It was frustratingly reminiscent of election season.
Within minutes of Carl Froch’s beatdown of good friend and ex-conqueror Mikkel Kessler, the producers at HBO correctly saw fit to include Andre Ward in the post-fight fracas.
After all, Ward is the rightful top man at 168 pounds and—17 months ago in Atlantic City—he became just the second to defeat the frisky Brit in a decade-plus pro career. So getting the pair within shouting range of one another in the aftermath of a cracking good fight before 19,000 zealots in London’s O2 Arena was, in TV terms, a no-brainer.
But rather than verbal fireworks between the one-time rivals, the to and fro between them was far heavier on subtle spin than steamy substance.
Play-by-play man Jim Lampley lobbed non-combative softballs at Ward about Froch.
Froch spoke a lot, but said little, in a brief ringside chat with Max Kellerman.
And upon swinging back to Lampley and Ward, the show’s final stages faded to black—sans fireworks.
Left unsaid amid the innocuous blather was exactly what everyone wanted to hear.
What will it take to get Ward and Froch together in a super middleweight rematch?
Based on the conclusions culled from Saturday’s posturing, the main issues are location, location and location.
Though Ward was a one-sided—and many contend, dullish—winner in the initial go-round with Froch back in 2011, the events of the past few months months have conspired to make a return date the best matchup available in a weight class the two have since seized by the throat.
Froch returned within five months of the Ward loss with a TKO of unbeaten Lucian Bute and whipped an overmatched Yusaf Mack in three rounds before downing Kessler on Saturday. Ward, meanwhile, used a belt-seeking Chad Dawson for a virtuoso encore in his first post-Froch fight nine months later, sapping the 175-pound kingpin’s spirit on the way to a 10th-round TKO in California.
He’s been on the shelf since that night with a shoulder injury, lending to the perception that Froch has significantly closed the gap. So much so, in fact, that Team Froch boldly claims Ward needs to take to the road to truly legitimize his street cred.
He’s bad, they concede, but he ain’t worldwide.
“I always said I’d like to fight Andre Ward again. It’s a fight out there that I know I can win,” Froch said to HBO’s Kellerman. “If I do get him in England, I will beat him. Let’s do it here. Let’s get it right.”
Ward, for his sake, didn’t veto the idea…but he didn’t exactly leap at it either.
“At this stage of my career, I’m open to any fight that makes sense,” he said to HBO’s Lampley. “I don’t know if that’s in the U.S. or the U.K. (Froch’s people) need to show me how bad he wants it here. They need to show me why it makes sense for me to come here.”
For his own sake, it’s an option he ought to take very, very seriously.
Though he’s got an Olympic pedigree and a spotless record, Ward barely registers beyond a blip with casual boxing fans, as evidenced by pedestrian domestic interest in the first Froch fight (6,000 tickets) and the subsequent Dawson fight (8,500 tickets)—both of which were on premium cable.
By contrast, Froch—in spite of losing 24 of 36 rounds on the three Ward scorecards—is a proven top-shelf attraction in his native land and warranted enough stateside interest from HBO to send crews across an ocean to get a seat at his hometown circus.
Lampley claimed the din created by the London mass was more penetrating than a Sergio Martinez-inspired Argentine gathering more than twice its size a month ago. And in a debate between factions struggling to hear themselves talk, that volume—and the cash it stands to generate in Europe—should register with everyone.
That money will still be there for the red-hot Froch if he decides on a trilogy with Kessler, as he mentioned was possible Saturday night; or if he agrees with Bernard Hopkins' fight-week assertion that the old Philadelphian should get next on the UK dance card.
Either way, the first refusal lies with Ward. And given the anonymity elsewhere in the 168-pound rankings, it seems clear that his only other option is silence.
If he wants to add “fan favorite” to the “world champion” tag he already possesses, it’s time he listened up.