RING and WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward shared his thoughts during a recent Q&A concerning a likely September return to the ring after successfully undergone surgery in early January to repair his injured right shoulder, and potential opponents including former WBC middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the top light heavyweight division, among other things.
The injury to Ward (26-0, 14 knockouts) forced the cancelation of his scheduled March 2 defense against former undisputed middleweight titleholder Kelly Pavlik.
Promoted by Dan Goossen, and managed by James Prince, Ward, 29, is coming off an HBO-televised 10th-round knockout of RING and WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson last September, which followed a win over Carl Froch in December of 2011 by unanimous decision in the finals of Showtime’s Super Six tournament.
Last month, however, the WBC declared Ward its “Champion Emeritus,” essentially stripping him of the belt. As a result, the June 22 clash between Cameroon native Sakio Bika and Mexico’s unbeaten Marco Antonio Periban will be for the WBC’s belt formerly held by Ward. In November of 2010, Ward unanimously decisioned Bika by scores of 118-110, 118-110, and 120-108.
Meanwhile, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said Chavez Jr. will face either England’s once-beaten Martin Murray at 160 pounds or Brian Vera at 165 pounds on Aug. 3 in Mexico City. Chavez, 27, was last in the ring for September’s unanimous decision loss to 160-pound champion Sergio Martinez, whom Chavez Jr. dropped in the 12th round.
During his time off, Ward has worked as an HBO ringside commentator, and expects to watch Dawson in that capacity on June 8 when the light heavyweight champ faces hard-punching super middleweight contender Adonis “Superman” Stevenson.
Ward spoke to RingTV.com in this Q&A:
RingTV.com: How are you doing, physically?
Andre Ward: Physically, I’m good. There have been no setbacks. No concerns. There are none concerning the rehab or anything. I’m right where I want to be, and we’re looking forward to a September return.
RTV: Where are you, exactly, in your training with Hunter?
AW: I mean, basically, at this stage, there is nothing that I can’t do as far as the rehabbing is concerned. The rehab is basically just strength work. Pushups, pullups, a lot of weights. I’m putting on a little extra mass right now, and that’s by design.
I’m in the gym two or three days a week and we’re just going to keep on picking things up in the gym, little by little, as we get closer to the training camp. But right now, I’m hitting the mitts and shadowboxing. I’m jumping rope and doing everything that I would normally do.
I haven’t sparred yet, and that’s probably the last piece to the puzzle. But that’s just a matter of me getting my body to a point where, you know, I’m in shape to the point where I feel comfortable sparring. But there is nothing holding me back, and there are no limitations right now.
RTV: When you say mass, how big are you?
AW: I mean, that’s part of the program. I can’t just work one side of the body. When I’m building up the shoulder that was surgically repaired, I have to build up the other side too. So I’m putting on a little extra muscle at the moment.
I’ll shed some of that the more cardio that I start doing and the more that I’m in the boxing gym. So I’m not too worried about the extra bulk right now. It’s not 20 pounds or anything. But it’s a lot more than I normally carry around.
RTV: How much would you say that you weight right now?
AW: Man, I normally don’t like to talk about that [laughs.] I’ll let people guess and try to figure it out. That’s not something that I really broadcast. In boxing, there are certain things that I don’t like to talk about, and that’s one of them.
I see it in my upperbody. There’s no doubt about it. You can see it. I’ve had people comment on it, like, ‘Man, you look big,” but I don’t think that it’s anything like 10 or 15 pounds. But it’s more than I usually carry, so I feel like it’s noticeable.
RTV: Does the decision by the WBC to declare you “Champion Emeritus” bother you?
AW: It does bother me, and I have my thoughts on it, but it’s not time to talk about that right now. We’re actively dealing with that right now. I hope that we can come to a proper resolution. If not, then I have some decisions to make about that.
RTV: Do you know when your next HBO broadcast opportunity will be?
AW: At the moment, it looks like that’s on June 8, and that’s the card with Chad Dawson and Adonis Stevenson.
RTV: What will you be looking for in Dawson, given his loss to you in his last fight?
AW: I don’t think that it’s so much what I’m looking for, but what I think that he has to show is that he still has it. It’s unfortunate that, a lot of times — and I understand that it’s sometimes the best answer that they can come up with — but they make excuses when the fight doesn’t go the way that they thought it was supposed to go.
That’s unfortunate, because if you look at the buildup to the fight between Chad and I, across the board, with reporters to the 24/7, to everything they said, the weight was never an issue. But when the fight happened the way that it happened, and they weren’t expecting for it to go that way, then you get a lot of excuses.
But for the most part, in this fight, he has to show that he still has it, and I mean, that he has it all the way around the board. That he is who the fans are used to seeing, and that’s the old Chad Dawson.
RTV: What does Dawson have to overcome, mentally?
