Khan vs Crawford: Andre Ward & Tim Bradley Interview
Top Rank on ESPN blow-by-blow commentator Joe Tessitore, analysts – former two-division world titleholder, Tim Bradley and former pound-for-pound two-division world champion, Andre Ward, participated in a media conference call yesterday to discuss the welterweight showdown between pound-for-pound king Terence “Bud” Crawford vs. former unified 140-pound champion Amir “King” Khan. Crawford-Khan will mark the first PPV event under the Top Rank on ESPN banner on Saturday, April 20 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT from Madison Square Garden.
A transcript of the conference call follows:
JOE TESSITORE: Thank you so much, and welcome, everybody. We’re thrilled as a production team to have this night. I sit there and you get the introduction there, and I hear we’re coming on the air with ESPN2 at 6 o’clock, knowing we’re coming on Pay-Per-View 9 o’clock.
So, now I’m sitting here looking at this bout sheet saying, holy cow, we’ve got to broadcast nine fights. This is unbelievable here, just the workload. But here’s what I love about Saturday night. And we’ll get into the main event plenty. When we put forth this relationship with Top Rank, one of the major themes was we’re going to serve the boxing fan really, really well.
And I think we all collectively feel good about what’s been accomplished since we went on the air with Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn from Australia a couple summers ago right through the past year, with the growth and development of ESPN+, with what we’ve been doing on ESPN. And I’m so sick of hearing my voice on a 30-second commercial promo right now on ESPN this week, and I’m sure everybody else is, too. But what it shows you is an unbelievable commitment from the network to put this sport forward the way it always should have been in the course of the last 25 to 30 years — that the role this support now plays on the landscape of American sports is back to what it always was, of being a very mainstream.
And this night really over-delivers to the fans, and we’re really excited about it. We just got done having our production meetings with all the fighters. And as much as we have arguably the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, an undefeated fighter, a generational talent in Bud Crawford against a global star, a well-marketed, former champion who still has tons of speed and skill and athleticism to make this a very competitive fight. We have a Pay-Per-View card that’s worthy of a Pay-Per-View card because you have rising undefeated stars, you have intrigue and next-generational talent kind of guys cars in Shakur Stevenson and Teofimo Lopez both taking step-up fights. And we feel like we’re going to over-deliver to the fans on Saturday night.
And I think in recent years — and, listen, this is ESPN’s first venture in this relationship of stepping into Pay-Per-View — in recent years you haven’t been able to say that about the sport, whether living in the corner of premium cable or whether living in the world of Pay-Per-View, which for the most part was economic relief for promoters and networks rather than really delivering a hefty night to the fans.
And we feel from 6 o’clock through or past midnight on Saturday night we are going to serve the fan. And that is first and foremost.
Now, the primary way we’re going to serve the fan is two very determined world-class fighters being in the ring at the end of all of that.
Just moments ago Bud Crawford and Amir Khan left the room that we’re sitting in now. I’ll let Tim and Andre tell you what they’re seeing, what they’re thinking, what they expecting in the fight. But here’s what I do know: We’re getting two guys at their absolute prime, at their absolute best, the version of each of them.
We got a very surly, and nasty Bud Crawford sit with us before, and we’ve had that version of Bud Crawford sit with us in production meetings before. And when you get that version of Bud Crawford, you get a serious ending to a fight that’s memorable.
And we have Amir Khan feeling that right now, 33 wins into his career, fighting in a weight class where he’s undefeated, feeling a sense of maturity, having a 12-week training camp with Virgil Hunter, he sits here and he tells us that he’s completely ready.
And then you hear the deference shown from Bud Crawford of recognizing Amir Khan’s physical gifts — his boxing skills, his legs, his straight punches, his fighting prowess — and I have a feeling that this fight, as it draws closer, is much more than how it was perceived when it was first signed.
Anytime you go up against a guy like Vasiliy Lomachenko or Bud Crawford, I don’t care who is opposite them, the early perception of the fight is, ah, man, we know what’s going to happen here. Listen, I have great intrigue as to what’s going to happen in the first six to eight rounds of this fight.
Much like we’ve seen other times with Amir Khan. Tell me about an Amir Khan fight that you’ve ever seen — listen, the guy went all the way up to 160 pounds against Canelo Alvarez; he’s never in a bad fight.
And I think we’re getting the absolute best version of him here. I want to turn it over to Tim.
TIM BRADLEY: I’m just glad to be here, one. And also after last week, looking at arguably the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the game, Lomachenko, now we’re coming back this week to look at Terence Bud Crawford, and we get to compare the two.
Different opponents but I love the fact that we get to compare the two, and the fans at home that’s going to be watching, they’ll get a show from Bud Crawford and Amir Khan.
I want to see if the fans at home can pick after watching Bud Crawford, their number one pound-for-pound — that’s what I’m interested in. And I want to see if Amir Khan still has a lot left in the tank. I want to see how well he prepared. And if he has the ability still to compete at the welterweight division.
ANDRE WARD: So I don’t know what else I can say that Joe and Tim haven’t said. But I will say I’m also excited about calling this fight on ESPN Pay-Per-View. I read a headline the other day that, basically it was a writer saying something to the effect — and he (writer) may be on this call right now — but something to the effect that he’s predicting or hoping for, you know, a failure for this Pay-Per-View.
