Boxing


Andre Ward: “I’m training to be a master of the sport, and a master can always make the adjustments and do what needs to be done”

by Geoffrey Ciani - This week’s 97th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with reigning WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (22-0, 13 KOs) who is scheduled to face Sakio Bika (28-4-2, 19 KOs) on November 27 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Ward currently tops the leader board in the Super Six super middleweight tournament and is guaranteed a spot in the semifinals. Ward spoke about his upcoming fight, talked about his future in Super Six tournament, and also touched on a variety of other topics pertaining to the current boxing landscape including the Klitschko Brothers, Pacquaio-Margarito, Pascal’s victory over Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins, Carl Froch, and more. Here is what he had to say:

On his initial reaction to the news that Andre Dirrell was forced to pull out of the Super Six:

“Well obviously it was shocking news to hear. There are a lot of things going through your mind. You wonder about the state of the tournament, you wonder about Dirrell’s health, and you’re just trying to figure out what’s going to happen. The key for me and my team is to keep the date. That was the key because we didn’t want to not be on the show until next year. We got a semifinals spot and all of that, but that doesn’t do anything for our progress in terms of staying sharp and just staying at it. So we just quickly made a decision to keep the date and to look for a new opponent. It’s unfortunate, and I wish Dirrell a speedy recovery. I want to see him back in the ring doing his thing, and we just have to move on and set our sights on the next opponent.”

His views on Sakio Bika’s disqualification loss against Jean Paul Mendy:

“I haven’t seen it. I was at that fight, on my way to the fight actually, and I was in the building but didn’t get the chance to get to get to the floor fast enough to see his fight. Obviously I heard what happened, so I can’t really speculate on that. I’ve seen Bika get frustrated in previous fights with guys and use some dirty tactics, but I can’t say that he did that in his last fight because I didn’t see it. That’s obviously something we’re aware of and we’ll be 100% prepared for that when we meet him November 27.”

On training and preparations for his November 27 fight against Sakio Bika:

“It’s right on schedule. Everything is going good. We’re steadily picking up steam and it is business as usual—sacrificing as usual, and focusing as usual, and just doing what we’ve been doing and just trying to get a little better at it this time out. It’s really exciting to defend my belt, exciting to be fighting back at home, and exciting to just have another opportunity to fight on Showtime and just put on a great performance. I want to try and obviously stay within myself, but in a way that improves on my last performance and to just continue to look better and better.”

His views on Sakio Bika and what he has accomplished so far in boxing:

“Well I don’t know too much about accomplishments. He’s fought some really good guys, he fought Calzaghe, he fought Bute, and I think everybody knows what he brings to the table. He’s going to come swinging full steam ahead. That’s just how he fights. Technique and those kind of things are not something that he specializes in. He just comes one way, and he’s going to continue to come that way until someone one stops him and makes him think about doing something else, and that’s my job. That’s why my plan is neutralizing that, taking control of the ring, and doing what I do. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. We actually, when he fought, we passed each other and he reached out and shook my hand, so I don’t think we’ll have too much trash-taking. Sakio Bika brings it, but Andre Ward is going to prepare himself to bring it as well.”

His views on the fact that this fight will take place outside the Super Six super middleweight tournament:

“It kind of is what it is, you know what I mean? We were fortunate to have a spot already in the semifinals, so I’m cool with that. I’m fine with that. They had to make a quick decision, and I take my hat off to obviously my team, and Ken Hershman and his team, and just quickly coming to a resolution after the Dirrell situation. So these guys have been hit from every direction and they seem to respond the right way every time. So I’m pleased with the decision they made and once again I’m just happy that I’m able to fight before this year is out, because I did not want wait to be on the show until next year.”

On whether he is disappointed that only three of the original six participants remain in the tournament after just two rounds:

“Yeah, we went from the Super Six to the Three Amigos. There are only three of us left and once again, it is what it is. You can’t hang your hat on it too long and just ponder on it. The best word I could come up with is just ‘unfortunate’. It’s unfortunate that Kessler abruptly fell out of the tournament, and it’s unfortunate with the Dirrell situation now that he’s out of the tournament, and the Jermain Taylor situation was obviously a concern for everybody but I don’t think it was a big shock being that he came into the tournament coming off of a couple of knockouts. So the last two are a little more shocking and disappointing than Jermain’s, but you just got to regroup. Injuries were to be expected and setbacks were to be expected. You just don’t know where they’re coming from and what type of effect it will have on the tournament, but at the end of the day speaking for myself and my team, we moved on and we’re just looking forward to our next fight and then the semifinals next year.”

