Andre Vs. Andre: The Possibility of Ward Vs. Dirrell, and Why We Boxing Fans Can't Have It Both Ways

Since it's a fight I'd like to see and a rivalry that seems natural for several reasons, I'm surprised that it slipped by me. But according to BoxingScene.com managing editor Jake Donovan (who in turn got the word from Gary Shaw), the WBC has declared that Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell should face off to determine the number one contender for Carl Froch's super middleweight belt.

On the surface, this seems like a fantastic pairing. Dirrell and Ward were Olympic teammates in 2004, with the former winning bronze and the latter capturing gold - the last American to do so.

Both fighters have taken cautious steps up the ladder of competition as professionals, and they have emerged undefeated thus far with nearly identical numbers of wins and KOs. General consensus seems to be that each man has had only one true test so far: Ward just last month against Edison Miranda, and Dirrell last November against Victor Oganov.

A breakdown of a potential fight between the two is probably worthy of its own post. My initial impression is that they are fairly evenly matched, with Dirrell owning a greater amount of natural athleticism and explosiveness and Ward possessing a more complete all-around game.

Two Americans in the same weight class, both talented, both undefeated, and former teammates to boot. Sounds great, right?

Yet the initial reactions among boxing fans on the internet have ranged from cynical to downright negative, and I think the reasons why say a lot about the current mindset of the sport and its followers.

One complaint is that it's too early for this fight to occur, that it should be saved for some murky future date after both boxers have more time to be built up. It's easy to understand that point of view since in today's boxing climate, a single loss can seem catastrophic - even though the most popular pick as the world's current top pound-for-pound fighter, Manny Pacquiao, has three of them.

Match the two Andre's against each other right now and one of them could potentially be "ruined" going forward. Though we complain constantly about prospects taking too long to face real competition, we seem to be hesitant about them facing each other when there's a sense that the stakes are too high.

On top of that, there's no guarantee that a potential Ward-Dirrell superfight would ever materialize down the road. The path to superstardom is a slippery one, and Alfredo Angulo can testify that even when it's plotted carefully, it doesn't always turn out as planned.

The second category of gripes suggests that Ward and Dirrell haven't done enough to be considered as mandatory challengers for Froch, that the whole idea is somewhat ludicrous. This is despite the fact that the Cobra himself hadn't done too much to earn his gold, which was vacant before his late-fight heroics against Jermain Taylor.

And isn't this one of the same "alphabet belts" hardcore fans frequently dismiss as meaningless? If the title is irrelevant, why should fans care who wears it or who is next in line to fight for it? The match-up itself is most important, everything else is secondary.

As boxing fans, we either want to see the most compelling fights possible, or we accept the current system of protecting young talent. We either ignore the sanctioning bodies' titles or we care that the most deserving people are getting the title shots.

Those questions have room for argument, but as the possible Ward-Dirrell bout makes clear, they can't be answered both ways.

Posted by The Franchise

1 comment:

The Dude said...

franchise speaks the truth! even though i thought for a second andre ware and andre dawson were going to square off.