A video interview with unbeaten super-middleweight champion Andre Ward has stirred up his rivalry with unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Oakland's Ward, in an interview posted by SB Nation's Fight Hub TV following Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Andre Berto fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, said he's now referring to Golovkin by the new nickname of "little g."
Los Angeles' Golovkin, regarded as one of boxing's most avoided fighters, goes by "Triple G" or "GGG" and is training in Big Bear before headlining an HBO pay-per-view fight Oct. 17 versus International Boxing Federation middleweight champion David Lemieux of Canada.
Ward is the most recent U.S. gold medalist in boxing, but he's strained for popularity and endured an extensive layoff due to a contract dispute with his former promoter, returning to fight in the summer in his hometown, with BET televising it.
"Little G' turned down an official fight with us," Ward told the reporter. "The reality is for all the talk ... the proof is in the pudding. I have an email right now that shows we gave them what they want ... 50/50 ... and the man -- the promoter --turned it down, said maybe 2017."
Quickly after the video was posted, Golovkin's Los Angeles-based promoter Tom Loeffler called The Times to refute that version of events, stressing he wanted to clarify the "context" of his rejection.
Loeffler said the email from an official of Ward's promoter, Roc Nation Sports, extends a 50/50 purse-split offer to fight in 2016 after each fighter took one fight earlier in the year.
"It would've been a bad deal to take," Loeffler said.
Loeffler said the Roc Nation email was received hours after he'd already announced Golovkin's fight with Lemieux at Madison Square Garden, with Roc Nation aware the World Boxing Council designated Golovkin (33-0, 30 knockouts) the mandatory challenger to a then-pending Miguel Cotto-Saul "Canelo" Alvarez title bout that will be fought Nov. 21. Roc Nation promotes Cotto.
Landing that bout, Loeffler said, would be far more lucrative than a fight against Ward, and if Golovkin could beat both Lemieux and the Cotto-Alvarez winner, Loeffler said his focus for Golovkin would be to unify the middleweight division, with Andy Lee currently possessing the World Boxing Organization belt.
"If the pay-per-view for the Lemieux fight is what we think it should be, Gennady would deserve more than 50% against Ward, considering Ward has barely fought outside of California," Loeffler said. "So it's unreasonable to ask us to commit to that right now."
Loeffler said his emailed reply to Ward's camp was that if Ward was still at 168 pounds in early 2017, Golovkin would be pleased to consider the bout at that point.
When Golovkin first began to fight on HBO, Loeffler said, a list of 20 potential opponents included Ward (28-0, 15 knockouts), with Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez touting his fighter as willing to fight anyone between 154 and 168 pounds in a reference directed at Ward.
But as that interest went unrequited, Loeffler said he was approached by Ward following the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in May and was asked to stop referencing Ward. Loeffler said he and Sanchez agreed to discuss Ward only if asked about him by reporters.
"If you don't want to fight a fighter, think it's not your style, just say that," Ward said on the video. "The truth is, they never wanted the fight. The reality is we offered him a fight six, seven months ago, before we knew he had a pay-per-view coming up ... 50%. He turned it down in five minutes. The short and long of it is they never wanted the fight."
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire