Floyd Mayweather, generally recognized as the best boxer in the world, abruptly criticized Oakland super middleweight world champion Andre Ward on his religion and his drawing power on Wednesday.
The inflammatory remarks conveniently came following Ward’s announcement that he would be supporting childhood friend Robert Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) as he challenges Mayweather for the WBC welterweight world title on May 4 in Las Vegas.
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“I don’t really know Andre Ward,” Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) told FightHype.com. “I don’t have anything negative or bad to say about Andre Ward. Nothing against him, and like I said before, anybody has a right to call themselves whatever name they want to call themselves. He calls himself ‘S.O.G.’ If I’m not mistaken, that stands for Son of God.
"Last time I checked, we’re all God's children. When one fighter is facing another fighter, God don’t choose sides. What’s going to happen in life is going to happen. Everything is already planned out…I ain't never seen a pastor boxing. I ain't never seen a reverend boxing. I say a prayer that my opponent lives to fight another day and I live to fight another day. You got these guys trying to hurt a man on Saturday and then going to praise the Lord on Sunday.”
Mayweather, who either omitted or may not realize that heavyweight legends George Foreman and Evander Holyfield were both ordained ministers during their respective careers, continued to disparage Ward, switching the focus of his diatribe to mainstream recognition.
“I mean, it’s okay. If I remember correctly, I sold out an arena in the Bay Area maybe 12 or 13 years ago,” Mayweather said of his 2001 victory over Jesus Chavez at the San Francisco Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. “Not knocking Andre Ward, but he can't sell tickets nowhere. He can't sell tickets in Las Vegas.”
Though his fight with Chavez packed the house, Mayweather seemed to have forgotten that four years later, his lack of star power at the time was evident when he knocked out Henry Bruseles inside a relatively empty American Airlines Arena in Miami.
In fact, Mayweather didn’t reach A-side status on a pay-per-view bout until 2006—his 10th year as a professional—when he outpointed Zab Judah. Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), who won Olympic gold in 2004, hasn’t even reached his ninth full year in the pro ranks. While Mayweather acknowledged Ward’s skills, he felt that the East Bay star still had work to do in the box office.
“This is the only guy I know that's a gold medalist, but don't nobody know he's a gold medalist,” said Mayweather, whose amateur career ended with a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics. “He's a gold medalist, but he's making money like he don't even got a medal.
“Like I said before, Andre Ward, he's a good fighter, but who knows him? If you're not in Oakland, you don't even know who he is. He's getting older and time is ticking, so I mean, when is he going to ever leave Oakland and put asses in seats somewhere else?”
Ward, who has stated numerous times in the past that he’s a fan of Mayweather’s, has cleaned out the 168-pound division and has elevated to No. 2 on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings. With Ward closing in on Mayweather’s status as the top fighter in the world regardless of weight class, one can only speculate the main reason behind Wednesday’s tirade.
“You know, you got fighters, sometimes, they speak on certain situations where the thing is this,” said Mayweather, who will be making a reported minimum of $30 million in his fight with Guerrero. “Like I always tell you before, when you're a fighter getting a million dollars, a million-dollar fighter like Andre Ward, if anything, you need to come to my camp so you can learn the blueprint on how to sell out arenas worldwide.
Mayweather then concluded his invective by comparing Ward to rising lightweight sensation Adrien Broner, whose flamboyant style both in and out of the ring have many hailing him as the second coming of Floyd.
“I got the blueprint on how to sell out arenas worldwide,” Mayweather said. “We know Adrien Broner is more known than Andre Ward. He don’t even have an amateur background. [Ward’s] got a gold medal? Let me get it and I'll melt it down and get a medallion made.”
When approached by FightHype for a reaction to Mayweather’s comments, Ward’s response was short and directly to the point.
“If Floyd Mayweather has a problem with me or something that I said, he can pick up the phone and we can talk about it like men,” Ward said.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.