Although Andre Ward has confirmed the cancelation of his scheduled March 2, HBO-televised defense against former undisputed middleweight titleholder Kelly Pavlik due to impending surgery to repair his injured right shoulder, the RING, WBA and WBC super middleweight champion has vowed to return as good as ever.
The clash with Pavlik (40-2, 34 knockouts) already had been rescheduled from Jan. 26 to Feb. 23 after Ward’s promoter, Dan Goossen, had informed RingTV.com that Ward had only “tweaked his right shoulder in training,” adding that “he had an MRI,” and “there are no tears, no torn rotator cuff, no other major damage.”
But the injury was discovered to have been worse, according to Ward, who informed RingTV.com exclusively on Thursday evening that he expects to be operated on as early as late next week.
“Everyone in our camp, you know, we wanted to start the year off with bang with the Pavlik fight. But obviously, that’s not going to happen,” said Ward.
“Even though it’s a disappointment, everybody, for the most part, is okay moving forward with the procedure. We’re ready to get involved with the physical therapist. We’ll have some of the best people working with me, and I’ve still got many great years left in this sport.”
Ward is coming off an HBO-televised 10th-round knockout of RING and WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in September, this, after having dethroned Carl Froch last December as WBC 168-pound beltholder by unanimous decision in the finals of Showtime’s Super Six Super Middleweight Classic.
A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Ward became the first man to stop Dawson, whom he floored during the third, fourth and 10th rounds. Ward fought through a broken left hand to defeat Froch and was later named Fighter of The Year for 2011 and the recipient of the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy from the Boxing Writers’ Association of America.
Ward has been here before, having had to postpone his fight with Froch from Oct. 29 of last year to Dec. 17 after he suffered a cut over his right eye.
Ward received seven stitches to repair the cut, an injury he sustained during sparring, part of an experience that is helpful as Ward tries to make a positive out of the most recent development and banks on the notion that there may be any number of options awaiting him when he returns.
“This is also a blessing in disguise, because I know that the nature of boxing. Guys are going to think that they’re gaining ground, and there are going to be guys that people are talking up. They’re going to be saying that this is a guys that Ward should fight,” said Ward.
“So I think that when I get back, the super middleweight division, and, even possibly the light heavyweight division is going to be more appetizing. There could be some potential fights right on the table as soon as I come back. So it could be a good thing from that standpoint.”
For example, former RING light heavyweight middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins could face undefeated IBF 175-pound beltholder Tavoris Cloud on March 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn pending approval from the IBF, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.
With a victory, Hopkins, who will turn 48 in January, would extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown, a feat the Philadelphia native accomplished at the age of 46 with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal for the WBC’s light heavyweight belt in May of last year.
Other inviting targets might be 175-pound titleholders Beibut Shumenov of the WBA and Nathan Cleverly of the WBO, respectively, the latter of whom may be in line for a defense opposite Germany’s Robin Krasniqi.
According to the the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, a rematch between three-time 168-pound titlewinners Mikkel Kessler and Froch — the latter of whom lost by unanimous decision to Kessler in April of 2010 — is close for April, May or June, being considered for Froch’s native England, and could offer $2 million for each fighter.
Kessler, of Denmark, scored his fifth straight win and his third consecutive stoppage victory in the third round on Dec. 8 over Ireland’s Brian Magee, against whom Kessler won the WBA’s 168-pound interim belt in Herning, Denmark.
Kessler, 33, returned to Herning for the first time since dethroning Froch as WBC beltholder in a bloody, all-out battle that was part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Kessler’s triumph over Froch helped him to rebound from losing his WBA belt by a one-sided, 11-round technical-decision loss to Ward in the first round of the Super Six in November of 2009, one whicch ended Kessler’s streak of three straight stoppage wins since falling by unanimous decision to southpaw Joe Calzaghe in November of 2007.
The current IBF titleholder, Froch (30-2-1, 22 KOs ) is coming off last month’s third-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s Yusaf Mack before his hometown fans at Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England. In facing Mack, Froch returned to the venue where he dethroned previously unbeaten Lucian Bute by fifth-round knockout in May.
Below is Ward’s entire Q&A interview.
Andre Ward: At the end of the day, being out for a month, two months, three months, or whatever it is, beyond what you thought originally, that’s a disappointment.
But you know, these things happen. I’ve been boxing now, for almost 20 years. These kinds of things happen. It’s a disappointment, initially, for myself, for my team, just for my fans.
Because we had big plans for the year 2013. But that being said, I still belive that, God-willing, I’m going to have a great 2013 after rehab.
