“Boy, can that man box. I was impressed from start to finish. I had never seen, in all of the tapes that I saw of Mikey, him box like that. His inside game, his outside game. He showed that he was a veteran, even though he hadn’t fought the likes of an Orlando Salido before. He’s the real deal,” HBO ringside commentator Andre Ward on Mikey Garcia’s performance following Saturday night’s unanimous decision over Orlando Salido.
RING, WBA and WBC super middleweight champion Andre Ward spoke to RingTV.com in the wake of Saturday night’s HBO debut as a ringside commentator for the Top Rank triple-header in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
The event was headlined by unbeaten featherweight Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia’s eighth-round unanimous technical decision victory that dethroned Orlando Salido as WBO beltholder, featured Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin’s seventh-round stoppage of former junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado, and, also, a disputed split-draw between Puerto Rican WBO junior lightweight beltholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez and Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos.
“I’ve done one or two on Showtime, and I’ve done several with ESPN. So it’s been sporadic. I’ve done smaller networks. I’ve done sustained telecasts, so I’ve done a whole card before,” said Ward, 28.
“But this was my first time on HBO. I’ve called a few rounds on HBO, but never a whole show like this. And what a way to get broken in by doing a triple-header at Madison Square Garden.”
“I thought it was one of the best initial debuts that I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, I thought that he was terrific,” said Lederman. “You know, personally, listening to him, I learned something that I never would have noticed in a million years. This really showed me how sharp he is. He saw something that I never would have seen, and it just blew me away.”
Lederman referenced Ward’s interpretation of Salido’s “telegraphed movement,” which the fighter said was being exploited by Garcia.
“I think that one thing that Salido is doing that is working against him is that he is tipping Mikey off every time he wants to come in,” said Ward. “He dips with his left shoulder. Mikey sees it and he either gets out of the way or he counters him.”
Lederman was impressed.
“What he saw was that Orlando Salido would drop his head and drop his shoulders before he would move inside on Mikey Garcia. In other words, he was trying to rush Mikey Garcia,” said Lederman. “Any time, before he would come in, Andre noticed that he would drop his head, or drop his shoulders and then rush in. I would have never seen that.”
Ward (26-0, 14 knockouts) is coming off September’s three-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage of RING and WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, and is recovering from successful surgery to repair his injured right shoulder which forced the cancelation of his scheduled March 2 HBO-televised defense against the now-retired former undisputed middleweight titleholder Kelly Pavlik.
“What I’ve gotten from Andre’s on-air performances, especially from Saturday night, and, quite frankly, we’ve seen it for many years now, is that he’s got one of these personalities and the ability to speak to each individual viewer,” said his promoter, Dan Goossen.
“I liken it to a Cris Collingworth or Phil Simms. These athletes that understand all of the aspects of what is happening as their particular event is unfolding. I feel that Andre is headed for greatness, not only inside of the ring, but also, outside of the ring.”
Below are some examples of Ward’s commentary, followed by a Q&A.
On the vast contrast in their amateur experience: “You can see the difference between just how fluid these guys are. That speaks to the late start of Rosado, and the over 350 amateur fights of Golovkin.”
On Golovkin’s punch that caused the cut over Rosado’s left eye: “That’s what we call in boxing the power-jab. I think Rosado can attest to that power. It probably felt like a right hand to him…Golovkin under him, and he can put his weight behind it. You can see the way that it landed that it had all of his power behind it.”
Early in the first round: “This is Orlando Salido’s 90th championship round in his career; Mikey Garcia’s first.”
Following Garcia’s first of two, first-round knockdowns: “It might serve Mikey to go in there and test him one more time while he’s still buzzed, just like he just tried right there. You don’t want Salido to warm up.”
On Garcia’s punch-placement: “Mikey’s not only accurate, but he’s hitting hard at this stage of the fight, and Salido feels every one of those punches.”
On Garcia’s movement: “I like the movement of Garcia. He’s doing enough, but not quite overdoing it.”
Andre Ward: Oh, man. Not only did I have to prep, I just went and bought a small — I don’t know how big this thing is — but a small, standing flat screen for my office just so that I could get away and really dig into the fighters and really focus on what I needed to focus on.
The thing is that I knew pretty much every fighter. Out of the six main event fighters, I probably knew five of them. I had seen them fight before, and I knew how they fought.
But the one thing that I have learned is that I can’t be presumptuous as I prepare. I know the sport very, very well. I’ve been around it most of my life.
But I’ve still got to do the work. So there were plenty of hours to do that before I got to New York. And then I got to New York by mid-day on Friday, and I was in my room on Friday.
Friday was the work-day, the fighter meetings, the production meetings, the weigh-in, I was in my room the rest of that night and then all day Saturday leading up until the 5 p.m. pick-up. So that whole time, I was preparing.
RingTV.com: When you reference Burgos’ being forced to start faster than he has in the past as a result of facing a pressure fighter, to what do you attribute that observation?
AW: I think that speaks to the prep-work, and I’m big on that. All of the guys that I’ve watched do this for a long time. I don’t take this lightly. I take the broadcasting and the prep-work very, very seriously.
I approach it just like I’m going to approach a fight, you know, and I’m going to do my due diligence, and when those lights come on, and we’re live, I’ve got to execute just like I’ve got to execute during a fight.
I mean, I want to show myself and I want to look good, and I want the show or whatever network I’m working for that night to look good, and I want the fighters to look good.