And that’s just not the type of headline that should be written when we’re — the collective goal is to push this sport forward and to grow this sport.
And this type of card, this type of event is going to do that. And just like Joe said, from top to bottom, you have Verdejo, who is trying to reclaim the glory he once had. He doesn’t have one championship round under his belt. And he’s literally fighting for his boxing future to show the people that he’s still El Diamante, that he still has what it takes to be a champion one day.
Obviously you have a young man that I’m familiar with, Shakur Stevenson, who is — he wants to be in the top spot. He’s on the fast track. The team, Top Rank and obviously myself and the other managers, we’d like him to probably take a slower route. But in this day and age, man, the young fighters they want to move a lot faster. He has what it takes, but it’s not going to be easy against Diaz.
Diaz challenged for a world title not too long ago. He came up short. But he obviously showed that he’s in the running. He deserves to be in the race to be facing the top in the division. And he wants to show Shakur that Shakur picked the wrong contender to pick on.
You obviously have Teofimo Lopez, the co-main event. He’s in the peculiar position where, yes, he’s getting a lot of headlines; yes, he can fight. No doubt about that. But people still have questions, as they will for the course of his career, that’s how it goes.
How good is he and can he back up the big talk? And this is pressure that he and his father have heaped upon themselves. I respect it. It’s not an easy thing to do. You have enough pressure as is just being a young prospect with a hot name.
And they’re not only doing that, but they’re calling out guys like Lomachenko, who, again, depending on where you are on the pound-for-pound list or how you put either fighter, Crawford or Loma, he may be the best guy or number two, they’re calling for that guy. They’re not just saying we’re willing to face them; they’re demanding the fight.
That’s a lot of pressure to live up to and they’re doing it and I respect it. Whether you agree with it or not.
And then our main event, between Amir Khan and Terrance Crawford, I know Amir very well. It’s well publicized that he’s with my team. He has pretty much my whole team in the Bay Area.
Amir Khan is a silver medalist. The goods have always been there physically. But in the biggest moments he hasn’t been able to put it all together. And Amir’s issue is not information. It’s not knowing what to do or being told what to do. It’s always application; can he do it in the biggest moment?
And the question I would have for Amir Khan going into this fight is simply is it more important for you to prove to the people, the masses, the fans, the media how tough you are, or that you can take punishment, or that you’re a guy that has heart? Or is it more important to actually win the fight?
Because winning this fight, regardless of how he wins it, is really the only thing that’s going to extend his career.
Terrance Crawford, he has superseded just being in the discussion about fighting for titles. He’s done that. He’s been the undisputed champion at 140. He has plenty of belts. He’s in the position where every fight matters. And not just winning but how he wins, it matters when you’re in the discussion for pound-for-pound elite status, because clearly that is irrespective of weight class.
And every move, every performance is going to be scrutinized as it should be if you’re going to be in that discussion. So he’s not without pressure going into this fight. He not only has to win but he has to dominate and I would probably venture to say he probably needs a knockout to stay in that top conversation because of the history of Amir Khan.
Fans and media are going to match his performance up against every other top guy that Amir has fought. And that’s why I say — and I probably would never go on the record or at least up until this point I’ve yet to be on the record to say a guy needs a knockout — but because of Amir’s tasks he’s going to need that type of performance if he’s going to stay in the top spot or, for people who have number two, to supersede Loma. So here we are.
Q. Can you give fans your predictions for the fight goes the distance, many are predicting Kahn will KO. What if he doesn’t?
ANDRE WARD: If Khan is not KOed, I still believe Terence has more than enough ability to get the job done because of his style. He’s able to make adjustments in the ring. That’s why he’s considered among one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in the game.
Amir Khan has that amateur pedigree. He’s fought some tough guys. He does have a better resumé than Terence Crawford as far as opponents goes. But Amir Khan hasn’t really performed at the welterweight level, like Jake was saying, just yet. This is the big test at the welterweight division.
And if it does go the distance like I told you I think that Terence Crawford will win the decision without a doubt.
Bradley: I think I’ll answer the question. But I’ll reiterate what I said a few minutes ago. Obviously, a win is all that matters to Team Crawford. That’s what it’s about. That’s where the next payday comes. That’s where the next opportunity comes. You have to win. That’s first and foremost.
And I don’t believe personally that — obviously a knockout is better than a decision. That goes without saying. But I don’t think he feels like it’s a knockout or bust.
What I’m saying is in the eyes of most media members, and in the eyes of a lot of the fans, based on Amir Khan’s history, he’s going to be compared — the performance Saturday night is going to be compared to the other guys that stopped, the other three guys that stopped Amir Khan. And I still believe that if he dominated every round, he’s still at the top of the pound-for-pound list. But once again the reality is that the Crolla-Loma fight, whether you agree or not, whether I agree or not, is going to be compared to the Crawford-Khan fight.
So he’s in a tricky position, but this is a good position to be in. These are the waters you want to be in if you’re in the discussion, if you are dealing with the scrutiny of arguably being the best fighter in the world. That’s not something haphazard. That’s not something you just gloss over. That’s a big deal. But this is the kind of pressure that comes with it. We’ll see how the fight comes out.
