By Jake Donovan
More often than not, the term ‘warrior’ immediately invokes visions of a face-first brawler who bleeds if you stare hard enough at him. He’s the guy rising from one knockdown after another to somehow will himself to victory or at least go out on his shield.
To hear unbeaten super middleweight titlist Andre Ward label himself as a warrior is surely to turn quite a few heads. Rare is the occasion where the Oakland native finds himself in a heated battle, much less forced to overcome adversity.
He’s barely lost rounds in running the tables in the SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic, which comes to a close this weekend when he takes on Carl Froch in Atlantic City. The bout will crown a tournament champion, as well as determine super middleweight supremacy and quite possibly 2011’s Fighter of the Year.
Froch has insisted throughout the tournament that he is prepared to go at full length to achieve such goals. His career is living proof that the Brit will give everything he has and then some in order to win.
Most would view the above as the most common form of a boxing warrior.
Ward has yet to be forced to exhibit such traits, yet firmly believes he’s just as deserving of the label.
“I’m a warrior,” Ward (24-0, 13KO) proudly states. “People only give the warrior tag if you get cut every other fight or if you’re in a Fight of the Year candidate every other fight. But I’m a warrior and I’m coming to win something and take something.”
Ward believes it’s his fighting mentality that makes him a warrior, and his preparation that helps him avoid taking the type of punishment that is normally the case for the traditional in-ring soldier.
That very mentality has allowed him to remain unbeaten as a pro, in fact with his last loss in the ring coming when he was a 13-year old amateur. The 14-year win streak includes a super middleweight title as a pro and a Olympic Gold medal in the 2004 Summer Games.
Ward currently serves as the only active American fighter to have captured Olympic gold, a distinction he has carried ever since Oscar de la Hoya called it a career three years ago. It’s a status he carries with pride, the same fighting pride he brings into the ring no matter the opponent.
Much of the lessons come from Virgil Hunter, the only man who has ever trained Ward ever since putting on his first pair of gloves as a child in California’s Bay Area. Yet despite a lifetime of discipline and professionalism, his desire and willingness to engage are still challenged by his opponents – and on occasion by some in the media.
“For some reason, there seems to be questions from Froch’s camp and the media about toughness, physicality, things like that. There’s a sense that I’m looking to squeak by in this fight. You don’t squeak by fights at this level. You take them and that’s what I plan to do.”
What he won’t do is talk about doing these things; he’ll just simply do them. And he’ll do them at his pace and leisure. The work he puts in during training camp allows him to fight that way, not the way others prefer.
“There’s been a lot of talk, too much talk in my opinion. This is my favorite time, when it’s time to get down and showdown. The fight is a few days away; I love to speak the loudest on the night of the fight. I love big moments like this. I love big fights like this. Carl Froch is the self-proclaimed best fighter in England. I love it. I want to fight the best and I want to beat the best.”
Until fight night, don’t expect much else from Ward, other than the same humble star you always see. There’s no need to pretend to be something that he’s not, because he’s content with his own definition of how a true warrior carries it.
“I’m always like this: firm. It is a few days away from a big fight. But just like my fighting style, people will throw things out there, like I’m a ‘nice guy… a family guy - which I am. And people will get caught up in the press what they read rather than looking at me for who I am. I’m a warrior. I’ve been away from my family. This is the purpose of training camp, to get you in this mode.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]