On whether he was surprised that Chad Dawson lost against Jean Pascal:

“I definitely watched it, but I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised. I’d like to see the rematch. I’d like to see how the rematch would play out. It’s hard to say. You have to take your hat off to Chad for going to Canada and you have to take your hat off to Pascal for doing what he did. So they’re both really high quality fighters and they fight at a high level and they’re young guys, so stuff like that happens so I wasn’t shocked, no.”

His views on Bernard Hopkins statement that, “Andre Ward is the next thing for Bernard Hopkins. I’m going on record telling everyone that’s listening, and I have no promotional relationship with Andre Ward. They’re watching everybody else. They better watch him, period”:

“It’s awesome, isn’t it? You know especially from a guy like that. We kind of go back a ways. I’ve known Nazim Richardson for many, many years. I came up with his son Rock Allen. Obviously we were on the Olympic Team together, and he’s seen me as a baby grow up in the amateur ranks. I love obviously his boxing IQ and his knowledge of the game. I’m kind of an old soul, so any chance I got as a young guy to be around him I was asking him questions and whatnot. We talked about these days right now. We talked about the days when the young guys were going to start rising up and that day is here. I think I met Bernard when I first turned pro and started building a relationship with him. Every time I see him at a fight he’ll give me some critique and give me some encouragement, so I’ve kind of slowly built a relationship with Bernard. Once again, I’ve known Nazim for many, many years and I have a lot of respect for what these guys put down year after year. But for him to say that is a great thing, but it gives me more inspiration just to continue to work and to continue to prove him right.”

On whether he thinks Bernard Hopkins has the chance to pull off another upset against Jean Pascal despite the fact most observers are counting Hopkins out:

“Yeah, a prediction is tough. You have a lot of people who are leaning to Jean Pascal for several reasons, and one being the momentum that he has. He’s probably coming off of his victory with Chad Dawson at the height of his confidence. He probably still has more room to grow in terms of being a fighter. I don’t think he’s at his peak yet, but confidence-wise he’s up there and momentum-wise. He’s a really good fighter and he’s on his way to being a great fighter. Bernard, he’s made his living on proving comments like that wrong, and I think some people would look at his last two fights against Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones. I think one thing to stay in Bernard’s favor is nobody looks good against Roy. Even Roy’s first fight against Bernard wasn’t the prettiest thing. They rumbled, they did what they did, but he’s just one of those guys that you’re not going to look good against. I’m not taking anything away from Enrique Ornelas, but Bernard being the great fighter that he is, he’s going to fight up to the level of his competition so I think that had something to do with maybe some people thinking that was a lackluster performance. At the end of the day, he got the win. I think he’s right where he wants to be. He’s in a position where people think he’s too old, he’s lost a step, he can’t pull the trigger, and there’s no way he’s going to beat the younger guy. So I think he’s licking his chops right now and we all just got to tune in and see how this thing plays out.”

On whether he was surprised that Glen Johnson was chosen as Mikkel Kessler’s replacement in the Super Six:

“Yeah, I was, I mean obviously for the obvious reason with the weight issue. Glen campaigned at light heavyweight since somewhere around I think 2000 or 2001. He’s aged gracefully. In his career he’s obviously an overachiever, and his body has obviously continued to age since the last time he made the 168 pound weight limit back in 2000. I believe that was the last time he made the weight. I may be off by a few fights, but it’s going to be interesting. It’s one thing to make the weight. We can suck ourselves down. I could probably make 160 or 154 but how well would I be able to perform at that level if I take my body down there, and I think that’s just a major question for Glen Johnson. Can he function at 168 pounds? And obviously the big question for Allan Green is can he bounce back from the loss he took with me? So it’s an interesting fight.”

