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Undefeated Andre Ward’s boxing legacy is full of what ifs, could & should ofs

By Zach Arnold | September 21, 2017

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Andre Ward was one of the greatest pound-for-pound American boxers of all time who managed to waste years of his athletic prime.

Ward’s retirement announcement Thursday is surprising but not shocking. His HBO contract reportedly ended. After two wins against Sergey Kovalev, Ward called it quits.

Andre Ward’s career was defined as much outside the ring as it was inside the ring. Inside the ring, he was flawless. Outside the ring, a different story. Andre Ward and his business manager, James Prince, engaged in a disastrous multi-state legal battle with promoter Dan Goossen that shaved years off of Ward’s career due to inactivity.

Andre Ward and his camp embraced futility by going to war with his promoter Dan Goossen of Goossen-Tutor. The late Goossen went all-in on Ward as his top fighter, promoting him aggressively in Oakland and Ontario (California). Ward’s appeal proved to be regional. Even with that marketing handicap, Ward was blessed to be in a major media market — Silicon Valley. Ward and his team should have been able to parlay major tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google into promoting his brand like many of his Golden State Warrior friends have done. It never happened.

Instead, Andre Ward and James Prince went to war with Dan Goossen. They thought the grass would be greener with Roc Nation.

One of James Prince’s associates, a man named Antonio Leonard, tried to sue Goossen in Texas claiming that he was unofficially a co-promoter of Ward but was “iced out.” Both Ward and Goossen were based in California and entered into valid California contracts approved by the California State Athletic Commission. Leonard was never legally approved as a co-promoter nor was he allegedly licensed in California at the time of the deal.

This was the first of many legal battles to pry Ward away from Goossen. Goossen’s legal team quickly fought back and repeatedly beat Ward & Prince in court. Andre Ward tried to get out of his Dan Goossen contract via arbitration with the California State Athletic Commission and failed. Ward then turned around and sued Goossen in Los Angeles Superior Court under a theory of violating California labor law. This lawsuit was filed while the Antonio Leonard lawsuit was filed in Houston under a theory of Texas law applying. Ward had his case tossed out in Los Angeles. A second arbitration hearing with the California State Athletic Commission ruled that Ward was under contract with Goossen until November of 2016. Ward then filed an Ali Act lawsuit against Goossen in Federal court. Goossen would die from liver cancer in October of 2014.

All of this legal fighting potentially cost Andre Ward fights worth millions of dollars. It shaved years off of his in-ring career. It damaged his ability to become a powerhouse box office draw. His two fights against Sergey Kovalev drew underwhelming PPV numbers. 165,000 PPV buys for the first fight and 130,000 PPV buys for the re-match.

Andre Ward’s in-ring perfection was overshadowed by legal and business decisions I would classify as horrific. One of the all time great “what if” careers has come to an end. It should have never been like this. He blew it.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Undefeated Andre Ward’s boxing legacy is full of what ifs, could & should ofs”

  1. Chris says:

    Agreed. Ward was not the first fighter to be unhappy with his promoter. It always baffled me as to why he just didn’t fight out his contract, then sign with a new promoter. Instead of wasting away his prime years in ridiculous court battles.

    With that being said. I would much rather see a fighter retire early instead of too late. Ward’s style was not for everybody but I always enjoyed watching him fight. I would also like to give props to Tim Bradley and Wladimir Klitschko for also knowing when it was time to wrap it up.

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