RING super middleweight and WBA champion Andre Ward has been declared the WBC’s “champion in recess,” according the organization’s Secretary General, Mauricio Sulaiman, effectively stripping the 28-year-old resident of Oakland, Calif., of the belt he won by defeating England’s Carl Froch in December’s finals of Showtime’s Super Six Super Middleweight Classic.
Rated No. 5, pound-for-pound, by THE RING, Ward (25-0, 13 knockouts) has apparently failed to make a mandatory defense of his crown against Anthony Dirrell (24-0, 21 KOs), of Flint, Mich., who has been directed to face Nikola Sjekloca (24-0, 7 KOs), of Budva, Montenegro, said Sulaiman.
Ward’s promoter, Dan Goossen, meanwhile, said he has begun mulling other options for the fighter, including a rise into the light heavyweight division for a matchup against the winner of Saturday’s HBO-televised rematch between 47-year-old RING and WBC champion Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) and southpaw Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“Ward is the champion in recess and Dirrell will fight the fighter from Russia for the title. We should be getting that information from the promoters as to a time and a date,” said Sulaiman. “But whenever Ward is ready again, he will be able to fight whoever is in possession of the championship at that time.”
The WBC’s move has drawn the ire of Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter.
“The WBC’s ruling doesn’t surprise me. It seems to be something that they routinely do and they go about it as they see fit. It’s boxing. It’s unfortunate, because there’s not any consistency in these types of rulings that they do,” said Hunter, who was named the 2011 Trainer of the Year, and Ward, Fighter of the Year, by the Boxing Writer’s Association of America.
“On one end, one guy can get away with not defending his title and he’s allowed to pick and choose who he wants to fight. They can bring guys from the graveyard and he still keeps his status. On the other end, one guy loses his ranking. The surprising thing is that it doesn’t even fit their rules or their own assessment. They’re just not consistent.”
Goossen, meanwhile, appears to be taking the WBC’s decision in stride.
“Look, as far as I’m concerned, the WBC stuck with the Super Six tournament and was part of the Super Six tournament for many years, and the WBA, we’re proud to have that belt,” said Goossen.
“But when everything is said and done, Andre just wants to get back up into the ring and defend as many belts as he can grab. So I’m working on what’s next for Andre, and I’ll be able to speak more directly next week.”
Goossen considers Hopkins a viable option for Ward.
“Nothing’s out there yet,” said Goossen. “But there’s no one we wouldn’t take, as I’ve always said, including the winner of this fight on Saturday night. I would love to fight Hopkins.”
Hopkins, meanwhile, told RingTV.com in December that he will never fight Ward, considering himself to be a mentor to the 2004 Olympic gold medalist.
“I would never fight Andre Ward. I would never fight him because, one of my favorite shows was Kung Fu. And, the master never fought the student, and the student understood that he would never challenge the master,” said Hopkins.
“It’s business, but I believe that when I fight an individual, things are going to be said during the promotion that you can’t recoup. I know how passionate that I get into my opponents’ soul, spirit and life, and knowing that everything that I do and say, I mean.”
Goossen, nevertheless, said that business takes priority over friendship.
“Look, they’ve had somewhat of a relationship, but this happens to be a sport that has has somewhat of a business side to it as well,” said Goossen.
“So if Hopkins, wins, it would be a great name to have on Ward’s resume, and if Dawson beats Hopkins, that would be a great fight as well. But those are the types of challenges Andre likes.”
“That’s news to me. That’s the first time that I’ve heard it. It’s actually not something that I can actually confidently comment on. It’s the first time I’m hearing it,” said Hunter of the notion of Ward facing the Hopkins-Dawson winner.
“But I’ve also seen that Bernard said that this could be his last fight. So at at this point, nothing surprises me. We just have to keep on navigating through all of the mazes that present themselves.”
Ward had also entertained bouts opposite unbeaten RING No. 1-rated IBF super middleweight beltholder Lucian Bute or a rematch with RING No. 2-rated former four-time beltholder Mikkel Kessler of Denmark.
Ward dethroned Kessler as WBA beltholder in the tournament’s first round in November of 2009 before Kessler briefly held the WBC’s crown following an April decision over Froch.
“The bottom line is that when Andre comes back into the ring, whatever titles he has, he’ll have an opportunity to defend those titles,” said Goossen. “So I don’t get too caught up into that. All I care about is Andre continuing his ascension into the boxing record books.”
Dirrell, meanwhile, was informed of the development for the first time by RingTV.com.
“I knew that that was a possibility, but I didn’t know that it had gone through and was official yet. But that’s what I’ve been working for. I’m ready for the title fight, but I was already ready to fight Ward or anybody who had the title. I was the mandatory for it, and that’s what I had been working for,” said Dirrell, 27.
“So now I’m going to get my shot, and I’m going to prove that I can win a championship. Al Haymon is my advisor, and that’s who I’m working with. So I’m going to start getting ready for the championship. I definitely want to get a date down and go from there.”
Dirrell is coming off a fourth-round stoppage of Canadian southpaw Renan St. Juste in December that was a WBC elminator which made him the organization’s No. 1 contender to face Ward.
Dirrell entered the bout with St. Juste after having scored a second-round stoppage of Kevin Engel on July 22 of last year, which was his eighth straight knockout win. Engel represented Dirrell’s second fight within a 20-day period and his fifth ring appearance within a 10-month stretch. Dirrell had stopped Dante Craig in the fifth round on July 2.
Dirrell had returned to the ring in October of 2008 from a 26-month ring absence that resulted from a 2007 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dirrell was diagnosed shortly after he stopped James Hopkins in December 2006 and didn’t return to the ring until October 2008, with a four-round decision over Andy Mavros.
“I’ll be the first cancer survivor to become a champion. I’ve already done the research and looked it up. Definitely,” said Dirrell. “There has never been a boxer who has come back from cancer and won a championship. So, you know, I just want to be the first boxer to do that.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo courtesy of Anthony Dirrell
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org