“Son of God” Discusses Boxing’s Revival, the Return of a Hit Docuseries and Jordan Brand

Andre Ward

The Contender, a competitive boxing docuseries, returns to television tonight (on EPIX at 9p ET/PT). Former WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine title holder Andre “Son of God” Ward hosts as 16 middleweight fighters live together, train together and compete in the ring for a six-figure prize and the title of The Contender. JohnWallStreet had a chance to sit down with the undefeated champion on Monday afternoon to discuss the latest season of The Contender, the sport of boxing’s resurgence and why he signed with Jordan Brand.

JWS: Beyond the prize money, what’s the goal for the 16 fighters competing in The Contender? Are there any championship-level fighters in the group?

Andre: So, for the guys that won’t get to the semifinals and finals, you are going to know their names and if they perform well on the show, if their personalities matched with their performances, they’ll get opportunities. And that’s all these guys can really ask for is an opportunity to showcase themselves and to be put in a position where they can be successful, but the semi-finalists and the finalists, the history of The Contender shows that those guys go on to fight for world titles and or win world titles.

JWS: The UFC has stolen a lot of boxing’s thunder over the last couple of years, but it now seems as if boxing undergoing a resurgence. Why is that?

Andre: I don’t know if it’s a resurgence. I think boxing goes through highs and lows, ebbs and flows. That’s just the nature of the beast. The structure is different than what the UFC does, so you’re going to see more volatility with boxing than you do with the UFC; it’s more of a steady thing because you got one guy that’s in charge, he’s controlling all the match-ups. So, boxing gets a bad rap. I mean, of course we have things in the sport that we need to change, things that are outdated, but as a whole I think boxing is going to be fine. And I think that everything that’s going on from ESPN and HBO, just all the players that are involved, boxing will win in the end.

JWS: How do you get more sponsors involved in the sport?

Andre: It’s tough to say, it really is. I mean, you know, boxing is the wild wild west and the old adage is that you don’t want to touch a fighter because you never know with these guys; they are reckless and this and that. It’s tough. I had a lot of major sponsors that people didn’t really know of because we didn’t really (promote them), we broadcasted (our sponsors) the week of the fight or whatever, but it wasn’t really something that I wore on my sleeve. So, there are people aligning with fighters. Floyd had big sponsors. So, they’re (sponsors) going to get behind big fights.

Howie Long-Short: The Contender is produced by MGM Television and Paramount Television. MGM Television is a division of MGM Holdings (OTC: MGMB); Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (owner of EPIX) is not the same company as MGM Resorts International (MGM).

Back in May, MGMB reported that despite a slight increase in Q1 ’18 revenue (to $271.5 million), net income declined from $35.2 million in ’17 to just $858,000 in ’18; a $15 million severance paid to former CEO Gary Barber contributed to the large drop.

Paramount Television is a subsidiary of Viacom (VIAB). The division posted another strong quarter in Q3, with licensing income driving the growth (think: 13 Reasons Why, The Alienist).

Fan MarinoYou’re signed to Jordan Brand. Why did you choose to sign with them as opposed to a company that makes a full line of boxing equipment?

Andre: Because Michael Jordan is the greatest player that ever lived and when Michael Jordan wants to sign you, you go and you take a meeting with Michael Jordan; and you’re typically going to walk away from there with a contract, if he wants you. That’s just how it goes. On a simpler level, Larry Miller the President, Howard White the V.P, those guys have been following me for years; and they believe in me. They got the dopest shoes in the game. They got the dopest apparel in the game. I mean why not sign?

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The Drone Racing League (DRL) has announced it will hold its 2018 Allianz World Championship in Saudi Arabia, next September. The 7th and final event of the DRL season will consist of 8 FPV (first person view) pilots racing custom-built drones, that travel more than 90 MPH, through a complex 3D racecourse; with the winner earning the title of “World’s Greatest Drone Pilot”. The race will be televised in 87 countries, on cable networks including; ESPN, OSN, Sky Sports and Fox Sports Asia.

Howie Long-Short: The DRL holds several dozen patents on the core technology that enables drone racing. They use the league to showcase the technology. The company is privately held, but has raised more than $32 million to date; including a $20 million series B round in June. Looking to play the DRL? SKYAY lead their Series B round and participated in both their seed and Series A rounds. Liberty Media Corporation (LMCA), Allianz (OTC: AZSEY), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and MGM Television (OTC: MGMB) are all also invested in the company.

Fan Marino: The DRL consists of 16 professional pilots competing in 6 regular season races before a short postseason whittles it down to 8 qualifiers, competing for the World Championship. Think you can compete in the DRL? The league is holding annual open tryouts, beginning on November 15th, using their Steam simulator. All you need is a computer and an Xbox or drone controller to participate.  The Top 24 competitors will advance to a live racing simulator tournament with a chance to compete for $75,000 and 1 of 16 spots in the 2018 season.

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FOREMAN, a documentary telling the story of world champion boxer, entrepreneur and businessman George Foreman, will premiere on EPIX (OTC: MGMB) tomorrow night (September 13TH), at 8:00 P.M. EST. In 1994, at 45 years old, Foreman reclaimed the heavyweight title he had lost 20 years earlier to Ali and agreed to what would become the second most lucrative endorsement partnership in history (Jordan/Nike), with the launch of his George Foreman grill. The manufacturer of those grills, Spectrum Brands (SPB), has just announced they are expanding in to China, agreeing with Chinese e-commerce company JD.com to open a series of flagship stores that will sell Spectrum Brand products.

Howie Long-Short: Of the $5 billion in Spectrum Brand sales in 2016, only 3% came from Asia-Pacific. With 258 million people (JD.com customer base) about to get their first look at the Foreman Grill, a run on lean meaning fat reducing grilling machines looks to be on the horizon.

Fan Marino: Salton Inc., which has since merged with Spectrum Brands (SPB), paid Foreman $137.5 million in cash and stock to buy him out and to utilize his name on the product in perpetuity, back in 1998. Foreman made more than $200 million in total from the grill.