By Ryan Maquiñana
WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward has made it to the finish line of the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic. However, via phone yesterday, he declared to this writer that relief is not the word of the day.
“It’s been a long haul, almost two years,” said the 27-year-old, who currently stands at 24-0, 13 KOs. “It feels good to be in the final, but I have one more fight before I should feel relief.”
Despite both fighters’ desire to hold the final in Las Vegas, Ward will meet WBC 168-pound titlist Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Oct. 29.
“I would’ve preferred Las Vegas because it would’ve been a great venue for the final,” Ward reflected. “But Atlantic City is great and Boardwalk Hall has a lot of history.”
Although the majority of his fanbase will be watching the unification bout attentively on the other side of the country, Ward looks at his East Coast clash in a positive light.
“We’ll be fighting at the big venue, from what I hear,” the Oakland native shared. “It’s a great opportunity for the East Coast fans to come out and see me and support me.”
Froch has already fired the first salvo, decrying Ward’s technical style and offering skeptical words about his foe’s punching power. Ward dismisses the 34-year-old Englishman’s talk.
“I don’t think Froch knows who he’s dealing with,” Ward sternly warned. “He’s used to getting guys riled up and having the other guys wasting energy screaming. Froch needs to understand that I’m a professional. I’ve been boxing for a long time and there’s nothing he can say that I haven’t heard before. This is the norm for me. I give Froch credit because he may be selling a few tickets, but I could care less what he’s saying to the media right now.”
A television analyst in his spare time, the intelligent Ward dissected his take on how the fight will transpire.
“I think a number of things will take place,” he opined. “For one thing, he’s going to be frustrated because he won’t be able to do what he wants to do. His bravado won’t work either. When he realizes he can’t box, he can’t overpower me, he’s going to open himself up to potentially get hurt.”
Ward has come a long way from the amateurs, where he posted a 110-5 record en route to Olympic gold in 2004. When asked about next week’s Olympic Trials in Mobile, Ala., he was inundated with nostalgia.
“Those were great times in my life,” he recalled. “Before you get to a world title, you have to get through that stage, as in the Olympic Trials, box-offs, qualifying tournament, and then the Olympics itself. Those things molded me and shaped me into the fighter I am today.
“I’m going to try to be involved with these young fighters who have the potential to make the team and eventually those that do make it. I want to do my part to give back and be accessible if they have any questions.”
Coming out of the Bay Area, Ward also had some advice for the two fighters from that region who will compete at the Trials, super heavyweight LaRon Mitchell of San Francisco and flyweight Eros Correa of San Jose.
“As far as anything specific,” he advised, “they should just continue to do what they’ve done to get to this point. Don’t relax because there’s still a lot of work to be done. Don’t just be happy to be there. Go for it all.”
Now he wears a world championship belt around this waist, a wardrobe matched by his old Bay Area-based friends from the amateurs, WBC/WBO bantamweight king Nonito Donaire and WBA/WBO interim lightweight holder Robert Guerrero.
“Obviously they know that I’m fans of theirs,” Ward said. “Not just friends, but fans of theirs the way they handle their craft. They’ve got a lot of heart and skill. Nonito’s finally getting his just due, and Robert’s one of the most underrated champions out there. They have the potential to both be Hall of Famers and I’m just happy to be in their company. We just want to keep racking up victories for the Bay and representing the Bay in a positive way.”
While he’s happy for his buddies and the revival of the local boxing scene, Ward understands that come October, all eyes will be on him and Atlantic City.
“I’m preparing for a dominant performance," he said. "I’m focused. There are few things on my mind except this fight. Froch has got what I want, which is that WBC belt, The Ring belt, and the Super Six trophy. It’s not personal. I’m just going to go get it.”