Sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint who’s the best fighter in the world. Boxing politics and fickle fans sprinkle their own narrative into things. There’s no reason why one fighter associated with one promoter can’t fight another fighter associated with someone else. But, that’s just the way boxing works. We don’t get the matchups we want at times and when we do, you can smell the expiration date a mile away.
It’s a shame that we never got a chance to see the violent offense of Paul Williams vs. the make you miss and make you pay defense of Floyd Mayweather. How about the bemusing situation between Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson? The two could’ve got it on years ago for all of the light heavyweight marbles. Don’t even get me started on the heavyweight showdown between Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis that didn’t happen.
Boxing’s history books are littered with matches that never took place. Just thinking about it makes fans, no matter how much time has passed, slam their fist on the nearest table they can find. Still, even with the holes in their respective resumes, each of those fighters, and countless others, racked up enough notable wins for their supporters to look past who they didn’t fight.
Being optimistic in the sport of boxing is almost idiotic. Pugilism can be cruel, corrupt, and unforgiving but Demetrius Andrade remained sanguine. He was always bombastic in his approach, confident, maybe a bit awkward, definitely silly, but incredibly talented.
Unlike in the pros, where it's easy to bloviate nonstop about your skills and claim you're the best without actually proving it, in the amateurs, it’s all about showing what you got. There’s no picking and choosing in the unpaid ranks. Those long and drawn-out contract negotiations simply don't exist. You merely lace up your gloves, jump into the ring, and fight whoever they put in front of you.
All in all, Andrade fought and beat the sort of fighters that will make you scratch your head. He beat Keith Thurman on three separate occasions, took out Austin Trout, got the best of Daniel Jacobs, and got rid of Charles Hatley not once, not twice, but three times. He also split a pair of fights with Shawn Porter and came up just short against Erislandy Lara. With the exception of Hatley, all those previously named fighters went on to become champions. For some, in multiple weight classes.
They were all great, but when Andrade’s name came about in conversations, their eyes began to water as the profuse praise was endless. Andrade was good, the world could see it but his contemporaries swore he was great. That, however, could only be proven by his level of opposition.
To a large extent, Andrade’s career was a confusing one. Yeah, he won titles in two weight classes but few were impressed with the opponents he went on to face. Walter Kautondokwa, the man he defeated for the vacant WBO middleweight title, fought just twice after Andrade, going 1-1 before hanging up the gloves. Vanes Martirosyan had a shiny undefeated record by the time they got it on for the vacant junior middleweight crown in 2013 but his career fell by the wayside after he came up short, going just 3-3 before retiring. Up until recently, Andrade never fought a current or former world champion.
The accolades were impressive but few gave a damn about who he was fighting. But, throughout it all, his peers continued to praise him. Andrade did his best to prove that they were right.
The story behind his career is somewhat sad. For years he was known as the boogeyman, an Uber-talented fighter that presented the sort of issues that are seldom solved. On paper, it seemed as though Canelo Alvarez avoided him on numerous occasions. In 2019, it appeared blatant. The Mexican star took out Gennadiy Golovkin the year prior then grabbed the IBF middleweight belt from Daniel Jacobs the following year.
Alvarez puffed out his chest and declared that his main goal was to become an undisputed champion. Andrade, with his WBO wrapped around his waist, was the happiest man alive. Not only would he make a career-high payday but he was ostensibly on the verge of proving that he was a great fighter.
Ultimately, the joke was on him. Alvarez moved up to the light heavyweight division before settling in at 168 pounds. Jermall Charlo was once reportedly offered a seven million dollar payday from Eddie Hearn but nothing moved the needle. Billy Joe Saunders gave Andrade the opportunity he was looking for but got busted for using a nasal spray and was subsequently removed from their 2018 showdown.
Don’t feel entirely bad for Andrade. Sure certain fighters pushed their head in the sand when he came around, but there were times when he simply made bad business decisions.
In 2014, Andrade, at the very last minute, pulled out of his 154-pound scheduled title defense against Jermell Charlo, claiming that there weren’t enough zeros attached to the end of his paycheck. Erislandy Lara once argued that Andrade, back in 2017, “priced himself out” in fight negotiations.
He didn’t always show discernment but regardless of how it happened, Andrade remained out of the big fight picture. With little to no options, the former Olympian poked his head through the super middleweight curtains and liked what he saw. As a free agent, he could sign with practically anyone. Matchroom didn't get him the fights that he wanted, despite spending numerous years there, and Golden Boy Promotions had nothing to offer. Premier Boxing Champions, however, had all the big names. Jermall Charlo, Canelo Alvarez, David Morrell, Anthony Dirrell, Caleb Plant, they had it all.
Andrade grabbed the nearest pen he could find and signed his name on the dotted line. After taking out Demond Nicholson in a welcome to the division sort of fight earlier this year, David Benavidez was next up.
It was the fight everyone was waiting for. An elite opponent, a dangerous opponent, and more importantly, a respected one. Andrade couldn’t believe it. An invite to the big fight party? He happily accepted.
During his preparation, Andrade was motivated. He was tired of outsiders feeling ambivalent about his career and finally had a dance partner that could prove his greatness.
While he sauntered to the ring this past Saturday night, he was calm, cool, chill, relaxed, and couldn't stop himself from smiling. But, roughly 11 minutes later, he couldn’t believe what was happening.
Andrade was down on his knees, collecting himself following a violent right hand from Benavidez. Two rounds later, most of which he spent backpedaling and having his head snapped back, Andrade found himself sitting on his stool, bleeding from parts of his body he didn’t know existed.
By the time the bell rang signaling the start of the seventh, Andrade remained on his stool, unable to push himself out there for another beating. It was official, for the first time in his career, Andrade came out on the wrong end of a fight.
Losing isn’t a big deal. Don’t let the spotless careers of Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward fool you. Perfection is an illusion, a mirage, often a figment of your imagination. Andrade never expected to finish his career without tasting defeat, but the timing of his first loss is horrific.
It was the first time boxing’s spotlight was shining on him. His supporters who screamed to the mountaintops that he was a great fighter deprived of opportunity, were shell-shocked. It isn’t that Andrade was an over-appreciated hype job but while he was smack-dab in the middle of his prime, he never got a chance to prove himself.
Now, at the age of 35, his reflexes are a bit slower, his punch resistance is slightly diminished, and the grays on his chin are more noticeable. He’ll likely continue his career but the sand in his hourglass is nearly depleted.
Andrade’s career was never supposed to be this way. He was a Hall of Fame talent with the skills to compete with anyone in his generation. He’ll probably grab a few more wins before he hangs' em up, but a few losses are likely as well.
His career is still memorable. Becoming a three-time, two-division champion isn’t easy. But, once he eventually rides off into the sunset, we’ll sit back and wonder just how great he could’ve or should’ve been.