TIM BRADLEY: And to piggyback off what Dre is saying, if you look at any of the top welterweights in the division — you know, you’ve got Errol Spence, Thurman and Shawn Porter — you look at these guys — Danny García, García has already knocked out Kahn.
If you match them with Kahn, you would bet that they would knock Kahn out. So it puts a lot of pressure on Terence Bud Crawford to get the knockout Saturday night.
ANDRE WARD: I’ll throw one more thing in there. If Canelo would have won a decision against Amir Kahn there would have been some boo birds. There would have been some people, a lot of critics saying, hey, this guy moved up to 160 — and I know it was two weight classes — but he moved up to 160 and you couldn’t stop him when he’s been stopped in the past?
Again, this is the reality of the situation. He’s going to be — this performance Saturday night is going to be compared not just to the other fights that Amir’s fought, but specifically the guys who have knocked him out. Everybody is going to match that up to the Crawford performance and say, oh, this is your pound-for-pound best. Well he didn’t do XYZ and that’s the name of the game and that’s how it goes.
Q. Tim, being that you’ve done big Pay-Per-Views and a lot of pressure has been on you, how much pressure is it on the Terence Crawford to deliver a spectacular performance even though he’s already knocked out the guy that knocked out Amir Kahn?
TIM BRADLEY: You know, being at the top level and to be mentioned in the top pound-for-pound, there’s always a lot of pressure. You know, this is Crawford’s second Pay-Per-View. There’s a lot of expectations from not only the media but also the boxing fans, the boxing world, (indiscernible) that he’s facing, Amir Khan, and the history of Khan in big fights and him being knocked out. So there’s a lot of pressure on Terrance Crawford going into this fight.
I have to say this, man. Khan is not as easy as everybody thinks. This fight is not going to be as easy as everybody thinks it’s going to be. Khan is highly motivated. He’s at a point in his career where he needs a fighter to get him up, and Terence Crawford is that guy. He’s that guy that, he has to dream about every single night for three months. And a guy that he should fear, because he knows what can happen because of the history that Khan has been in and has gone through. So Khan’s going to be ready more than what everybody thinks that he’s going to be.
He’s going to fight smart. He’s going to fight hard. He’s going to give Terence Crawford a challenge. There’s one thing that Terence Crawford does that kind of worries me a little bit is that when he’s in close, sometimes he pulls away with his hands out leaving himself exposed for a left hook from a little bit too close.
You can’t do that against a guy like Khan who is an Olympian, who has been in there with some top guys in the world without paying the price.
So I’m curious to see if Terence Crawford has fixed that. And I’m curious to see if Khan can make him pay for his mistakes.
Q. How much does a fighter think about doing a big Pay-Per-View like this leading up to the fight, how much does it factor into his psyche?
TIM BRADLEY: His psyche? Well, if you’re real, just put it this way, if you’re real you’ve got to be able to deal with the pressure. But I could tell you this: My first Pay-Per-View, when I fought against the best fighter pound-for-pound, Manny Pacquiao, at the time, I could tell you what Khan’s feeling right now, being the B side of things.
I felt like I was fighting against King Kong. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Everybody was expecting me to get knocked out against Manny Pacquiao. It was a lot of pressure, man.
I just had to relax, put it that way. I spoke to some of my friends who have been around boxing for a long time. They told me, Tim, just relax.
But the lead-up, in your hotel room, when you step foot on the scale, after that, man, it becomes a reality, man. And it can definitely hinder your performance when you step foot in the ring.
I have to say, another thing is that last week when we saw Lomachenko against Crolla — Crolla can say whatever he wants about not being nervous and not being scared, he didn’t fight that way from the opening bell.
Crolla fought scared. The bright lights got to him. And that can happen. That could very well happen.
But I don’t think it’s going to happen in this fight. Khan’s been here before. He’s been here before. He’s been in big events. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think he’ll be fine.
Q. Andre, you said Crawford has a willingness to exchange, and this could be one of his emphasis. How can Amir Kahn exploit and capitalize on this?
ANDRE WARD: I think what I said was something to the effect of, Terence Crawford gets overeager at times, or if he gets hit he wants to get the punch back right away. So, instead of Terence in a particular instance showing 2s and 3s or a 3 and a 4, he’ll try to throw a 5 and 6. And on the 5 and 6 punch, he’ll exchange with the guys and he’ll tend to get caught at times.
That could be good and bad. The negative is you get hit. The positive is you were in range to do damage as well.
To sum this fight up in a nutshell, this fight is about the second and third adjustment. The first game plan they might match up evenly in the first round or two. But it’s the second adjustment that Terence is going to make, and the question and the burden and the onus is going to be on Khan — can he keep up, can he make the other adjustments?
And when Terence makes another adjustment, can Amir Khan make that adjustment? That’s where Amir sometimes gets left in the dust in those bigger fights against better competition, is they make the second or third adjustment. He doesn’t realize the process that, yo, this guy is setting me up for a big shot. Amir is going along to get along. He’s being sassed, he’s being what he is, he’s doing what he normally does, using a lot of athleticism, a lot of skill, the things he woke up and came out of the crib with.
