By Keith Idec
Andre Ward won’t create a promotional persona, like the alter ego Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. has used to help him earn eight figures for fights.
The unbeaten WBA super middleweight champion won’t insult his opponent’s mother, either, the way Ricardo Mayorga did while relishing his role as boxing’s bad boy. And you won’t read about Ward starting fights outside the ring, getting sued, loading his gloves or doing any of the other dubious things his peers have done to draw negative attention to themselves in recent years.
If that costs Ward millions and the opportunity to become a transcendent star, despite his obvious abilities in the ring, so be it. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist is more than willing to sacrifice some income to maintain his integrity.
“I’ve set out from day one to do things the way that I’ve been raised to do them,” Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) recently stated while promoting his Dec. 17 showdown with Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs). “I’m not going to change for anybody. I’m going to be myself. You would be surprised how many people outside of boxing come up to me, mothers and fathers, and say, ‘Man, hey, I appreciate the way you carry yourself. Continue to do so, and I’m going to point my kids to say, man, he’s a good example.’ That kind of stuff, right there, means a lot more to me than [gaining] a few fans.”
Though he understands why some contemporaries do so, the 27-year-old Ward watches others promote themselves using negative tactics and shakes his head.
“If you look at guys like Ricardo Mayorga, for example, you know, he was a shooting star,” said Ward, a married father of three who’s one victory away from winning Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic.” “He came in, he made some noise and then he was gone. Especially for a young fighter, when he does do that people take shots at him and say he’s ignorant. But then when you do have a young man who tries to carry himself the right way, not as a front or as an act, but as a lifestyle, that’s not accepted, either.”
The religious, thoughtful Ward couldn’t care less what critics say, as long he feels as though he is honoring the memory of his late father, Frank Ward.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to live my life in the middle,” Ward said. “I can’t get caught up in whether people like it or don’t like it, because when it’s all said and done my children are going to look back at this career and I want to be able to point them to my career and say, ‘Hey, follow your dad. Watch the way your dad did it.’ Because once this sport is all said and done, and I hang them up, the legacy that I left, that’s going to be there forever.
“So that’s more important to me than getting a few pats on the back and for people to say, ‘Hey, you’re exciting outside the ring. You just started a brawl.’ People expect fighters to do that anyway. When you tell somebody that you’re a fighter, they expect you to be ignorant, they expect you to act a certain way. And like I said many times before, I wasn’t raised that way. So I’m going to continue to wear my father’s name with pride and continue to live the way that I was raised to live, and not apologetically.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.