YouTube boxing channels to scream “F**k America!” in response to Ward’s victory.
He would immediately rematch Kovalev and defeat him by knockout in eight rounds. He would retire following this fight, but would still be one of the most polarizing figures in boxing.
The former champion would remain close to the sport as a commentator and, with his sharp boxing mind and fastidious choice of words, would become one of the best ringside analysts in the sport.
Ward still remained in the center of controversy (unintentionally) when he tweeted about Deontay Wilder following his draw with Tyson Fury.
He indicated that he didn’t believe Wilder would want to fight Fury immediately in a rematch due to Fury’s style. Many fans and boxing YouTubers took offense to this. It actually went viral and when Wilder was asked about it in an interview, he issued a challenge to Ward.
The incident would finally come to a head when Ward would actually grant an interview on YouTube stating his position. While it would clear the air, it also demonstrated a major shift in the boxing landscape.
Fighters and promoters now have to be very aware of social media. Ward is also a great example of how social media can drive your popularity even when mainstream media doesn’t give you a lot of coverage.
Now if the social media controversy wasn’t enough, reports have surfaced that have killed any chance of seeing him in the ring again. Apparently, he has filed a lawsuit with his insurance regarding a reluctance to pay him for a career-ending knee injury!
In conclusion, I’d say that both people in the sport and people on social media need to realize there’s a level of respect and responsibility to their interactions.
There’ll be more growing pains as we move forward, but all parties must maintain some level of integrity for these relationships to remain beneficial.
By: Corey Cunningham