But when it comes to digging deep mentally and saying, whoa, this guy is trying to set me up because he wants me to throw that right hand so he can come over the top with a left hook.
That’s what he’s been unable to do. I’m not sure if he can get that at this stage in his career. I know my godfather and my former coach has been working on that. He’s been doing his part on that. But, again, the issue with Amir Khan is not the information. It’s the application. He has the information. He’ll say the right things. He’s been in camp 10 weeks or 12 weeks, whatever it’s been.
I don’t have the entourage anymore. I’m focused. I know how important this fight is. So when the lights come on and the bell rings, and you get past that first adjustment where Terence starts to get out a little bit, what is Amir Kahn going to do?
Q. You mentioned you already met with Khan and Crawford. Anything standing with them looking in their eyes that changes or confirms your outlook for Saturday?
JOE TESSITORE: I’ll just reinforce the one observation I made a few times when we’ve had Bud in these production meetings. But there is a surly, mean streak that grows within him as you get closer to a fight like this, with Bud Crawford. And it was festering already today.
We usually have these production meetings on Friday where it’s very, very pronounced when you’re with him. It was already there today.
The other observation I would have is both guys are physically primed. When we throw, you know, the fit and ready around, they are fit and ready. So they’ve been on weight. So they’re comfortably eating, comfortably hydrating. You’re getting a very good physical version of both guys.
I would also say that Amir Khan as well as Virgil Hunter talked plenty about focus and discipline and attentiveness to what’s happening here. And Amir going so far as saying how much he’s even changed his fightweek norm, that last night that he found himself staying in and watching fights, watching some of his past fights, watching some of his sparring on tape and watching some of Crawford’s old fights. And he said in previous big fightweeks that would not be the case as to how he spent a Wednesday night. It would be family, it would be friends, it would be the gathering of everybody coming into town for the fight
So my personal takeaway is that you’re getting guys who are at their physical prime prepared peak and their mental prime prepared peak. That was my biggest takeaway.
Listen, we sit there, we go deep. I tend to think he’s conversations that we have in production meetings go far more philosophical and reflective than most any sport I do. And when I’m sitting there with Bill Belichick or Sean McVay getting ready to do Monday Night Football, it’s all scheme, all XO, it’s all personnel, it’s all where you are in the prep for the week.
These conversations go far deeper into the psyche, into the essence of somebody’s being. And with both of these guys you’re saying they’re A to A-plus, where they are right now.
ANDRE WARD: Just my takeaway, I’ll start with Amir Khan. You have to give Amir Khan credit because there’s not a lot of fighters that could have gone through what he’s gone through in the boxing ring and also the scrutiny he’s dealt with outside the ring.
And I’m talking about the personal scrutiny he gets, I’m talking about his in-ring performances. And he’s still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He’s still hopeful. He’s still fighting to make the necessary adjustments in his personal life, as a fighter.
I wasn’t around his training camp. I personally stayed away. I wasn’t around Terence’s camp either. I’m friends with both guys. I wanted to stay neutral as possible.
But I know instinctively that Amir Khan didn’t have an easy camp with his sparring partners. I know he had to fight every single day to keep these guys off of him. And I respect that. And I know that there’s been a disconnect between the information and application, like I said earlier,
but he truly believes he’s going to win. Amir Khan, even in his worst outing, you haven’t seen a guy turn tail and go the other way.
You haven’t seen a guy quit like — if you beat him, if you even stop him, you’re going to do have to do what a Canelo did, what a Danny García did. That’s literally what you’ll have to do to make him stop fighting. And even though stylistically and technically things aren’t perfect all the time and that’s the reason why those things happen, I respect the moxie and the willingness. And Amir Khan has shown more willingness by taking this fight than a lot of champions have shown over the last three or four or five years. And their efforts or lack of efforts to face the other top guys in their division.
Terence Crawford, I don’t mean to inject myself into this — but I see a lot of myself in him when I look at him two days before a fight, a day before a fight.
He’s not a guy that’s just fighting for bills, he’s not just fighting for money. That’s fine. That’s part of it. It’s prize fighting. He comes to get that as well. But he’s fighting for respect.
And when you have that chip on your shoulder, when you have that inclination that you’re not getting what you feel like you’ve rightfully earned, that’s a different type of fuel. That’s like what you saw in Aaron Pryor when he fought Alexis Arguello the first time and even the second time.
Alexis came in as the golden boy and everyone praised him. And Aaron Pryor was the young guy who had done a lot but yet didn’t have the respect. He came from the ghetto of Cincinnati. And it was one thing that set him off. And that really led to Arguello’s demise in that fight, if you watch “Legendary Nights,” is the ring announcer said, “Mr. Arguello” when he announced Alexis, and he just said “Aaron Pryor.”
It was that small thing that 99 percent of the people watching on television, the people inside the stadium would have missed, but because he felt marginalized, because he felt slighted, because he felt like the just due had never really been there even though he earned it, it was that little bit of fuel that caused him to do what he did to Alexis. And that’s the same material that Terence Crawford has inside of him.