His views on the Group Stage 3 fight between Allan Green and Glen Johnson:

“Again, there are just so many questions that are swirling around this fight that it’s hard to kind of lock in on one person. At the end of the day, I’m focused on what I got to do and time will tell. Time will tell if Allan’s able to fight the right fight to beat Glen, and once again, what type of energy, what type of stamina, and how functional can Glen Johnson be by losing an additional seven pounds. Those are the big questions, so we will have to wait and see on that one as well.”

On fighting again in front of his home crowd in Oakland for the third consecutive fight:

“Oh, it’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling. I’m thankful for it. I don’t take it lightly, but at the same time it could be a double-edged sword fighting at home if you’re not careful, but my fans do a great job. We’re slowly but surely filling up the arena and bringing attention to the city of Oakland and to the Bay Area as a whole. I just take my hat off to my team for doing a great job and just giving me the opportunity to fight there. Once they put me in a position to fight at home, then my job is just to go out there and perform. So they’ve done their part and I’m going to do my part four weeks from now.”

His views on Carl Froch as a fighter:

“I think with Carl it’s kind of what you see is what you get. He’s very tough. He’s a competitor and he’s going to be in any fight that he’s in because of his particular style, but obviously like the rest of us he has a lot of growing to do. We’ll see how his career continues and unfolds in this tournament and after this tournament is done. I really have nothing else to say about Carl Froch.”

His views on the Group Stage 3 match-up between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kiessler:

“This is also one that’s 50-50 because of the style of both guys. I mean a lot of people expect Carl Froch to stay away from Abraham’s power and we know Abraham has pretty much had the same style throughout his whole career, so we know what we’re going to get from him. I believe we’re going to see the same Carl Froch. He may try to move a little bit here, a little bit there, try to give him some angles, but at the end of the day and this is by his own admission, he said, ‘Once I get hit, I’m going to want to go to war and brawl’. So when you got two guys standing with their feet in cement basically swinging away, it’s 50-50. Any man can knock the other man out and either one of them can be beaten. There are really not a lot of special effects in this fight, but it will be an entertaining fight. So I don’t have a prediction on this as well. I’m at a loss for predictions tonight.”

On whether he believes he matches up better against Carl Froch or Arthur Abraham:

“I think I match up well against both guys. At the end of the day, I want to be the type of guy that can adjust to any style and I don’t want any style to make me nervous or any style to really concern my team. I’m training to be a master of the sport, and a master can always make the adjustments and do what needs to be done. Whether it’s keep his distance, fight on the inside, push the guy back, being patient—whatever he needs to do. So I just think we will assess things like we always do. Throughout training camp, my coach Virg’ will come up with a game plan and then we just go to work for the next two months, just sharpening our sword and preparing for whoever it was. We’re not going to rest our hat on the last victory. We’re going to look to do better than we did last time, and if it’s Glen Johnson then obviously we’ll plan accordingly too.”

His views on whether or not the fans have ever seen the best version of Andre Ward in a professional boxing match:

“Well, I mean I definitely feel like there’s a lot more that the world hasn’t seen. I feel like, and my coach has said the same thing, that we’re probably at about 60% right now and that’s just how we feel about it. We got to really work hard to get that other 40% out and it depends on the opponent and it depends on the night. I mean at the end of the day, we’ve seen Floyd Mayweather out of 41 fights win several different ways. Sparring can be different. You’re working on different things and you have to understand that in sparring you have fresh guys coming in. The champion or the main guy that’s running the camp, he’s doing other things outside of just boxing—strength work, running—so you’re a little bit more tired in training camps. Sometimes sparring is more physical. You kind of go to war a little bit more in sparring. I definitely feel like there is a lot more in the tank and each time out, I’m not once again just satisfied with the last victory and say, ‘Hey, as long as I do what I did last time I’ll be okay’. I’m always striving for perfection and wondering where I can improve. ‘Okay I did this, I got to stop doing this, how can I take my game to the next level?’ So we’re always reaching, always reaching, and just over time I think that boxing fans and the world as a whole will get to see just the complete Andre Ward as I continue to age and just continue to get more seasoned.”

