For the second time in 10 months, the California State Athletic Commission upheld promoter Dan Goossen's promotional contract with super middleweight champion Andre Ward, who has been seeking to terminate the agreement.
Ward previously lost an arbitration hearing before the commission in June 2013. On Wednesday, arbitrator Andy Foster, the executive officer of the commission, ruled in Goossen's favor following an April 9 hearing at which Ward did not show up and did not testify, leaving his legal team to argue the case.
Ward's contract with Goossen was declared valid until Nov. 8, 2016, according to Foster's ruling.
"It's now time to sit down with Andre and his advisers to put these legal disputes behind us and concentrate on getting Andre back to fighting consistently inside the ring," Goossen said. "Andre and I have had success together and there's no reason not to get back on track as a team to secure his status as the top fighter in the world behind Floyd Mayweather."
Reached by ESPN.com, Ward, who has a lawsuit pending against Goossen in California Superior Court, said he was on the other line with his attorney and declined to comment.
On Wednesday night, Josh Dubin, Ward's attorney, and James Prince, his manager, issued a statement on Ward's behalf saying they planned to continue to fight to break the contract.
"We want to be crystal clear: the 'legal issues' that [Goossen] referred to are only just getting underway. It is only after a California judge or jury speaks that the legal issues will be resolved," the statement said. "Today's decision from the California State Athletic Commission was not unexpected. From the very start, we do not feel that the commission has been looking out for the best interests of Andre Ward, the very boxer they are supposed to protect. To the contrary, for some inexplicable reason, the CSAC has continually bent over backwards to try to accommodate a promoter who we feel is taking horrible advantage of Andre and his career. ...
"This is not the end of Andre's fight to stand up for what he knows is right, but rather the beginning. The CSAC decision has only strengthened his resolve.
"Andre's lawsuit against Dan Goossen and his promotional company in California Superior Court is continuing to move forward. It has always been Andre's steadfast belief, as well as ours, that the state court system, not the CSAC, is the proper venue for his dispute with Dan Goossen. It is Team Ward's belief that the arbitration before the CSAC should not have proceeded while Andre's lawsuit is pending, so we do not feel that the decision is ultimately going to be binding."
Ward's side argued his contract should be over based on California's seven-year limit on personal services contracts. Ward has been promoted by Goossen since his pro debut in December 2004, which followed his winning an Olympic gold medal in Athens.
In April 2011, Ward signed a three-year contract extension with Goossen, for which he received a $550,000 signing bonus, according to the ruling obtained by ESPN.com. But both sides agreed during the June 2013 arbitration that the agreement did not go into effect until Sept. 8, 2012, the day that Ward knocked out Chad Dawson. Before the Dawson fight, Ward had been sidelined for nine months because of an injury.
In December, Goossen asked the commission to arbitrate a second dispute over the length of the agreement. He argued that Ward should be under contract for 16 more months due to time missed for injuries as well as Ward's reluctance to allow him to set up his next fight. Ward's side said it didn't recognize the commission's authority, but said any extension should be for no more than six months. The promotional agreement between Ward and Goossen gives the commission the authority to decide any issues in arbitration, according to the ruling.
Foster ruled the contract should be extended for 14 months, a clear Goossen win.
"Of course I'm pleased with the decision. It was the right result both morally and legally," said attorney Bert Fields, who argued the case for Goossen. "Ward's a great fighter, but it was Goossen who helped build his professional career and put him in position to command the really big bucks."
Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) has not fought since easily outpointing Edwin Rodriguez in November. He has only fought twice since December 2011, when he easily outpointed Carl Froch to unify 168-pound titles and win the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
After Ward, 30, lost the first arbitration case, he agreed to fight Rodriguez under Goossen's banner and then once again sought to terminate the contract after the fight. Besides the signing bonus, Ward was paid $3.65 million total for the bouts against Dawson ($1.75 million) and Rodriguez ($1.9 million), according to the ruling.