Q. For Amir, fighting late in your career as an underdog, what’s going to be the physical/mental mindset to succeed on Saturday? And also in the blog world, people are saying even the best Amir Khan, Amir in his prime, that they would still pick Crawford over him. But is this version of Amir, the veteran that’s hungry to return, is this the best version that has the best chance of winning against Crawford?
TIM BRADLEY: Absolutely. At this point in Amir Khan’s career, when you have won championships, when you have earned the money, like I’ve said before, you need these type of fights to get you up for it, to get you back doing what you used to do.
And he went back with Virgil to get that education to be ready for this fight against Terence Crawford.
I can’t praise Khan enough, just like Dre (Andre Ward) said, his willingness to fight the best fighters in the world all the time is hard, fighting against Danny García, who is undefeated, and Marcos Maidana, and still, Khan passed on a big fight with Kell Brook for millions and millions of dollars to face the pound-for-pound, my number one pound-for-pound fighter in the game, Terence Bud Crawford. So that speaks volumes for a guy like Amir Khan. And what I saw during the fighters meeting, I saw a focused, very determined Amir Khan — kind of changed my outlook on the fight.
This fight I think is going to be a tougher fight than what everybody are saying. I think that Amir understands what he has to do and what he has to be. I think he had great preparation for this fight, after talking with him, after speaking with him.
And I think it’s going to be a very competitive fight very early. He just can’t get caught with the big shots. Amir Khan, I believe, will be in this fight if he doesn’t get caught with the big shot from Crawford.
And as far as Crawford goes, it’s always the same with him. He can destroy. That’s the only thing on his mind right now. It’s fightweek. He’s a very humble guy. But you don’t want to get under Crawford’s skin the week of the fight. One of my colleagues here asked the wrong question or said the wrong thing to him and Crawford snapped off at him and said, “Don’t you disrespect me. Don’t you disrespect me.” And it was just as simple as, hey, this is your first Pay-Per-View fight. And he’s, like, no, no, no. It’s my second.
He’s determined to hold onto his status as one of the top fighters in the game. No other welterweight wants to step up and face Bud Crawford. They keep saying that they’re the best, and Crawford is willing to prove it and to step up in the ring with him.
But these guys, they keep running from him. They don’t want to fight Terence Bud Crawford. So Crawford is fighting Khan now because he is the only one man enough to stand up, to face Bud Crawford. And like I said, I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think everybody’s sleeping on this one.
Q. Tim and Andre, what did you find the toughest thing about making the transition from the ring to being ringside calling the fights and doing commentary?
TIM BRADLEY: For me, the toughest thing was not giving away the fighter. When you break the fighters down, sometimes we can say a little bit too much about the fighter and expose them. That’s been the hardest transition for me.
And also just the flow. The flow alone has been really tough, the commentary, the flow — getting your words together, saying things the right way has been a challenge, very challenging for me.
ANDRE WARD: You mean more like what the actually craft of being an analyst or just personally, like what did you mean exactly?
Q. Craft first but personal observation is welcome.
ANDRE WARD: I’ve had the opportunity throughout the years to do this. I worked at HBO for many, many years, Showtime back in the day. I actually started off with the “World Series of Boxing.” I would fly out to LA. I did it for free just to get the reps in.
But this is a whole other level in terms of the platform. This is a whole other level as far as, like, how many shows I’m actually calling. Like, I would do maybe five shows a year with HBO. This is on a whole other level.
And the quality of the product that ESPN is demanding that we put out, it causes you to have to get better, have to raise the bar. Joe Tessitore, I tell him all the time, I’m just so grateful for just a mentorship. Joe Tess is who he is. We all know who he is and what he’s accomplished and what he’s currently doing.
But he’ll be in the middle of his prep, he’ll stop typing and look over to us and talk to us for however long we need to talk and then he’ll resume his preparation.
So the standard is high. The product should be high. But it’s also a good thing, too, for — I’ll speak for me and I’ll probably venture to speak for Tim, too, tell me if I’m wrong — like, this is good for us, coming from where we came from, the competitiveness, the need to have a mark and try to meet that mark. It’s been good for me, because that same competitiveness, I like to call myself a recovering perfectionist.
ANDRE WARD: But I have moments in here where one thing will be off and they’ll see me just be hypersensitive over it. And Joe will just look at me and say, ha, I got a glimpse of the fighter Andre Ward and what his trainer had to deal with.
That part is good. And then just emotionally I would say it’s good that — I would say that I have some nights where I’m calling a fight, and I’m, like, huh, I’m glad I’m on this side of the ropes and not inside the ring. I don’t want to have to deal with that anymore.
And there’s other nights where I’m, like, man, I wish I was the one walking out from that curtain and I wish I was the fighter they were talking about.
So it’s a process. But it’s a process that all of us — guys who were going to retire at some point — we’ve got to go through this, whether we’re over the hill and retired too late or we retired at the right time.
So I’m embracing it. I’m happy to be a part. But it’s a good thing for me to have a challenge at this point in my life.
TIM BRADLEY: Yeah, this is definitely keeping me out of the ring and returning back. And also, one more thing, it’s hard sometimes not to be a little bit too critical on the fighters coming up and the fighters in the ring.
It’s hard to really find the balance for me, being just kind of, just a little bit too critical on what they’re not doing or what they can improve on. So I’ve got to — I’m still trying to find that balance where I’m giving praise and I’m also being a little bit critical.
