“The way my father raised me, we don’t pat ourselves on the back. We don’t call ourselves great, we let other people do that.” – Andre Ward
In the sport of boxing, sometimes a fighter’s mouth is more important than his fists. Talk loud and get noticed. Proclaim all time greatness, keep winning and people start to think it. Put on a show, fill seats and drive PPV buys. That’s modern day boxing. That is NOT Andre Ward.
“I want my legacy to be that I was a man of character, I was a God fearing man and somebody who bettered the sport in terms of the way I represented the sport. But also that fact that I was a fierce competitor and fought the best in the world and was able to come out on top, so if those things could be said about me, then I look at it as a job well done.” – Andre Ward
If nothing else, Andre Ward allows his resume speaks for itself. Let’s start with the fact Ward hasn’t lost a fight since 1998. He was a thirteen year old amateur then and had only been boxing for four years prior. Andre was only 19 when he captured the Gold Medal in Athens in 2004. Not only is Andre Ward the last American to win a Gold Medal in Men’s Olympic Boxing but he did it in the Light Heavyweight Division. The same division in which Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, won his Gold Medal in 1960, at the age of 18. In the summer of 1976 in Montreal, Leon Spinks also won Gold in the division, at the age of 23. Spinks is the only man to take a title from Ali in the ring. For Olympic Boxing perspective, even Floyd Mayweather doesn’t have a Gold Medal. “Money” fell victim to poor judging in a semi-finals bout and had to settle for a Bronze Medal in Atlanta in 1996.
The knock on highly decorated amateurs is their skill set runs the risk of not paying off in the professional ranks. Besides skill a fighter needs marketability. At the heart of big time boxing, fights are packaged and sold according to interest. What kind of story can be told? Where’s the angle that draws people in? That is how match ups are ultimately made. All technique with no power and the casual fan is either booing by the fourth round or asleep on the couch with a bowl of Cheetos on their chest. Big talkers draw an audience for the shock value alone. They gain a following because of the emotions they invoke, for better or for worse. Hate watching is still watching and that’s all that matters for the promoters, networks and fighters.
That’s what makes Andre Ward so different. That is why he’s so special. At 31-0 with 15 knockouts, Ward doesn’t brawl with his opponents. He wears them down. Triple G puts fans in seats and makes them gather in front of the TV because of his freakishly unstoppable power. Canelo is good, but if he wasn’t as handsome, do you think De La Hoya would love him so much? Probably not, but it’s Canelo’s strong and handsome that give him the edge in Golden Boys stable. Ask yourself, if Floyd Mayweather wasn’t Floyd Mayweather, (meaning if Floyd lived a fairly quiet life and rarely issued provocative statements), would you still watch the man they call Money Mayweather? I personally love the Floyd Mayweather shoulder roll and admire his surgical like approach in the boxing ring. But would people still think Floyd Mayweather is the greatest fighter of all time if he wasn’t constantly telling everyone he is?
Andre Ward might not be the loudest talker, the hardest hitter or even the best looking. No, what Andre has is a heart filled with integrity and a personality that matches his skillset which has helped transcend the sport of boxing. Look at the roadmap to success Ward has laid for American fighters who have come up after him. Deontay Wilder, Peter Quillen, Shawn Porter. Genuinely nice guys who sell out venues because of their hard work and positive attitudes. The playbook of trying to sell tickets off the back of brutish demeanors and controversial comments is changing with the help of these guys, and that’s a good thing.
Ward turned pro shortly after winning Gold in 2004. By 2011, he unified the Super Middleweight division. Beating Carl Froch in Atlantic City to win the Super Six Boxing Championship. Andre Ward never tells you how great he is. He just thanks God and keeps it moving.
Ward defended his Middleweight belts two times before being stripped of the titles due to inactivity stemming from a falling out with promoter Dan Goossen. Upon returning to the ring Ward took a few tune up fights in preparations for another title unification run. One of those bouts was with Englishman Paul Smith. The fight took place in Oakland California June 2015. Smith came in four pounds over and missed weight. He was subsequently docked $45,000 from his $225,000 purse. Half went to the California boxing commission, the other half to Ward. After Ward stopped Smith via 9th round TKO, in typical Andre fashion, when interviewed in the ring, he thanked God, praised his opponent, and shared his sincere thoughts on his performance. Before the two fighters parted ways and left the arena to continue their respective careers Andre Ward took a quiet stroll to Paul Smiths dressing room to pay his opponent a final visit….quite literally. Without making a grand spectacle of it all, Andre Ward simply handed Paul Smith $22,500 and thanked him for the fight. Wards share of the $45,000 fine.
After beating Sergey Kovalev in November 2016, Andre Ward once more climbed himself to the top of the boxing world. This time by unifying the Light Heavyweight division. Heading into their rematch, Ward, again finds himself listed as the betting favorite in Vegas with odds shaving closely to that of the first fight between the two, (-150/+130). If Andre Ward successfully defends the titles he took from Sergey Kovalev on June 17th 2017, and is once again considered the undisputed unified world champion can we start calling Andre “Son of God” Ward the greatest of all time? He may never say it of himself, but we should start asking ourselves that about him. Wards professional resume is outstanding, his appreciation to the fans is obvious. To me, Andre Ward is the Derek Jeter of boxing. Always a gentlemen. Never in controversy. That in boxing, is a rarity.
Article by Christian Cianci
*2001 United States Amateur Middleweight Champion. 2003 United States Amateur Light Heavyweight Champion. 2004 United States Olympic Gold Medalist. Two time undisputed unified lineal World Champion across two weight classes. 2011 Fighter of the Year. 2016 Comeback of the Year. 31-0 15 K.O’s. Undefeated.