Everyone in our camp, you know, we wanted to start the year off with bang with the Pavlik fight. But obviously, that’s not going to happen.
Even though it’s a disappointment, everybody, for the most part, is okay moving forward with the procedure. We’re ready to get involved with the physical therapist.
We’ll have some of the best people working with me, and I’ve still got many great years left in this sport. I’m just ready to get on the other side of this procedure and to get back to work.
RingTV.com: When and where do you expect to be operated on next week?
AW: It will be in the Bay Area, and I’m looking to tentatively go in early January, probably on the fourth or the fifth. But that’s yet to be confirmed.
RingTV.com: Do you have a concept of what the prognosis is?
AW: Well, I mean, obviously, the MRI, they’re images and they’re not images. From a medical standpoint, it’s difficult to explain.
But as you mentioned, they’re going to find out everything that they need to see when they actually go in. But it’s not, thank God, a situation where it’s my rotator cuff, or that’s completely torn.
It’s kind of like, it is what it is. I can still move the arm, and I can still do some things. But we’re thinking long term.
I’ll be 29 in February, so it’s not something that I want to risk and to push for one fight. I want to be good for the rest of my career, and that’s why we’re moving forward.
RingTV.com: Did your experience with the eye injury prior to the Froch fight prepare you in any way for this, or are you still simply frustrated?
AW: Well, I mean going to be honest, you know, because I’m human. So I was getting ready for Pavlik even before camp. You know, this happened in my pre-camp stage.
I was sparring, and I was feeling good, so of course it’s frustrating. That’s a natural human response and that’s in my human nature.
But at the end of the day, once I get past the frustration, God has purpose in this, just like he has had purpose in every other situation that I’ve been through early in my career, with injuries, setbacks cuts, you name it.
We still pulled through, and I believe that this situation is going to be no different. You know, people not only have to see you when things are going good, but they have to see you when things aren’t going so good.
They need to see what your response is going to be. I just want to make sure that I respond in the right way to this adversity.
RingTV.com: Given what you were able to accomplish in overcoming the broken hand against Froch, which was suffered prior to the fight, was there a part of you who thought about going through with the bout regardless of the injury?
AW: Nah. Nah. Again, I’ve been boxing for almost 20 years, and I’ve been in the game for a very long time. That’s something that comes into question if you’re in camp, and the fight is close as the Froch fight was.
Back then, we were a week away or like a week-and-a-half away, and there was a possibility that we could still go. This wasn’t really a possibility like that was.
This isn’t a situation where there’s even an option to go into a fight. If I chose to go the route of no operation, it would have had to be at least a minimum of four weeks before I could even see if the small tear was mending back together.
With that kind of thing, I would have needed to have been in some kind of shape at that point in training camp. So this isn’t even that kind of a situation. It’s totally different.
RingTV.com: Given the toughness that you showed in the decision to face Froch, do you think people are still inclined to question you?
AW: Even if people do question it, I understand the nature of the beast and that element where people will call into question your heart because of this or that.
But that’s just part of the territory. I know how to hear it and to not hear it and to keep moving. I know what to do for my body and for my career, and that’s what I’m doing.
RingTV.com: Any message for your fans?
AW: I just want to encourage my fans to stay tuned. I’m going to do my best to keep them informed along the way with the process. I’m not going to disappear for four months.
I’m going to really take advantage of this time and really go to as many fights as possible. I’m going to possibly do some broadcasting and stay out there in terms of just being around the fans.
I’m going to take advantage of this time that I have off while I’m doing my rehab to get close to them and to spend time with them. Just understand that this isn’t it.
We’re going to come back, and, God-willing, we’re going to come back with a bang, and I want to finish my career off with a bang. So this is just a temporary setback.
RingTV.com: Will you be keeping an eye on the Kessler-Froch situation, as well as Bute and Pavlik and other developments in and around the division?
So I love boxing, and I’m going to be watching these fights. I’m definitely going to be watching what’s going on in the division as well as what is going on around the division.
You’re probably going to see me at a lot of these fights, including the Kessler-Froch fight. So, like I said, the public is going to see a lot of me. I’m going to be around the fight game a lot during this time off.
Again, this is also a blessing in disguise, because I know that the nature of boxing. Guys are going to think that they’re gaining ground, and there are going to be guys that people are talking up.
They’re going to be saying that this is a guys that Ward should fight. So I think that when I get back, the super middleweight division, and, even possibly the light heavyweight division is going to be more appetizing.
There could be some potential fights right on the table as soon as I come back. So it could be a good thing from that standpoint.
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo courtesy of Andre Ward’s Twitter account
Photo Credit: FIGHT CAMP 360°/SHOWTIME
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com