Ward puts off defense due to ailing knee
Super middleweight titleholder Andre Ward's surgically repaired right knee has been giving him problems, forcing him to postpone his first defense against Allan Green and causing major friction between their promoters.
The fight, part of Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, had been scheduled for April 24 in Ward's hometown of Oakland.
"I want this fight in the worst way, and am very excited about it. I have been having recurring problems with my right knee," Ward said. "I went to camp and tried for a week and half to two weeks, and I can't run like I'm supposed to. I want Allan Green to get an Andre Ward that's 100 percent, just like I want an Allan Green that is 100 percent."
Ward said his physician, Dr. Warren King, who is also the orthopedic surgeon for the Oakland Raiders, is recommending four to six weeks of rehab and rest.
Ward said the issue was that he pushed himself too hard at the start of his training camp.
"The issue is that I came out of the blocks too fast in training camp with my running," Ward said. "I was supposed to gradually build up and I went beyond what my trainer, Virgil Hunter, wanted me to do. I believe that's where all of the problems started. This has been a good lesson for me to listen to my coach in the future because he always warns me not to come out of the blocks of training camp too fast but because I'm so motivated about this fight. I came out too fast, too early."
Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter, said Ward was scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday.
"It's not where Andre can't walk or do any other training," Goossen said. "He just has to do some rehabilitation on his knee, but the doctor says he should be fine. It's the same knee he had surgery on last year. I don't know if injured is the right definition of the problem. I guess it's been inflamed and swollen, maybe because Andre believed it was healed and he didn't keep up his rehabilitation on the knee. His doctor wants him to do that religiously."
Ward-Green was supposed to be the second half of a split-site Super Six doubleheader on April 24. The other bout, England's Carl Froch defending his belt against Denmark's Mikkel Kessler, will still take place in Herning, Denmark, and be televised on Showtime in the United States on same-day tape delay.
The postponement of Ward-Green is just the latest setback for a Super Six tournament slowly losing steam.
First, Jermain Taylor, who was badly knocked out by Arthur Abraham in a Group Stage 1 match in October, withdrew from the tournament last month and was replaced by Green (29-1, 20 KOs). The second-round match between Abraham and Andre Dirrell has been postponed twice. It was supposed to take place in January, then moved to March 6 before being moved back again to March 27 because of Dirrell's bad back.
The April 24 doubleheader was originally scheduled for April 17 before being moved back one week without explanation by Showtime.
In an upset, Ward (21-0, 13 KOs), the only Olympic boxing gold medalist for the United States at the 2004 Athens Games, dominated Kessler en route to an 11th-round technical decision in November to win a 168-pound title in their Super Six Group Stage 1 bout.
"Dr. King doesn't see anything that should hinder me beyond this point or in future fights," Ward said. "I look forward to getting back in the ring at 100 percent and defending my WBA title in the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic. I apologize to [Showtime boxing chief] Ken Hershman, Showtime and all of the participants in the Super Six for any inconvenience this may cause."
The postponement has been a major inconvenience to Green and his promoter, Lou DiBella, who lashed out about the situation.
He was upset that he had to hear about the postponement from Hershman instead of Goossen and said he believed Goossen intended to sink the fight.
"I haven't had the decency of a phone call or an e-mail from Goossen," DiBella said. "No communication.
"I'm angrier than I have ever been. I don't like people who behave dishonorably."
DiBella also said he was not so sure Ward-Green would ever happen.
"Do I have faith this fight happens? No. Is it a lock I am going to Oakland any longer? Absolutely not. And the fact that this guy didn't call me or text me to let me know the fight was off, I don't think there is another promoter in the business that wouldn't have given me that courtesy.
"I am not questioning the integrity of Andre Ward but I know that my co-promoter didn't have his [expletive] together and he seemed to be delaying. He had problems closing deals with everyone around him for this fight.
"Goossen made a comment to me last week when we were haggling over the site deal, and he said, and I quote, 'I don't give a [expletive] if this fight happens April 24 or not.' Apparently, in that one case he was telling the truth."
Said Goossen, "I spoke to Ken Hershman and he said he would get back to me. There was not going to be any word until I heard from Ken. I had no problem telling Lou. Andre's knee is swollen. He can't run. As soon as we found out, we picked up the phone and called the network and they asked us to wait for a call back. In the interim someone from Showtime called Lou. There was no intent there."
DiBella, however, has been skeptical that the fight would take place for the past several days.
He and Goossen have had issues for weeks hammering out a final site deal for the bout. Although Goossen had Oakland's Oracle Arena, site of Ward-Kessler, on hold for Ward-Green, he and DiBella had still not closed their deal yet because they hadn't agreed to the money.
"'I know he hasn't had a deal with me on a site and I know that he hasn't closed with his own fighter yet," DiBella said. "I knew he hadn't closed with the venue, had not contracted with the venue and only had a hold on it. By a week ago there was no alternative but to go to Oakland because the fight was so close. Over $10,000 or $15,000 he hadn't closed the deal with me, but my end of the deal was so bad, I wasn't willing to go any lower."
DiBella said he heard from several industry sources over the past few days while he was in Dallas at the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight that Goossen was going to call off the fight.
"I had more than one person say that if the fight happens at all, it is not happening April 24 and that Goossen doesn't really want Ward in the tournament any longer and that I should do myself a favor don't make plans for April 24. Don't book hotels, don't book flights."
DiBella said he suspected one of the reasons was because Goossen has an HBO card the same night, which is headlined by heavyweight Cristobal Arreola facing Tomasz Adamek in Ontario, Calif., and he was struggling with handling both promotions at once and determining where to be on fight night.
Goossen said that DiBella's characterization was incorrect.
"That would be someone saying a lot of stuff that has no merit," Goossen said. "I'm very disappointed because we had two major events that night where we had it timed perfectly."
Since the two main events were not scheduled to start at the same time, Goossen said he had timed it out so he could be ringside in Oakland for Ward's fight before leaving immediately on a private jet for Ontario.
"The problem with our business is exactly what Lou just did -- someone thinking and saying the worst before they know the situation," Goossen said.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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