RING, WBA and WBC super middleweight champion Andre Ward, who successfully underwent surgery on Jan. 4 to repair his injured right shoulder, returned to the gym for light training on Thursday after receiving clearance to do so from his physician.
“It was amazing to be able to say that I was going to a boxing gym and not physical therapy,” said Ward, 29, whose injury forced the cancelation of his scheduled March 2 HBO-televised defense against former undisputed middleweight titleholder Kelly Pavlik.
“I just have to respect the markers I’ve been given from the doctor. I couldn’t go crazy. That’s where I have to be careful. I felt great, I felt fast, and my wind felt great. It was an amazing feeling to be able to work out in my gym.”
Ward had felt pain in his right shoulder after throwing a punch at sparring partner Tony Hirsch during training in Ward’s hometown of Oakland. The original MRI revealed a significant amount of swelling and inflammation, but no injury to the rotator cuff.
For now his workouts are limited to shadowboxing and cardio exercise.
“I definitely had to hold myself back. I could throw my right arm, but I can’t overdo it. Each week, I can do more and more,” said Ward.
“But I have to respect the markers that my doctor set. In next couple months, I’ll be cleared to do everything, but for now I have to respect the boundaries that are in place.”
Ward’s promoter, Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions, also expressed optimism.
“It’s unbelievable the progress Andre has made in the period of time since the surgery,” said Goossen. “Seeing him working out in the boxing gym is just the next step toward the recovery process.”
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.
“For somebody like me that competes at a world-class level, it can be frustrating at times to not be able to do what I love to do, which is to box. But all of these things that you go through make you who you are,” said Ward.
“This is just something else that I have to persevere through and it will help me become the person I’m supposed to be. These injuries and setbacks are something that every top athlete has to overcome.”
Ward once 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 was helpful as Ward reamined positive. Ward is banking on considering any number of options upon his return.
With a victory, Hopkins, who turned 48 last month, 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.
Three-time 168-pound titlewinners Mikkel Kessler and Froch — the latter of whom lost by unanimous decision to Kessler in April of 2010 — are also going to fight in a return bout on May 25.
In the meantime, Ward made an appearance as an HBO a ringside commentator last month for the Top Rank triple-header in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
The event was headlined by unbeaten featherweight Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia’s eighth-round unanimous technical decision victory that dethroned Orlando Salido as WBO beltholder, featured Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin’s seventh-round stoppage of former junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado, and, also, a disputed split-draw between Puerto Rican WBO junior lightweight beltholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez and Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos.
“A lot of times, people just focus on the high times. I want to take this low time and make it work for me. I want to show my fans that I’m focused, and that I’m still working,” said Ward.
“Whenever we get the opportunity to step in to the ring for the first time, they’re going to see what I’ve been doing on my down time. I’m still focused and I’m still grinding.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo Credit: FIGHT CAMP 360°/SHOWTIME
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org