By Rhett Butler December 20, 2013, 05:45 PM EST
There's a quote that Andre Ward uses to steer him through his athletic career. Coined by his Godfather & head trainer, Virgil Hunter, it goes, “boxing is prize fighting not pride fighting.” It's a profound statement because in a competition so personal to the athlete, especially since it's not a team sport, one can easily allow their emotions to goad them into dangerous territory. However, Ward and his magi use this statement to guide through the potential dangers.
“You may be offered a certain situation or a certain fighter and there is a lot of pride involved and your pride can get in the way of you making the right business decision. But the culture of boxing right now is that if it’s not a blood and guts affair then it wasn’t a good fight and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I think it’s just a mindset. It’s an understanding and it’s our culture and that doesn’t mean that I’m a reluctant warrior. I get in there, I give it my all, and I fight, I rumble, I do what I’ve got to do. I understand the sport that I’m in. I’m in the hurt business I’m a professional fighter. But I also do it for a reward. I do it for a prize. And I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind.”
One rival looking to derail Ward’s Zen-like focus is Carl Froch, the IBF and WBA Super Middleweight Champion. One of Froch’s two losses comes from Ward. And since then, Froch has been on a mission to avenge his losses. He recently achieved revenge over his other defeat to Mikkel Kessler this past May. Through a myriad of trash-talking Froch has made it no secret that he wants Ward.
“He has to preserve an image, he does a lot of talking, he’s got a lot of bravado so he’s got to uphold that image in the eyes of his fans, and then also the media. I feel like I beat Carl Froch handedly in our first fight. I feel like I wasn’t at my best, I went into the fight with a fractured hand, and I felt like I put on a good performance - not a great performance. And since then, he’s done a lot of talking. He’s tried to belittle the decision [and] make it seem like he had an off night so I’m open for a rematch. I have a really big fan base in the U.K. He’s got a big fan base in the U.K. And I can’t say this about a lot of guys that I’ve fought, probably no other guys that I’ve fought, but the bad blood between me and him is legitimate. We don’t like each other and we’re not shy about saying it and its nothing personal its just he’s a competitor. Carl Froch is going to be a Hall of Famer and I’m trying to build a Hall of Fame career, so you get those ingredients. I think that’s a fight that fans are going to be interested in.”
Ward recently beat Edwin Rodriguez via unanimous decision this past November in his hometown of Oakland, California. He's the first undefeated fighter Ward has ever dismantled. The win was fresh off the heels of an injury, and two public battles with his promoter Goossen Tutor and the WBC, who stripped Ward of his title due to inactivity, and exchanged it for the placeholder title of Champion Emeritus. Ward rejected the olive branch, because it made yet another purpose clear - one centered around standing your ground in the face of adversity.
“The last 14 months, that’s how long the layoff was. It was an accumulation of a major injury, a torn rotator cup, a major surgery, just grueling rehab and then from there, once I got done with the physical ailments, then I had to switch to the business side. Some issues with my promoter, we went to arbitration. The WBC they stripped me of my belt, I felt unjustly. I’m not trying to just start fights or make a stand for no reason but I felt like this is wrong and there’s some deeper rooted issues from a political standpoint on why I felt like they were taking the stance they took. I just felt like its time to make a stand so I told them, 'Hey, appreciate the champion emeritus status, but I’m going to go ahead and give you guys the full belt back and you guys can do what you want to do with it.' And I was pleased to see how much support I got.”
Through all the battles out of the ring, Ward - who started out with a goal of just mastering the technicalities of boxing - considers himself more like an athletic ambassador. His passion for athlete’s rights is as ferocious as his passion to stay undefeated and this new purpose drives his S.O.G. Promotions.
“One of the saddest things in the world is an ex-fighter, an ex-athlete, who went through the training camps, who took the punishment, went through the injuries, maybe sustained injuries that they’re going to have to deal with long after their career is over, but have nothing tangible to show for it. That bothers me. Not just for myself, but when I see [it] that that bothers me. I’m passionate about that. So I think it’s my duty to try to make right decisions to be an example. And then when I get the chance to talk to a young fighter and say, 'Man listen, make sure your business is tight. If you don’t understand something ask questions. My phone is always on and I’m available, but then try to get you somebody to help you understand to not accept this and to ask for more.'”