by David P. Greisman
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Andre Ward was at Caesar’s Atlantic City on Friday afternoon at the weigh-in for Saturday’s “Super Six” semifinal bout between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson.
He spoke with David Greisman of BoxingScene.com and Tim Starks of queensberry-rules.com about the fight that’ll decide who he faces in the tournament final, and also about several other topics, including a past association with Victor Conte that he says is no longer.
Q: I wanted to see if I could get you off the fence about your prediction on this fight. ‘Cause in the past you were all “Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.”
Ward: “That’s what it is. I don’t know. As a fighter, I don’t jump on the bandwagon with what the media is saying or what most people are saying is going to happen. I look at it for what it is: This is not an easy fight for either guy. But would I be surprised if either guy dominated? No.”
Q: What do you think Carl Froch has to do to win? What does Glen Johnson have to do to win?
Ward: “I think Glen just needs to continue to be Glen. He probably has an underrated defense. Glen is a tough, nasty guy. He’s going to keep coming. He needs to continue to do that. There’s no time to change now. He’s 42 years old
“I don’t know what Froch needs to do, to be honest with you. Some say he needs to box, but how good of a boxer is Carl Froch? We saw what he did against Arthur Abraham, but that’s Arthur Abraham. I have no advice for Carl Froch at this time.”
Q: It sounds like Froch’s fans are eager to get you in the ring.
Ward: “I love it. It’s part of the game. I’m not ignorant. I know that the British people, they support theirs. But at the same time, I still got a job to do. That doesn’t intimidate me. It doesn’t cause me to shy back. It motivates me. But you’d be surprised at the number of people screaming and yelling who then come up and whisper in my ear, ‘I think you’re going to win, mate.’ ”
Q: Who would you prefer to face?
Ward: “I think the fans want to see Ward and Froch. It’d hard to say that I would prefer a certain guy. Mentally I have to stay in a position where I’m willing to fight either guy, where I’m not sold on Carl Froch and then Glen Johnson upsets him and then I need to regroup.
“I think it would be good for the Super Six to have Ward and Froch because we started out in the tournament. Glen Johnson is going to try to wreck that party tomorrow night.”
Q: A few years ago people were criticizing you for coming along too slow. Now you’re the guy up top. Is this how you planned it, or is this how just how you earned it?
Ward: “All according to plan – obviously not the tournament itself. You know, it’s one thing when you get criticism. But Virgil [Hunter, his trainer], myself, two core guys on our team – we knew what we had. We’ve been together from day one.
“It’s the same criticism we got going into the national tournament, same criticism we got going into the Olympics. You learn to live with it, to let it motivate you when it needs to motivate you. And you learn to get thick skin. That didn’t deter us. It didn’t cause us to waver. It just continued to allowed us to lock in and have a reason to get up and go to work every day
“I’m not shocked. A lot of people are shocked, are like ‘Wow this kid.’ You don’t know every detail of how it’s going to go, but we always believed that we would be at this point. And to be honest the world hasn’t seen the best of Andre Ward. I’m not satisfied. There’s so much more in the tank. Every fight that I get, I want to continue to just bring the fighter out that I know is in there.”
Q: Is it frustrating, when you talk about bringing the fighter that you know is in there, that that you didn’t really get the chance to do because of Arthur Abraham not really letting you?
Ward: “I think that was the case with Arthur and the case with Allan [Green.] Allan Green opened up against Glen Johnson. He was actually ahead on one or two [Writer’s note: It was two] of the cards. A different fighter. Kessler opened up, you saw a different fighter in me. Every fight is not going to be that way. A lot of people say ‘That was your best performance.’ I agree, but at the same time I’ve shown that we can win different styles, different ways.
“You know, me personally, I didn’t like the [Sakio] Bika fight. I wasn’t happy at all with my performance. But the bright side is we showed that we could win that way, and that’s important. I never wanted to be a guy who had one set style and everybody in the world knows that if you fight this kind of fighter, you’re going to be in trouble.
“I wanted to be a guy where they say he’s a chameleon, and that’s what people are starting to say.”
Q: Do you feel that you have to go out there and entertain?
Ward: “I feel I am entertaining. I feel like people have to define what they’re looking for. And I think that is kind of a recurring theme that’s taking place. But what do you mean by that? What is the definition of that? Is it a knockout? Because if you look at all of the guys in the tournament, there’s been one knockout in this tournament [Writer’s note: two, including Glen Johnson’s win over Allan Green], and there’s supposed to be some devastating punchers in this tournament.
“But who was the last guy that Froch knocked out? Jermain Taylor, who’d been knocked out before. Who is the last guy that Arthur Abraham knocked out? You don’t get a lot of knockouts at this level of competition. It’s rare and it’s tough to get.
“So when you really look at it for what it is, what is the definition of entertaining? Now are there areas where I need to improve and step it up? Absolutely. Do I want to be more of an entertainer? Absolutely. But I’m just happy that I’m learning as I’m winning. I’m happy that I don’t have to take a beating or a loss to learn some of these lessons.”
Q: What do you need to improve on?
Ward: “I feel like you have knockout artists in this sport – Tommy Hearns. You have finishers in this sport – Sugar Ray Leonard. I believe I’m a finisher. I believe that I have the type of style, I have the type of conditioning where I’ll wear you down, beat you up, frustrate you and then potentially get you out of there.
“I’m learning how to identify when it’s time to step it up in the later parts of the rounds and go for the stoppage or the knockout. That’s probably the last part of becoming a great finisher. It comes over time. But you don’t know who’s a knockout artist until they knock out the best. Tommy Hearns knocked out the best. We all got knockouts and stoppages on the way up. That doesn’t count.”
Q: Are you no longer working with Victor Conte?
Ward: “No. The thing is this. The Victor Conte thing got blown out of proportion. We’ve always known Victor. We know about Victor, what he did and what happened to Victor. My thing was always, if Victor Conte has a supplement that we feel is safe, that we deem is beneficial and something that we feel comfortable taking, then we have the right to take that.
[Writer’s note: Prior to his fight with Mikkel Kessler, Ward also had 10 or 11 treatments of “intermittent hypoxic training” from a $4,000 Conte machine, according to the Los Angeles Times, which the article said “simulates high altitude and triggers the body’s production of red blood cells.”]
“We’re going to do our due diligence. We’re going to do our research. But it got blown out of proportion, like ‘You’re Victor’s guy,’ and that was never the case. I don’t exclusively use anybody’s products. I have a mom and pop store in Hayward, California, that I’ve been going to since I’ve been an amateur. That’s where we get the majority of our supplements.”
Q: So the nature of the relationship is you were getting supplements from him? Were you training with him at all?
A: “No. It’s always been a casual relationship. I feel like Victor has turned over a new leaf. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t even talk to Victor. I feel like Victor has done what he’s supposed to do to turn over a new leaf. Is his past continuing to haunt him? Absolutely. I feel like he needs to build a track record, like he’s doing, and from there at some point he can clear his name. I feel like he’s on the right track.”
Q: Are you doing anything with him right now?
Q: Was there a reason for the parting ways?
Ward: “It really wasn’t even a parting ways. It’s been what it’s always been.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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