By: Patrick Mascoe
Floyd Mayweather was a great boxer and he made sure that everyone knew it. He was every bit as brash and assertive outside the ring as he was inside the ring. Andre Ward may very well have been as talented as Floyd Mayweather inside the ring, but that is where their similarities end. Ward never seemed to need or crave the attention the way Floyd did. He quietly went about his business and practiced his craft like a true professional. When it was all said and done, Ward retired from boxing on September 21, 2017, an Olympic gold medalist, undefeated after 13 years as a professional boxer with a record of 32 – 0, and was a two-division world champion.
On June 17, 2018, Ward appeared in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in support of the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club. He spoke candidly about his career and about his future.
Q. Tell us about your early years in boxing?
AW. “If it was up to my Dad, I would never have made it this far. At 9 he took me to a gym but said I didn’t have it. I needed to go back to playing baseball. But Virgil Hunter (who has trained Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo, Abner Mares, and Andre Berto) said, “Calm down, give him some time and he’ll figure it out.” Sure enough I did. I was fortunate to have both my Dad and Virgil on my side because I would not be the man I am today without them. My Dad used to say when I was 12 years old, “Son, don’t have fifty guys around you patting you on the back telling you how great you are. If you ever make it, just have a core group of guys that you care about and your family around you.” It was lessons like that that allowed me to avoid pitfalls.”
Q. Was it important for you to leave the sport of boxing while you were still on top?
AW. “As a little boy I used to study the sport of boxing and I would hear boxers talk a good game about making their money and making their mark and I’m gone. Then I would see them get to the top and have a good run, but they didn’t always follow through on the stuff they said they were going to do in terms of leaving on top. Boxers of the past fought for legacy first and money second. It’s a little bit different today. I promised myself as a kid that I would be one of the ones who would leave when I still had something left in the tank.”
Q. What do you think was your greatest achievement in boxing?
AW. “Against Sergey Kovalev, I got knocked down and I was behind in that fight. So I had to do something I’ve never had to do and that was come from behind. In most of my fights, I was usually ahead by four or five rounds. But not in that one. So I had to show another side of myself. I had the opportunity to do something I had never had to do before. Then all of a sudden, I win the fight. Then I hear chatter that maybe I didn’t win the fight. So I said ok, he asked for a rematch, so I gave him a rematch. But I think the way we won that second fight, the emphatic victory, we left no doubt. I thought this was the perfect time to ride off into the sunset.”
Q. You are involved in many benevolent causes. What is it about boxing that has stirred your interest in helping others?
AW. “Not everyone is supposed to be a fighter, but everyone has a gift or a talent and they should have the chance to exercise it as best they can whatever that may be. People need to put their money where their mouth is. In the case of helping youth, half the battle is just showing up. We are here, we support you, you have options, and you don’t have to make bad decisions.”
Q. Any thoughts of a comeback?
AW. “Just a brief thought, then poof it goes away just like that.”
Q. What does the immediate future hold for Andre Ward?
AW. “I’m involved in my church, I speak at schools, and in prisons. I have been doing some boxing commentary and had the chance to play a small part in the movie Creed. I’m also involved in Creed II. I enjoyed the action and I hope I get some more opportunities in the field of acting.”
Q. I know you have very strong Christian beliefs and that your ring moniker was ‘Son of God’. So what is your favourite Bible verse?
AW. ‘2nd Corinthians 12:9-10’. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” “That quote encompasses the story of my life.”
Many people confuse the words meek with weak. Andre Ward is not a weak man. He is meek, quiet and humble. When he speaks he often uses the word ‘we’ acknowledging those who have helped him become successful. He never felt the need to disrespect opponents or trash talk to sell tickets. His boxing spoke for itself. Andre Ward deserved to have a larger following and greater endorsements than he did during his career. That being said, he has left the sport with his legacy intact and, I assume, financially secure. I hope he continues to fend off the desire to return to the ring and just enjoys his retirement and his family, while he patiently awaits his call to the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.