November 21st, 2016. ‘Sport and politics shouldn’t mix’ is the old saying and this writer will be adhering to that principle, choosing not to ponder socio-political matters in the arena of boxing journalism any time soon. In this second decade of the twenty-first century there are so many virtual avenues in virtual worlds people can stroll down to engage in political or philosophical dialogue.
Sports journalism, now more than ever, can be a sanctuary for those of us who have become wearisome of the poppycock that stains the front pages of our newspapers and gleams out at us from our TV and computer screens. But alas, following the light heavyweight title clash between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, I find myself forced to dip my toes into the pond of political analogy.
I will though, only to draw out a relatively simple similarity, but one I nevertheless feel obligated to share.
Firstly, regardless of where your beliefs lie on the political spectrum, long before the actual Presidential election took place, most of both his proponents and opponents would have agreed that Donald Trump getting voted in as leader of the most powerful country in the world was an unlikely outcome and best. But here we are, barely days after the votes have been counted, surprised to say the least. When the race to the White House initially began, back when Trump was just a plaything for political commentators, who would have thought then that one day in November 2016 we would be hearing the words ‘President-elect, Donald Trump’. Now, bearing that in mind, it is quite a mind-bending idea that it is possible to draw-out a comparison from a technical perspective between Andre wards victory on Saturday night and Trump’s electoral victory several days before.
Most experts were in agreement; that the rounds Kovalev won were won big with the ones Ward winning, won by the narrowest of margins. In other words, while Sergey won the popular vote, Andre took the majority of those all-important electoral colleges. The reason why Ward’s victory has sat so uneasy with so many though, is that although we all know that the round-by-round scoring structure in a boxing match does indeed have elements in common with the first-past-the-post electoral system, we, as boxing fans, want it to be about much more than that.
Nobody who knows boxing can argue against Ward’s victory. Disputes over which rounds each prizefighter won are open for debate and just going on the wide range of views from experts at ringside on Saturday, perfectly illustrates just how close some of the rounds in this bout were. One could argue that there were flaws in the decisions of the judges, but the rules of the game were obeyed and the system was without crime. But that doesn’t make this ever so slightly bitter pill any easier to swallow. Who among fight fans can look upon Andre Ward and criticize an individual with such immense boxing skill, a man who has worked so hard, a man who embodies the idea of the American dream. He got beat around the ring for the first quarter of the fight, and even knocked down by his tactically brutal opponent from the hard streets of Chelyabinsk. Yet when it looked like it was only a matter of time, he picked himself up and boxed his way to a marginal victory. On paper, it’s a great story, but in reality Ward, and his style of stealing rounds against a fighter that came to win and win by knock-out, left many with a reasonably heavy sense of disappointment as they witnessed one man who came to edge out a victory, and another who came to win and yet walk away with nothing. The disappointment will be a heavy emotional burden Kovalev will have to drag around with him for the next few days. But Sergey comes across as the kind of person who will only come back stronger, more determined, and vengeful. Bearing in mind that he hasn’t had a setback like this in his profession boxing career spanning 32 fights, the idea of a Kovalev with an enormous score to settle makes a rematch ever more tantalizing. Ward on the other hand will walk away from this encounter with a smile on the face but with the very vocal voices of discontent ringing loud in his ears.
If the prospect of Ward-Kovalev I was mouth-watering, it’s awkward yet intriguing outcome has certainly cranked up the anticipation for a second helping by a notch or two.
Photo source: http://www.andresogward.com