Q. Joe, you’ve worked with a lot of athletes turned commentators. Give these gentleman a grade.
JOE TESSITORE: It’s interesting you say that, because this is obviously our first full year of being a broadcast team together in a three-man booth, and I’m just coming off a Monday Night Football season with a three-man booth, which was highly scrutinized as has been a cottage industry off to the side of Monday Night Football, going back to the days of Cosell and Meredith and Gifford.
And in the span of one year I’ve had this experience of “retired hall of famer coming to broadcasting three-man booth in one sport and retired hall of famers coming to broadcast in a three-man booth in another.”
And the greatest difference with Andre and Tim is how comfortable and natural they are meshing and grooving together like the same way they would be sitting on a couch watching a fight. And it happened right away with them. It didn’t have to evolve. It didn’t have to grow.
Yes, as every week goes by there’s refinement and things are smoothed out and the TV acumen and skill set and television IQ fully develops. But, right from the start you’re dealing with two guys who understand how to mesh together, and their boxing brains are so elite and they’re so comfortable that it makes my job really, really easy.
They’re very coachable. They both want to be coached. They both sit back and they broadcast — as I often talk to my analysts, no matter what sport I’m doing — of broadcasting with your eyes up, of just looking, being aware and reacting.
The reason that they’re hired is because they’re two of the foremost experts in the world. They’re two of the best that have ever done it generationally recently. And when they broadcast with their eyes up and see and say and tell us the why and how and the what to look for, they’re excellent, which is what they’ve done.
I sit back oftenand if you listen to our broadcast style as a crew right now, what you often get is I sit back and listen to these two great champions just talk and observe.
And then when it’s necessary I will get in and give you the blow-by-blow or advance the storyline, as was the case with our Lomachenko fight the other day, where we have the great flurry by Lomachenko, the punishment against the ropes, the technical knockdown scored, the confusion, was it a TKO or not? And these guys are smart enough to lay out, let me do my job and get out of the way.
But with how young they are and how hard they work and the positions they now hold in boxing, because the broadcast landscape of the sport drastically changed in the course over the last 12 months. HBO World Championship Boxing is out of business. ESPN Top Rank is in business.
So these seats that had been held by years and years by so many familiar faces from Larry Merchant on through are now held by these two men. And they’re more than worthy of it, and I have a feeling that we’re going to be having this conversation 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, as now multiple generations will go forward as fight fans with Tim and Andre being the voices and the brains and the faces of the sport.
And that’s a very good thing for the sport because they celebrate the athlete. They’re able to be critical. They are able to be analytical.
They give you a reason to watch. Tim is one of the ultimate characters, so joyful, absolutely irreverent, he doesn’t care what he says or how he says it, he’s going to be his natural self.
Andre is so analytical and so smart and so cerebral and has a boxing computer for a brain. And I would tell you what he’s doing now with his ESPN+ work, which is ESPN’s commitment akin to what we have with Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning, he’s as good as I’ve seen the sport put forth in my years of being in the sport.
And the more you watch that material, the higher education you have as a fight fan and the more interests you have in watching the fight. I couldn’t be more thrilled with both of these guys.
You want to sincerely grade them out right now, I would tell they’re B pluses to A minuses with, in a sense and a trajectory that undoubtedly will have them as straight A broadcasters for years and years to come.
And I truly believe that. And I’m just honored to be able to work with them at this stage of my career, where I can play a little bit of a role of mentor and lodestar and educate them on television production and be by their side as colleagues and friends.
So that’s a very long answer to say you’re about to see a long run of the two biggest guys who are going to be kicking ass in broadcasting boxing on television for the next 20 years.
Q. Andre, you had a great point about Amir Khan, how fighting is more — he has the information, but it’s more about the implementation. Why do you think that is? For both of you guys, if you want to piggyback that question, why do you think that is?
ANDRE WARD: You can focus outside the ring. Lack of focus outside the ring will lead to a lack of focus inside the ring. You can point to efficiency, in the way you start. You can rope and pull for a lot of different things, but nobody really fully knows what that missing link is.
But it’s clear when there’s a link missing, a wire missing that’s stopping the whole mental functionality that he needs to go from round 1 to round 12, the way he needs to. Doesn’t mean he won’t get hit or dropped or have moments, but it’s not a catastrophe all of a sudden. That’s a lack of focus.
Personally, I know it’s easier said than done, but I actually did it so I can say it. I saw what Canelo was doing before he did it. I knew that was the shot he wanted.
And I could see Amir Khan slowly getting drained by the body shots, by the foot pressure, by Canelo cutting the ring off. Even the shots that Canelo missed took a lot out of Amir because he was able to work so hard to get out of the way, but then he could hear the punch whizzing by his face.
That’s all for us to dream. And then I would see Canelo doing the things he likes to do where he’ll slick a jab out to the side just to get your attention over there as a diversion but the shot he really wants is the right hand.
So I saw it coming, but for whatever reason in that moment, or in those moments, it’s been very, very difficult for Amir Khan to process what’s happening, compute it, and then make the adjustment.
