By Rick Reeno
Virgil Hunter, the trainer for WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (26-0, 14KOs), was very surprised when he saw a recent story on BoxingScene.com where Abel Sanchez, the trainer of IBO/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (27-0, 24KOs), was critical of Ward's discussions with HBO regarding the opponent for his next televised appearance.
Ward, inactive since last September and coming back from shoulder surgery, was looking to face someone durable but not necessarily an A-level opponent. Opponents like former champion Dmitry Sartison were rejected by HBO. And discussions to secure Edwin Rodriguez have stalled over money. Ward has a tentative date of November 16 to return.
"The public is now demanding better fights. The public is now demanding fights that are entertaining and will keep you glued to the TV. And I think with Andre asking for these easy fights, the public is having a hard time with that. We're in the entertainment business and if you don't want to entertain then you shouldn't be on TV," Sanchez told BoxingScene's Bill "Two Scoops" Emes.
"The network doesn't see that any of the names that he's presenting are good enough to give their viewership what they demand. You have to understand that he's coming off of an injury too. Taking that into consideration, maybe he shouldn't fight on HBO. Maybe he should fight on ESPN or Fox Sports and get a tuneup fight and build back up...as they do in other sports, [in] the minor leagues. I hope that he fights this year, so that he's ready next year for what's discussed [a fight with Golovkin]. But that's up to Andre."
Hunter felt Sanchez was out of line. While Hunter holds a lot of respect for both Sanchez and Golovkin, he feels Ward's recent level of opposition is head and shoulders above the opponents that HBO approved for Golovkin.
"What people have to realize is, we're not looking for a soft touch coming back off an injury. Out of Andre's last six fights, five of them have been world champions. Froch, Abraham and Kessler have been two-time world champions, and Bika is now a world champion, and Dawson was a champion. I don't think it's a situation where we have to justify that we want to come in and ease off this injury. The guy that we were initially asking for, Sartison, he's a former world champion. It's not like we're asking for a slouch," Hunter told BoxingScene.com.
"If you compare Andre's past six to Gennady's past six, you would have to be honest with yourself about who is [facing] ESPN caliber opponents. You have a guy Proksa - nobody heard of him before he fought Gennady and nobody heard from him since. He fought Macklin who fell short before [in his HBO fight with Sergio Martinez] and he fought Rosado. He [also] fought guy [Nobuhiro Ishida] who's claim to fame is that he caught Kirkland on a bad night. It's not a slight on Gennady. It's just an honest comparison down the line. Now if we had asked for any one of those opponents for a comeback fight - and that is no slight on Rosadao because I think Rosado is a solid fighter, I think Macklin is solid but his best days are behind him - [but if we would have asked for them] they would have laughed us out of the [HBO] building.
"These are guys getting on HBO to fight Gennady and not getting back on HBO. When you talk about Froch and Kessler, they are still getting on HBO. Abraham still has a big name in Germany. Chad has had two slip-ups but he is still an HBO fighter. Sakio Bika just won a world title. I think that Abel should really humble himself and be humble that he has a horse like that who can run. [He should] try to respectfully stay out of other peoples' lane."
"[Abel] has a great kid and he knows this business like I do. When you get a great kid like that, be thankful. because they don't come along like that all the time. I [consider Abel] to be a smart guy, a respectful guy and a straight up guy - so it kind of caught me off-guard because I would have never expected that from him. He should just stay in his lane and he will never hear anything negative from me about who GGG fights and you will never hear me say a fighter has no backbone because there is no place for that. I'm not trying to trash-talk and I'm not trying to start something, I'm just giving a respectful response."