Andre Ward: "My sparring partner stopped me and he said, 'You're bleeding.' I said, 'Wow, I'm bleeding?' So I ran over to the corner, and Virg looked at it...So Virg basically said, 'It's bad.'"
RingTV.com spoke to WBA super middleweight Andre Ward in the wake of his having suffered a cut over his right eye that forced the postponement of his bout with WBC counterpart Carl Froch for the championships of the Super Six World Boxing Classic and THE RING.
Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) said that a new date has not yet been set for him to face Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) in a clash that was scheduled for Oct. 29 in Atlantic City, N.J.
Promoter Dan Goossen is working on a new date with Showtime's General Manager of Sports Ken Hershman. [Update: fight has been re-scheduled for Dec. 17]
Ward received seven stitches to repair the cut, an injury he sustained during sparring last Thursday in his home town of Oakland, Calif., under the watchful eye of trainer, Virgil Hunter.
The fighter was flown to Los Angeles, where he met Goossen, was driven to the office of California-based ringside doctor and plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Wallace and received the stitches following an hour-long procedure.
Ward, who will have the sutures removed on Thursday, spoke to RingTV.com in his first interview since the incident.
RingTV.com: Can you describe how it happened?
Andre Ward: It was just a very, very strange situation. I say that it was a fluke situation simply because of the way that it happened. I was wearing headgear. I really don't have a pin-point answer on what caused it.
But I know that we took the normal precautions that we take for training camps. I had been wearing the protective headgear with the bar over my eyebrows. My nose isn't even exposed.
You know, we were just mixing it up in sparring and doing what we normally do. I think that there was a brief clinch, and I came out of the clinch and I was getting ready to go back in and my sparring partner stopped me and he said, "You're bleeding."
And I said, "Wow, I'm bleeding?" So I ran over to the corner, and Virg looked at it, and I saw the look on his face and the sound of his voice, and that let me know that it was serious. So Virg basically said, "It's bad."
I said, "What do you mean it's bad?" So I took the headgear off and I looked into the mirror and there was a nice gash. So I was just taken aback.
RingTV.com: So what happened next?
AW: Well, we don't let the Showtime cameras tape our sparring, so they were outside. I told my coach, 'Go and get 'em, get them in here.' I wanted to let them see this.
No. 1, I wanted to show the world. I wanted the world to see this side of training camp and this side of the sport.
Because even though it was a vulnerable moment for me, I wanted the world to be able to see it.
Because this is the reality of what I go through sometimes and what we as fighters go through. So they came in, and they took still shots and I think some of them went out onto the internet.
And they obviously took some video. So it kind of was what it was.
RingTV.com: How long did the stitching procedure take in Los Angeles?
AW: That was relatively brief. Dr. Wallace got right in. As soon as we took the bandage off and he saw the cut, he said, "I'm glad you're here."
That let me know that we did the right thing to come in immediately and to not wait a day or two. I mean, we got right on the airplane.
I mean, I literally went back to the house where I was staying for the training camp and I washed up, took a shower, got myself cleaned up, changed really quickly and got the next plane out.
Again, the Showtime crew, they came in and took pictures and video. So the doctor went in there and he numbed it and he looked at it and worked on it.
He sewed me up with seven stitches, so it probably took all of 30, 35 minutes.
RingTV.com: Is it disappointing, considering the momentum you were building over the course of your wins over Mikkel Kessler, Alan Green, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham?
AW: I think that initially, it was more disappointing than it is now. At this point, I've accepted it for what it is. I've accepted it as part of the sport.
Me and my team have gone over how it happened, and we realize that there were no other precautions that we could have taken.
I've accepted it. There's nothing else that I can do. Initially, I was shocked and disappointed, and you'll see that on the film.
I mean, I was trying to figure out, "How did this happen?" I've never had anything like this happen to me ever before in camp.
In my training, you know, we've taken the best precautions that we can take. So, initially, there was a lot of disappointment.
But again, once I went to Dr. Wallace and realized how bad it was, then I was calmer. He told me that there was no muscle or ligament damage.
That was really important as far as putting me at ease. He said that if I had to get a cut, that this is the best sort cut that you can get. He said that it was a clean cut and that it should heal just fine.
Once I got that diagnosis, that really put me at ease. I'm just looking forward to getting these stitches out really soon and getting back into the gym and training.
RingTV.com: What reaction have you gotten from your fans?
AW: I think more than anything that people were concerned, and I really appreciate that. I got a lot of phone calls and a lot of texts. You know, my fans and my friends and my family were giving me a lot of support.
I mean, obviously, from a practical standpoint, there was a lot of disappointment. I even heard from some of the United Kingdom fans, the ones that wanted me to lose to Carl Froch.
Just in terms of some people being able to get off of work. And now, they might not be able to when the new date is set. Airlines may not going to reimburse them. Reservations and so on and so forth.
So there was a lot of general disappointment in the air, but at the same time, from those close to me, there has just been a lot of support, and I appreciate that.
RingTV.com: Has any of the criticism that you've heard from Froch stirred the monster that's inside of You?
AW: You know what? I haven't read anything. I haven't been on the internet reading any of that stuff. I know that Virg has read it.
So I've heard the things that Froch has said I guess about me trying to look for a way out, and things of that nature. But you know what?
Things like this happen. But, you know, it's a great time for the other side to start throwing rocks and to start feeling good about themselves.
I guess that it's a good time for them to start thinking that I'm looking for a way out or that I don't want to fight. To me, it just doesn't make any sense.
Nobody questioned Froch when he pulled up with a mysterious back injury in the middle of training for the Arthur Abraham fight.
Some people believe that he did it just to get a new venue and the site changed. Nobody said anything when Froch threatened to get out of the tournament because he couldn't fight at home.
So, you know, hey, things are going to be said. This is part of boxing. I accept it for what it is, and I'm going to be ready when the new date is set, and that's what's important.
RingTV.com: Has there been a new date set or a perspective on when you can start training again once the stitches are removed?
AW: There is discussion. I have to get the stitches out. I think that it will be a better time then to talk about dates, because we don't have a date.
I have to get these sutures out on Thursday, and then from there, I don't know if we'll have a set date. But from there, we'll be able to have a little bit more validity as to where we're trying to go.
But the goal is to get it in before the end of the year. There was some initial talk on dates in terms of when I will be able to have contact on the eye when I went to speak to Dr. Wallace.
But again, I think that will be something and that we can address on Thursday when I fly back to Los Angeles to get the sutures out. We'll have a better understanding then. But in terms of training, that's not going to stop.
RingTV.com: Does this hurt your momentum?
AW: I don't think that there will be a momentum change. When you fight or compete in any sport at a high level, there are setbacks that happen.
There are adversities that happen and other things that happen. But this is just another opportunity for us to overcome more adversity and to just get stronger as a team.
Thank God there was no serious damage to my eye. It could have always been much worse. It could have been career-ending.
But once I got past the initial frustration, I'm just thankful that it wasn't bad. I'm just looking forward to getting a new date set.
For the United Kingdom fans, and those who already have paid to come out, this fight is going to happen, and it's just a matter of when it's going to happen.
My apologies to people because of the practical side of it. Some people may not be able to come now, but this was out of my hands.
I appreciate the fans who pushed past the postponement and who were concerned about me. Like I told my promoter, the name of this fight should be "No excuses."
Because if Carl Froch beats me, there will be no excuses from my side. I won't blame the eye or anything. But when I beat Carl Froch, I expect the same from his side as well.
Photos Credit: FIGHT CAMP 360°/SHOWTIME
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com