I want to enhance the telecast, so, it’s just about putting in the work just like I would any other time, and approaching it just like I would anything that I’m serious about.
Because, some people like to put me in a box and say that when your boxing career is over, this is something that you can do, but this is something that I can totally do and I’ve made clear that I can do right now.
RingTV.com: How much of what you said during the course of the night was based in experience, where you spot it and articulate it on the dime and on the fly?
AW: Right, well, that’s two-fold. It’s the prep work, but it’s also my in-the-ring experience. You can have an eye for the sport and you can be around the sport and you can study the sport for years.
You can do all of the homework that you want. But having a feel for the sport is something different, and that’s something that has helped me to kind of foresee what was going to happen, or what I thought was going to happen.
RingTV.com: What did you see that you liked about Rosado early that he may have gotten away from?
AW: I remember exactly what you’re talking about. There was a moment, I think, it was pretty early in the second or third round, where I was assessing what I saw from Rosado.
Obviously I was weighing that against what I knew about Rosado and Golovkin and their fighting styles, what I knew from their conversations and their demeanors from the fighters’ meetings, and what their trainers wanted to implement — against what was actually taking place.
Obviously, Rosado was the natural 154-pounder, although he’s a big natural 154-pounder. He was coming up to fight a guy who was known for his physical strength and his punching power to go with his boxing.
What I saw was a conflict in that moment, because Rosado, even though he was trying to be mindful of boxing and being smart, he’s a tough kid, and if he wasn’t tough, he wouldn’t have taken the fight.
But he gets hit, and he’s bleeding now, and he wants to get back some respect, and in that moment, I felt like he might have been trying to get some respect a little bit too early.
But again, this is boxing, and that’s the beauty of this sport. There are ebbs and flows and a lot going on, and I just think that our job as commentators is to let the people know what they’re looking at.
RingTV.com: How were you able to illustrate that Salido was telegraphing his intentions, which Garcia was capitalizing on?
These guys, they’ve done it, they’ve been there, and they can just talk about maybe a little something that it’s just unique because they’ve done it.
That’s what I just try to bring to the table when I have an opportunity is to talk about what I see. I not only see it like we talked about earlier, but as a fighter, I feel it. That’s the beauty of the networks.
They’re very, very smart. They know how to put a team together. From the blow-by-blow guys, to the color guys, to the expert analysts, current or big fighters. That’s a tremendous combination, and everyone compliments each other.
RingTV.com: Can you talk more about what the unique aspect of being a fighter adds to the team?
AW: Well, I’ll give you an example. At the fighter meetings, we’re drinking coffee and everybody’s having a good time and we’re preparing for these fighters to come in there.
But then you have the fighters coming in there, and every single one of them, they’ve got this look in their eye. They’re not laughing, and they’re not playing.
Because these men have not only prepared themselves for war, but they’re about 48 hours or 24 hours away from really putting it all on the line.
So they’ve got that look, and I can identify with that look. I remember telling Max Kellerman, “I know that look in his eye, because I’ve come in the same way.”
It’s almost this look like, “What are you guys laughing at,” and, “What’s so funny?” I mean, they’re in a different world. They’re getting ready to embark upon something.
We’re going to be on the outside being entertained, and they’re the entertainers and the ones who are actually getting in there.
So, again, that’s just from my experience in the sport, and it was great to be a part of such a great team of commentators. They did a great job.
RingTV.com: What sort of respect do you think you get from the fellow fighters?
AW: I feel like I got my respect from those guys. I think that that the initial look was, “Hey, what are you doing over there?” and “What are you doing on that side of the table?”
But moving forward, after the initial look of shock on their faces that I was actually part of the telecast, I think that there was respect.
And, again, with me being a fighter, I tried to, personally, stay away from certain questions like, “Are you ready?” or things like that.
As a fighter, I just tried to stay away from certain questions. I think that the questions that I did ask were received well and that I got a good response from them.
RingTV.com: Did being ringside help you to get a scouting report on Golovkin, who has designs on rising to challenge you as at 168 pounds?
AW: Absolutely. I had the best seat in the house the other night. I definitely have a job to do when I’m behind the microphone, and it’s not about me — in that moment — it’s not about me and a potential fight with Gennady Golovkin.
But it is about Golovkin and whoever he’s fighting at the time, which, on Saturday night, was Rosado. So it was about calling that fight and calling the action. So I have to kind of take myself out of the equation.
But, obviously, being a fighter, and with him being a potential opponent, you had better believe that in my mind, I’ve got my pen and my pad working and I’m taking notes. I don’t know any other way.
RingTV.com: Is this what you meant when you said that your injury could have been “a blessing in disguise?”
AW: I just felt like as soon as I got the lay of the land in terms of the overall situation that I was dealing with, from the injury, to the surgery, to the time off, I told my team right away.
I told [publicist] Julie [Goldsticker,] I told my manager and my promoter that I’m getting ready to stay busy and that I’m not going to be sitting around for the next few months while re-habbing.
This is a tremendous opportunity to not only kind of spread my wings and to do some more broadcasting, but, also, to just be around the sport.
It’s about the fans being able to see me and to reach out and touch me. I’m not as in a hurry as I used to be. I’ve got some more time on my hands.
I got less on my mind so to speak. I’ve got no fights coming up and no training camp around the corner. This is just a good time for me to be around the fans and to spend time in the sport.
Being around the sport keeps my fire burning. It doesn’t take much to get me fired up. But being around the sport and not being able to get into the ring, that does something to you.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org