AW: I think that he has to get a good read on himself in sparring, even though sparring and fighting are two different things. He’s getting a read, and he has a great coach with Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
I just think that he has to show that he can take a shot. That he can still take a shot, and that he can deal with a strong guy like Stevenson, who, at the moment, doesn’t feel like he can be beat.
I know that Stevenson has a loss on his record, but, he avenged that, and Adonis Stevenson feels, for the most part, invincible right now. Does Chad Dawson have what it takes to change his mind?
RTV: What questions do you feel that you need to answer in your own return to the ring in September?
AW: You and I have talked about this a lot. That element of the haters and the doubters and the critics, that element is always going to be there. So I’ve gotten to a point in my career and my life where I embrace it. I don’t run from it, I don’t duck it, I embrace it, because I understand that that element is always going to be there.
There are always going to be those skeptics in the crowd that are going to say, “Well, you did this, but what about this guy?” It comes with the territory, so I embrace that. So you have the usual I know that people are going to be wondering if I’m still the same coming off of the surgery. But those are just things that come with the territory.
I’m thankful, though, that this setback is just part of my story. Sometimes, people look at injuries as the end of the world, but that’s part of my story. Kobe [Bryant] is going through it right now. A lot of great athletes have gone through it.
So it’s something that I’ve had to fight through for the last four or five months, just to mentally battle through it. But I feel like I’m on the other side of it, now, and I think that, even more than the skeptics and the doubters, that people are just anticipating my return. That’s what’s exciting. People are excited about what’s next for Andre Ward.
RTV: So what is next for Ward?
AW: Right now, I’m a 168-pounder. When Chad Dawson called me out, I was a 168-pounder. I’m still that. Like I have said, I’m putting on a little extra muscle right now as part of the program that I’m on. I don’t think that there will be any issues returning to 168 pounds.
I don’t know how hard it will be until I actually try to do it. But right now, I’m a 168-pounder. The move up to 175 is definitely something that I want to do. I’ve said that before. Being a multi-divisional champion is something that is very important to me.
That’s something that many great fighters have done before me, and I want to follow in their footsteps. Right now, it’s an interesting time in my career because some people are saying that there’s nobody to fight. But I beg to differ. You know, my manager, James Prince, he’s doing his job right now.
We’re just putting together the right plan. We want to make our next move our best move. It’s not just about taking any fight right now, it’s about taking the right fight to maximize the exposure and to maximize the revenue and to just take me to that point in my career where I need to be.
RTV: Care to mention any potential names?
AW: I don’t have any names. I don’t have just one guy. I’ll mention Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. because he said that he was coming up in weight. It’s clear that he’s had issues with weight. I feel that if he comes to 168, then he has to see me.
That’s just how I feel about it. I don’t feel like there’s any bigger fight out there for him. I don’t feel like there is any bigger fight out there for me, just from a pay per view standpoint. I’ve also always had a desire to go to the United Kingdom when I’m ready to go to the UK, and not when somebody demands that I go.
So, there’s a tremendous fan base over there, and that’s an option if the right situation comes up. I’m talking about whoever. I feel like me against any good fighter over there would be a huge fight. Not just for me, personally, but also, for the UK fans, because I’ve got a tremendous fan base in the UK, and that would just be something personal for me to give to them.
I’m at a point in my career where I don’t have to go chasing people, but there are certain matchups that would be big and would be exciting for the fans, and that would be a Chavez Jr. But at this point in time, there is really no one name that I have to call out. But I just want to be ready when my name is called, and that’s always been how I’ve operated.
RTV: Would a Chavez fight be right for as early as September?
AW: I don’t think that we would fight as early as September, if he is, in fact, coming up in weight. I’ve heard him say out of his own mouth that he wants to fight me and that he would be willing to fight me. And then, I heard that he’s staying down.
So there are a lot of things that would have to fall into place for that fight to happen. But if he does come up to 168, it would be probably be a fight that would have to happen at the end of the year or during the first quarter of next year.
RTV: In closing, what do you want your fans to know in relation to September?
AW: Right now, unless something drastic happens, it’s going to be 168. I’m the super middleweight champion, so that’s my weight class, and I shouldn’t have any problems getting down to 168. As far as the exact date in September, we’re still working on that.
I don’t want to speak out of turn, so I can’t really say what that date will be. But I will tell the fans this: From Day One, I’ve documented my return. I’ve gotten everything put into a documentary, and we’re putting it together right now. That’s something that we want to get out to the fans before my next fight.
There are a lot of vulnerable moments in there. I mean, there is some real stuff. As soon as this happened, I thought, ‘I don’t want to disappear for four or five months and not keep the fans abreast of what’s going on, because it’s easy for the fans to see you during the high times.
But I also want people to see me right now, during one of my lowest moments so that they can see the reality of my life, and see the reality of this sport and the ups and downs of what we go through. So that’s coming soon. I’m personally doing the documentary. We’re going to put it out there, hopefully, before my next fight.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com