Sound For Sound: Songs From a Pair of G.O.A.T.’s Shield Boxing’s S.O.G.

Amid a moment of tumult, Tupac and Nas combine for the perfect Sound For Sound double-play for retired Pound For Pound champion Andre Ward

After the controversial conclusion of December’s dramatic Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury Heavyweight world championship fight, retired boxing great Andre Ward posted a polarizing tweet in response to a tweet from his employer ESPN.

On Sunday, February 10, 2019, Ward – a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who retired as The Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound champion – learned he was still the target of the ire of a boisterous constituency looking for answers regarding the real meaning of his tweet. Popular YouTube channel Barbershop Conversations confronted Ward for further clarification of his Wilder-Fury remarks following the final bout of Top Rank’s ESPN card Ramirez vs. Zepeda. Ward worked the fight as both an analyst and as part of the commentator team.

Ward graciously faced the fire, offering additional detail of his opinion concerning Wilder’s next move to Barbershop, and also added some poignant thoughts on social media and boxing’s thriving YouTube community – both the channels and their opinionated subscribers. Who emerged victorious following the civil discourse? Feel free to debate.

The underlying matter here is that after being a beloved champion who willingly took on all comers for several years, Ward’s opinion on one matter caused a large faction to hate either him or his remarks aimed at popular WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.

Did anybody else race over Ward’s usage of the word “probably” in the innocuous tweet? 

At least one wise boxing fan was level-headed enough to rely on his own knowledge of the inner-workings of the sport to politely offer an alternative view on what we would likely hear from Wilder and Fury in the ensuing days.

How do people continue to allow folks on television screens to incite them so?

The late Tupac Shakur and Nasir “Nas” Jones represent the most elite of rappers, and both frequently sit atop the ‘Top 5 Dead or Alive’ lists of millions of hip hop fans. Queensbridge’s Nas happens to be this writer’s No. 1 emcee. For this Sound For Sound entry both ‘Pac’s solemn “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” and Nas’ defiant “Hate Me Now” are apropos, and may the spirit and lyrics of each classic foster a speedy reconciliation between all parties. Not likely, seemingly, as many of the people interested in the ongoing matter scoffed at Ward’s question in the YouTube clip: If so many of the offended rocked with him unconditionally for over a decade, how could the relationship end so abruptly over a single comment?

This writer thought the tweet was uncharacteristic for Ward who meticulously crafts his round-by-round analysis, but felt like S.O.G. (an acronym for “Son of God”) would have been well within his right to address the fallout with the sentiments of the opening stanzas to Nas’ second verse on “Hate”:

You wanna hate me, then hate me; what can I do
But keep gettin’ money? Funny, I was just like you
I had to hustle hard, never give up, until I made it
Now y’all sayin’: “That’s a clever n____, nothin’ to play with.”
Hate on me, I blew but I’m the same O.G.
People warn me, when you’re on top there’s envy

Ward’s nickname, S.O.G., signifies his spirituality and its prominence in his life, so in reality the choruses of both songs – the true central themes – best relate to Ward as well as to some of the blind spots of his detractors in this matter. The power of the retired champion’s example since turning pro in 2004, until retiring in 2017, far outweigh any (mis)interpretation of this particular Wilder tweet.

In addition to the impassioned “I ain’t mad at ‘cha” chorus delivered by Danny Boy, the late Tupac’s introspective lyrics brilliantly illustrate that rough patches in the relationships of the closest of friends are likely, but barring bloodshed, these interruptions to harmonious times should conclude in understanding. There are levels to maturity and enlightenment, and Pac teaches us all this invaluable lesson wonderfully as he closes out the first verse:

Got a big money scheme and you ain’t even with it
Knew in my heart you was the same motherfucker that
Go toe to toe when it’s time to roll, you got a brother’s back
And I can’t even trip, ’cause I’m just laughin’ at cha
You tryin’ hard to maintain, then go ahead
‘Cause I ain’t mad at cha

Ward’s list of accomplishments in one of the most grueling arenas in sports checks all the boxes – and he walked away while at boxing’s summit unlike most of his peers. Not many close out a stellar career versus another avoided P4P fighter. He’s a proud husband to his wife of 10 years, Tiffiney, and fans witnessed him in his roles of both husband and father as he engaged in various home activities with his kids on HBO’s 24/7 series during the lead up to his two career-defining fights with then unified Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. Ward was one boxing’s most unflappable fighters in the ring, he willingly stood in against several of the game’s most daunting challenges, so he would never respond to this recent flak with a spirit of vengeance. However, he got up off the canvas a few times in his career, and in the midst of that type of adversity he may have asked himself some similar questions to Tupac’s response to his loyalty and authenticity being scrutinized:

So many changed on me, so many tried to plot
That I keep a Glock beside my head, when will it stop?
‘Til God return me to my essence
‘Cause even as an adolescent, I refused to be a convalescent
So many questions and they ask me if I’m still down
I moved up out of the ghetto, so I ain’t real now?

Since we’re here, let’s deal with a few facts concerning what Ward’s tweet didn’t do. Ward’s comments didn’t damage Wilder’s financial standing or negotiating power in any future fights. They didn’t add a defeat to Wilder’s unblemished record. They didn’t remove the words ‘world champion’ from in front of Deontay Wilder. And lastly, Ward’s words did little to affect the perception of any of Wilder’s ardent supporters in terms of their unwavering adulation for their champion – their king.

The irony here is that Ward, now also a member of boxing’s media, finds himself operating in a landscape often fraught with inaccurate, incorrect, ill-informed and sensationalized content. Content that is regularly created with the research occurring long after the ‘stop streaming’ button is hit by its creator. Raise a hand when you find any of it ever being removed or walked back by said creator.

If Ward did happen to find himself awake in the middle of the night, inside his spacious home, perhaps standing alone in his trophy room, pandering how long this rift with a group of men he doesn’t even know personally might last, maybe he will find some respite in singing one of today’s best hymns about self-affirmation. Brother Duval encourages his haters to “Smile”, adding in with great aplomb, “I’m living my best life, ain’t going back and forth with you n_____…”

On a serious note, there should naturally be a greater level of understanding among the community. A day after the 64th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, or el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, this writer would like to submit one of Brother Malcolm’s realest quotes:

Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.

All lyrics validated at genius.com

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RL Woodson

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