Where Art Thou?

Andre Ward

The remainder of the 2014 boxing schedule is coming together. Both HBO and Showtime have formulated their plans for the late fall and early winter but as you peruse the upcoming itinerary, there are four notable names you don’t see: Andre Ward, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Mikey Garcia and James Kirkland.

 

That said, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise because the fact is, you didn’t see this quartet for much of this year. In fact, this phantom foursome had all of two appearances combined. Back in January, Garcia defeated Juan Carlos Burgos and in March, Chavez Jr. defeated Bryan Vera in more decisive fashion than he did last September.

 

Since then, these guys have been as seen as often as Emily Dickinson, Syd Barrett, Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger.

 

Ward and Kirkland will not perform at all in 2014. Both boxed late in 2013 and since then, have been in Bolivian.

 

It’s an interesting phenomenon that has gripped the sport – marquee boxers who, for whatever reason, simply don’t want to do their jobs. Boxing, for as much as it is a sport, is also business and entertainment and all three of those elements are intertwined. The game relies on its best and biggest names to perform on a consistent basis to cultivate fan interest. In essence, these four have gone on strike for whatever reasons.

 

Ward is considered one of the best all-around practitioners in the world but has been embroiled in constant legal battles with his promoter, the recently deceased Dan Goossen. Every boxer certainly has the right to earn the most amount of money possible and maximize his earning potential but more than that, be treated in an equitable fashion. But the question has to asked: After numerous attempts to free himself from Goossen Promotions (whom the industry believes has done an admirable job in developing Ward since signing him after the 2004 Olympics) and failing, perhaps Ward should actually just honor the promotional pact he willingly signed.

 

Since winning Showtime’s “Super Six” in late December 2011, Ward has boxed all of two fights. Once in 2012 versus a weight drained Chad Dawson and last November in front of a sparse crowd in Ontario, California against Edwin Rodriguez. Groomed by HBO to be one of the pillars of its boxing franchise, he’s instead been a non-factor inside the ring. The worst part is hardly anybody seems to care about his hiatus from the ring. He isn’t exactly the most fan-friendly fighter and his petulant personality has turned off a large portion of the masses.

 

But hey, Ward’s still on those pound-for-pound lists, right? (And those are incredibly important in the grand scheme of things.)

 

In many ways, Chavez Jr. is the dichotomy of Ward – who is all about ability – while the son of the legendary “Lion of Culiacan” is mostly built around marketability. Let’s be honest about it; Junior has some attributes (such as his chin) but is very limited in actual talent. He’s got his father’s chin and name and with adroit matchmaking by Top Rank Promotions, was able to parlay that into stardom.

 

But the very enabling and excuse-making fostered by Top Rank throughout the years is now coming back to haunt them. They created this monster and now they have to deal with it. Chavez Jr. has spent much of this year not being able to come to terms with Bob Arum on various bouts, most notably a two-fight deal that would have paid him a minimum of $12 million to face Gennady Golovkin in the summer. Hearing Chavez complain about his treatment is akin to that disgruntled teenager grouse that his parents got him a Lexus for his 18th birthday when he wanted a Porsche. Sometimes, you reap what you sow.

 

Now Chavez’s boxing career consists of various Instagram posts of him shadowboxing in his makeshift ring in his backyard with his girlfriend. He’s training for everything but a real fight. Even the Mexicans are now turning on him. Recently his Instagram page was bombarded by a slew of “GGG” comments.

 

Now, the focus is on making a Carl Froch fight (again). But Top Rank is now in litigation with him over the terms of his contract and you get the sense it will be an uphill climb to get this – or any other – fight done.

 

Garcia started off the year with the grandiose plans of facing Manny Pacquiao. 2014 was supposed to be a year in which the reigning WBO 130-pound titlist would fight up to four times (after three outings in 2013) and be fast-tracked up in weight. By 2015, he would be in position to face the “Pac-Man” at junior welterweight. Well, after his lone appearance, he sued Top Rank (a common theme nowadays) and has been sidelined since. It can easily be argued that Garcia’s greatest contribution to the sport has been to open the door for one Terence Crawford. Garcia was originally slated to face Yuriorkis Gamboa and as Garcia passed, it was Crawford who put on a star-making effort versus the undefeated Cuban in front of his hometown of Omaha.

 

This is a guy who got into the family business not because of any particular love for the sport but more out of convenience or obligation. He just happened to be good enough to make a pretty lucrative living at it. But while he’s good at this, Garcia has no particular passion for the “Sweet Science.” Garcia is boxing’s most honest mercenary. He’s admitted as much and the word is you won’t be seeing him inside the squared circle till his bank account gets below the Mendoza Line. There is the belief that both Chavez and Garcia have been whispered to by certain entities (you’re free to make your own guesses as to whom).

 

Then there’s the case of James Kirkland, who is good for two things: making memorable fights and then making maddening decisions that keep him out of the ring for long stretches. Last seen, “Mandingo Warrior” was bludgeoning the previously undefeated Glen Tapia in December. Since then, he has turned down various fights that would’ve brought him six-figure paydays.

 

Nobody seems to ever know what’s going on with him or whom he’s listening to at the moment.

 

This group’s inactivity of 2014 is just really part of a longer trend. While Garcia fought thrice the year before, Ward, Chavez Jr. and Kirkland fought a total of three times in 2013. What’s more alarming is that the average age of this group is 28.5 years, theoretically their physical primes.

 

Instead they just sit. Meanwhile the likes of Gennady Golovkin and Crawford – who will each have fought three times this calendar year – are more than willing to ply their trades and build their careers.

 

It’s hard to go anywhere just sitting.

 

 

MONTE CARLO

 

A press release was put forth in the immediate aftermath of Martin Murray’s seventh-round technical decision over the difficult Domenico Spada this past Saturday in Monte Carlo, announcing that Murray would be Gennady Golovkin’s next foe on February 21 at the very same venue. Golovkin still plans on fighting up to four times in 2015.

 

Murray isn’t an elite fighter by any stretch but by today’s standards, he is a solid middleweight contender More importantly, he’s willing to face the fabled GGG. If Murray is just one of four opponents Golovkin will face, with each successive fight being of higher caliber, there shouldn’t be much complaint.

 

Looking at the landscape, if Golovkin gets past Murray, then perhaps he faces the winner of Andy Lee-Matt Korobov (who fight for the vacant WBO title on December 13 in Las Vegas) in May. The question then becomes: Does Golovkin get that marquee fight in the second half of the upcoming year?

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

I thought Randy Caballero did enough to take the IBF bantamweight title from the pesky Stuart Hall but the scores didn’t reflect the closeness of this bout (118-110 and two scores of 116-111)…Michael Katsidis and David Rodela should both call it a day…If Andy Ruiz ever makes the commitment to lose 25 pounds he can be a threat at heavyweight. Problem is, that might not be the case…In my opinion, TCU is the best one-loss team in college football…Dak Prescott is still my Heisman Trophy frontrunner but Josh Robinson is every bit as important to that Mississippi State offense…Was it really a big secret that many players don’t want to play alongside Kobe Bryant?…So “Boardwalk Empire” has come to an end; it was a solid program for HBO…Loved “A Football Life” on Terrell Davis. Looking at his numbers, “Mr. Mile High Salute” makes a strong argument for Canton…I can be reached at steve.kim@ucnlive.com and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.

 

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