TIM BRADLEY: What he just said, I think it’s a technical flaw in that Amir Khan still has that amateur pedigree, never really escaped it. He throws combinations. He opts in, opts out with combinations. He’s a one-trick pony. He has the speed, he has good punching power in his right hand, but for some apparent reason, he doesn’t have the sense of judging distance. So you see Amir Khan every now and then, there’s knockouts. You see him standing still, coming in, getting out, trying to escape from a shot and gets hit in the process or gets hit while in the process of punching.
And that has a lot to do with how he was taught. As far as discipline goes, staying focused, staying concentrated, that’s just something that you have to practice. You have to practice that in the gym.
That’s the reason why I think going back to Virgil, Virgil Hunter is more cerebral. He’s about the fundamentals and getting into his fighter’s head and controlling them to do what they need to do to win a fight, a round like this.
And that’s the reason why I think Kahn has a really good chance of winning this fight because he’s with Virgil. And if he can just stay focused for every minute of every round, I think he can compete with Terence Crawford with the skill set that he brings and also the hand speed and power.
Q. Both you guys have had signature wins in your careers. Obviously you guys are a first round hall of famers. For Terence Crawford to obviously legitimize himself as number one pound-for-pound, is this fight with Amir Kahn, is this the signature win that you guys think he needs to solidify himself as number one?
ANDRE WARD: I think that both these guys, I think Khan and Crawford needs this fight. The reason why Crawford needs this fight is he needs a marquee name on his resume.
And the fact that Amir Khan was the only that was willing to step up and face him in the welterweight division, you can’t dismiss the fact that Crawford, hey, I’m stepping up, this is what I get. None of these other guys want to fight me. So if it’s Amir Khan, then so be it. But the fact that Khan hasn’t lost in the welterweight division yet, the fact that Khan has a good name, you know, he’s fighting Crawford, I don’t think that — just put it this way, if Crawford doesn’t get rid of Khan, then there’s going to be a lot of people talking.
A lot of people are going to be talking. And probably including yourself, because when you really look at the landscape, when you really look at the landscape of the welterweight division — you know, Danny García, Thurman and Errol Spence — all these guys should, if you match them up with Khan, should knock him out. There’s a lot of pressure on Crawford to get this knockout.
TIM BRADLEY: I already have Terence Crawford at the top of my list, so I don’t think he’s this victory to solidify. In my mind he solidified at least at the moment. But I do think this is good for the naysayers. This is good for the record to have a guy like Amir Khan on the record if he’s successful on Saturday. I think it does a lot for just popularity. There are some Amir Khan fans that if Terence wins will become Terence Crawford fans. And there’s some people who loosely follow the sport that will tune in because they like Amir, they’re hearing a lot about the promotion, and they’ll tune in and become a Terence Crawford fan.
When you’re facing a guy with a big name, even though, like Tim said, Khan hasn’t fought a top welterweight to this point, he still has the name recognition from the Olympics, to everything he’s done as a pro. He still brings the UK with him. He still brings the European market. I think it will do more for his namesake than it will for anything else.
Q. Terence Crawford a while back made a very, very strong claim about black fighters having to be more vociferous or more boisterous to get the recognition. What do you guys think on that? Do you think that he was fair in that statement?
ANDRE WARD: Listen, I’ll say this, and I’ve talked about this in the past, there has been a difference. If you look — it’s not every media outlet. It’s not the order of the day as it pertains to boxing, but there are times, and I’ve experienced it, and studied the sport long before I became a professional, I’ve studied the Floyd Mayweathers and studied certain things in certain fighters throughout the course of their careers.
And obviously I had my own experience when I turned pro. There are moments where smiling and waving and being soft-spoken doesn’t seem to be enough at times for African-American fighters and then you will have fighters who may come from another country who come to the United States, the land of opportunity and maybe they don’t speak English and they’re still learning their English, they get promoted and they get pushed. You don’t always see that with an African-American fighter and some of that has to do — some of that is not on the press. Some of that is not on the media, it’s on African-Americans. Its on, you know when you look at like Floyd Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather was Pretty Boy Floyd for many years. He wasn’t accepted as Pretty Boy Floyd. He didn’t sell Pay-Per-Views as Pretty Boy Floyd. But when he became the villain and became Money Mayweather, then all of a sudden this is a guy we’d love to hate and we’ll tune in to watch him lose. It worked for him.
Personally, me, I wasn’t willing to compromise my beliefs. I wasn’t willing to compromise who I was as a person, and I was — I always fought in my career with the end in sight. I knew — I knew instinctively the day is going to come when I walk away from this sport, and what am I left with? I wasn’t willing to sacrifice being able to go to my kids’ school and be respected.
I wasn’t willing to create some monster that I was going to have to live with when my career was over for the sake of selling a few more Pay-Per-Views and selling a few more seats.
That was my stance on it. So now you have Terence Crawford who kind of feels the same way. He’s a soft-spoken guy, and I think the question he’s asking — that’s not for me to answer — is why don’t I get this? Why don’t I get the respect I deserve or at least to the level in which I feel I deserve it, even though I’m soft-spoken when maybe guys over here get it and they’re soft-spoken.
So yes, I have seen some of this. I’ve spoken about this in the past. But I want to make it clear, it is not for every media outlet. And it’s not for every fan. There are a lot of objective fans. And there are media members who do a great job and they’re objective and race never comes into the equation; it’s just about the fighters and how good they are and what they’ve done and haven’t done, and that’s where it should be and that’s where it should stay.
TIM BRADLEY: I just think it’s funny you say that because Floyd Mayweather got criticism for many years and still is getting criticism because he’s a defensive fighter and people say the style he runs, he’s always running, he’s not entertaining.
But you’ve got a good like Terence Bud Crawford that’s knocking out everybody he gets in the ring with and still not getting the exposure he feels and some people feel that he deserves, rightly deserves. All I can tell you is that all he needs to continue to do is do his job and he can worry about everything else, let somebody else worry about everything else because Terence Crawford continuously delivers and it doesn’t matter who he fights or what he does, he still doesn’t get the recognition that he feels and that I feel as well.
It’s just a process, man. I’ve been in it. When I fought, I fought guys — still my career right now, after my career people try to downplay what I’ve done in the sport of boxing. And I gotta bring it to their attention and tell them like, hey, I’ve done this, I’ve done this, you must have forgotten.
It’s really quick for people to not remember, to forget once you leave the sport, what a person did at their time, at their era. In their generation. So I don’t know what it is, bro. I don’t know why it’s this way, but it is.
ANDRE WARD: And I’ll just add to what Tim said and also add to what I said earlier, the race thing is very tricky. And you have to be very, very sensitive, because you may not be getting credit for a particular fight you won or just in general you may not be getting your just do, and it’s not always race. You have to be very careful. That’s a heavy coat to put on any one person.
That’s a heavy coat to put on a particular writer or a particular website or particular YouTube blogger. If you don’t have real proof that that person is a racist, you have to be very careful to put that kind of thing out there. I personally try to give people the benefit of the doubt.
And I may have a thought about something but it’s not something that I’m going to speak about, because again you’ve got be very careful about that.
But that being said, I stand by what I said earlier throughout the course of my life and how I’ve studied the sport in that particular area about guys, some guys being soft-spoken.
And let me just sum it up this way: There’s a notion that if you don’t do a certain thing, if you’re not Floyd Mayweather-esque, if you’re not throwing money at the camera, you’re not Tim Bradley (laughter), talking about a fighter, building up a fighter, if you’re not doing that and not showing us your house, you’re not showing us your Bentley, if you’re not showing us your jewelry then, you know what, you’re boring; we shouldn’t tune in to watch you.
But then it’s not always the case on the other side. That’s what Terence is saying. I have seen some of that. I can subscribe to some of it. But I will not say that every piece of criticism, every critique, every person that’s not giving you your just due is a racial issue. They just may not like you as a fighter.
And you have to live with that. So it’s a very fine line to walk. And I’ll personally try to be very, very careful about this. Listen, I’ve spoken about this, I’m a biracial kid, like I’m not pro black and people get mad at me when I say that. I don’t have a preference towards people. I prefer everyone. And I love everyone. And if there’s a white person that’s in the wrong, well, that needs to be addressed. If there’s a black person that’s in the wrong, they need to be addressed. So it’s a very fine line — I know it’s uncomfortable for people to talk about, but Terence has some points in what he’s saying, for sure.
Q. How close do you think is Teofimo Lopez to being the same level of Lomachenko? And how good is it for boxing that these young guys are calling out the big guys like Lomachenko?
ANDRE WARD: We don’t know how close he is. This is unscripted. You don’t know until they fight the fight. And this is something that I told Teofimo’s father today in the fighters meeting, I said, I respect what you guys are saying.
And the eagerness to want to face not just another champion but to face arguably the best fighter in the world in Lomachenko. I said but you do know that it’s — I said — I think I prefaced it by saying, phrased it by saying: Do you know the magnitude of what you’re demanding? In other words, I can give you a list of young fighters who took that big step up one fight too soon and they were ruined.
You see some guys like Muhammad Ali when he fought Sonny Liston. He was The Big Bear. He was feared. Everybody thought Ali was going to get killed. And look at Floyd Mayweather and Genaro Hernandez.
You look at those types of fights where they took the leap, people thought they were crazy but they were actually the ones that were right and they were geniuses.
It’s a very fine line between being right and being wrong, but they’re great consequences or there’s great reward if you’re right. We don’t know. He has to fight the fight. I hope he’s seeing what he’s telling everybody he’s seeing. I’m talking about Teofimo’s father.
But it’s not going to be an easy task for him to face Lomachenko. Lomachenko is who he is, and he’s in the discussion as one of the best in the world for a reason. It’s not easy, but I do respect the fact that he’s willing to take that leap. He just better be right about it.
TIM BRADLEY: For me, I like what Teofimo is doing. I like the fact that he wants to challenge the best guys out there. I think it’s too premature.
I think he needs to win a world championship first and then move in position if he wants to fight Loma, then he can fight him.
You have to earn your stripes before you get that praise from me. I see the skill set. He’s very skillful. He’s been in there with memorable competition.
The competition hasn’t been that great. He’s going to get tested Saturday night and see how well he performs. And then from there we’ll make our assessment and go from there. But, like I said, he needs a championship first in order to get a shot at Vasiliy Lomachenko in the near future.