His views on the upcoming match between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito:

“Well I think Manny’s going to be Manny. He has to wonder how the weight’s going to affect him, and obviously there have been a lot of reports about his training not being up to par. That could just be hearsay. It may be legit, but I know that Antonio Margarito is doing his thing. Reports coming out of his camp seem to be that he’s training hard and training strong. We know what we’re going to get. We’re going to get Manny trying to give angles, trying to box, but also being explosive when he does punch and he’ll have Margarito in his face all night long. So I think it’s a beautiful match-up and I think the closer the fight gets more people are swaying towards Margarito. I’m looking forward to this one because what happened with Margarito was not good at all for the sport of boxing or for himself, but at the same time, if the guy’s a repented man and he’s trying to—even though he didn’t admit to having it or knowing it what was in his hands—the guy’s trying to make a living and rebuild his career. I think he should get another shot as long as he’s clean, and I’m just excited to see how this one turns out.”

On whether he believes there is anybody out there who can beat either Klitschko brother in the foreseeable future:

“You know, I’m not too ingrained in the heavyweight division in terms of knowing a lot of different names, but you know somebody’s out there. The thing is the Klitschkos, they’re getting older and older so they got to be careful and they got to make sure that they don’t fight past the time that they’re supposed to fight, but it doesn’t look like it. It doesn’t look like it. I haven’t seen this kid Chisora that Wladimir’s fighting. He seems to be pretty confident, but so were the other fighters that got in there with Vitali and Wladimir. Time will tell, but there is always somebody out there. There’s a young kid, he may be an amateur right now and he might not even be dreaming about fighting a Klitschko and he may get a shot at the tail end of their careers. You never know, but there is definitely somebody out there. As of right now, I don’t see it. These guys, they come in tip-top shape and people can say what they want to say about their styles but they get it done, and in some cases they barely lose a round. So you got to respect them and take your hat off to them.”

On what areas of his game he feels he can most improve at this stage:

“Well I’m not going to give too much away, you know. At the end of the day, there is always stuff you can improve on. My problem is not finding things to critique. My problem is giving myself a little credit. If I had a problem that would probably be it right there, is just giving myself the credit that I do deserve. There is always, and I can give you a list literally right now of probably 20 or 25 things that I see, small things, that I take very seriously that I need to continue to do and start doing. That’s just part of it. I want to have that same mentality until the day I retire, because I think the day that you go into the gym, or you start a training camp, or even go into a fight where you feel like, ‘I’m there, I’ve arrived, I have this many titles, I have these credentials, and I mean nobody can touch me’. Confidence is one thing, but you have to critique yourself and you have to continue to look for ways to improve.”

His views on those people who question his power and were critical of the fact he did not stop Allan Green inside the distance:

“Well, it is what it is. I mean as for as the naysayers, most of them have never laced up a pair of gloves in their life. They’ve never stepped in a ring and had to take their shirt off and to be under the lights while the whole world was watching them perform. So they don’t really know what it takes to get it done. I’m not trying to pull rank, but that’s just the reality of the situation. I think a lot of times people can be critical behind their laptops and their computers and not really give the athlete, regardless of what sport it is, enough credit. That’s fine if they feel that way. I continue to use that as motivation, but I agree with them in the sense that I should have stopped Allan Green and that’s just a standard that me and my team sets for each other. But again, that comes with experience. It’s just knowing when to step it up and get the guy out of there when he’s ready to go. You have to understand that this was only my second championship fight. That was only my first defense, and I still believe the best is yet to come.”

On whether he believes he can become the first top stop Sakio Bika inside the distance:

“Absolutely, I mean we set the bar high and I don’t think that bar is set unrealistically high. I mean anybody can be stopped, and all I have to do is implement the game plan that’s being drawn up right now and patiently let it unfold. That’s definitely something that we’re shooting to do in this fight, absolutely.”

His official prediction on his upcoming fight against Sakio Bika:

“Just a great, great performance—you know, a great performance. I expect a tough fight but I expect to go in there and find a way to get it done. The ultimate goal is to get the stoppage, because Sakio Bika has never been stopped before. So that is my prediction, is just a wonderful performance for the fans. Even for the naysayers out there, I know they will be tuning in and watching and I want to put on a great performance for them as well.”

***





For those interested in listening to the Andre Ward interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and twenty-seven minutes into the program.

***

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Article posted on 28.10.2010



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