RING and WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward expressed confidence that he will return to the ring in "March or April" on HBO despite an ongoing contractual rift and his involvement in a lawsuit seeking separation from career-long promoter Dan Goossen.
A 29-year-old 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Ward (27-0, 14 knockouts) is THE RING's No. 2-rated fighter, pound-for-pound, behind RING 147- and 154-pound champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ward was last in the ring when he ended a 14-month absence with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez that followed a 10th-round knockout of then-RING and WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in September of 2012.
"In the sport of boxing, there's always a lot going on. I care about business, in general, both my business in the ring and my business outside of the ring. I'm monitoring that situation, so my team is actively working on that. There's really not a lot of movement right now as far as my out-of-the ring business with the lawsuit and everything like that," said Ward, who is co-promoted by Antonio Leonard and managed by James Prince.
"In the same breath, James Prince is actively working on my next fight, which I'm hoping will be sometime in March or April. In the meantime, I'm just getting back into the swing of things, and getting my body toned back up and just getting back into the gym and doing what I do, which is staying ready. Honestly, right now, I don't see a reason why I wouldn't be in the ring. Those are a few of the dates that were given to us from HBO, and I don't see a reason why we wouldn't fight. I don't think that it would be beneficial for anybody for me not to be in the ring in March or April. So I think that that's definitely something that is going to happen.
Ward endured successful surgery in early January of 2013 to repair his injured right shoulder, which forced the cancelation of a scheduled March defense against former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik. Prior to the facing Dawson, Ward earned a unanimous decision over current IBF belholder Carl "The Cobra" Froch in December of 2011 in their bout for THE RING, WBA and WBC belts.
Ward said that he would consider making his next fight against previously unbeaten 168-pounder George "Saint" Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) who scored a first-round knockdown during November's disputed ninth-round stoppage loss to Froch (32-2, 23 KOs) in an all-British brawl. Froch earned his fourth straight win and his third knockout during that run against Groves since falling to Ward.
While sidelined due to his surgery, Ward began working as a ringside commentator in January of last year, making his debut on a Top Rank triple-header in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
The Boxing After Dark 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.
Ward was most recently ringside for December's HBO card in Atlantic City that featured stoppage victory by junior middleweight James Kirkland over Glen Tapia on the undercard of a unanimous decision by RING, WBA and WBO junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux over ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko.
"I think that the whole reason that HBO has me there is just to give a different viewpoint into explaining the mind of a fighter and to explain what that fighter is going through. You have, obviously, the great Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman and guys who are very seasoned in the game, and who are a lot more seasoned than I am. But there is an element that I bring, or that Roy Jones Jr. brings, or that a fighter brings to the broadcast booth," said Ward.
"It's maybe that we're talking about something that we can bring that, if you haven't bring into the ring before, then, maybe you can't know about. The key is just to call it like I see it and to take the viewing audience and the fans into the mind of a fighter and to break down, not just what's happening, but what the fighters are going through. But it all works together, and I'm just thankful for the opportunity to be able to do that. Those guys, Max and Jim, they're encouraging me, and I feel like I'm getting better and better every time out."
Although he has never headlined his own pay per view event and often endures media criticism for his marketability in relations to other fighters such as Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, Ward, a deeply spiritual married father, claims that he won't sell out on his principals or his style to become more palatable to his critics.
"The thing is that some of the things that fighters have to deal with are things that have been going on in the sport for longer than I've been on the scene, and it's going to continue long after I'm gone. No. 1, I don't read a lot of the stuff that's written, and, No. 2, I just choose to focus on the positive. If you let my critics tell it, I don't have a fan base and my style is boring and nobody wants to see me and this and that. But if you really look at the numbers, and if you look at the facts, and if you look at my career as a whole, you will see that a lot of that is just simply inaccurate. I see people every day, man. I've been to Belize, I've been to the East Coast, the Midwest, the United Kingdom where people will come up to me and thank me for what I'm doing and just tell me that they're inspired by what I do, and what I stand for, and the way that carry myself," said Ward, whose trainer, Virgil Hunter, has spoken out in his defense.
"Those are people who don't really have a voice, and sometimes, the people who do have a voice, they voice their opinion, but you have to understand that that's one man's voice and just one man's opinion. But all over the world, I'm hearing other people's opinions, and the public, so I say all of that I don't really put too much stock into what is written. Some of what these guys are writing is personal. They've got a personal vendetta. But it's not all of them. There's a lot of great websites, and there are a lot of great writers out there, that are objective and they call it like they see it and they're fair about it. But once you've been in the professional ranks for a certain time, then you understand that negative press, whether warranted or not, is going to come at some point and you just learn how to deal with it."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com