Andre Ward Stays Hungry

Former super middleweight champion Andre Ward shared some insights on how he has managed to stay undefeated since he was 12 years old, speaking at a press conference in Oakland on Thursday.

Thirty two year old Ward, who is unbeaten in 29 bouts, is now campaigning in the light heavyweight division. Along with Floyd Mayweather, Ward is considered as one of the most focused fighters in boxing.

Many talented fighters have been billed as the next great thing in boxing, but they succumbed to distractions before reaching their potential.

“It could be a combination of things,” said Ward during a briefing with reporters during a press conference at Lake Merritt Amphitheater. “Part of it is the type of individual you are and what is important to you. Is going out and partying important? Or is successful and winning important? You’re going to do what is important to you. The other part is how you were raised. I was raised almost like [I was in the] military.

“When I see the young fighters now in the Olympics and they’re Snapchatting, I’m thinking: What are they doing? Turn your phone off. But that may be what gets them through.”

He continued: “Its how bad you want it. Whatever makes you tick, you gotta keep banging away. I don’t think there is a special sauce. I think its just consistency.”

One notable name of a fighter who hasn’t lived up to his potential is Adrien Broner, the 27-year-old junior welterweight from Cincinnati, whom many pundits expected to be the next star in boxing but has had several run-ins with the law.

Ward said he was lucky to have a strict father and a former probation officer in Virgil Hunter as his trainer.

“Even if I didn’t listen right away, I knew if I was getting into something I would hear their voices at the back of my head…It is [focusing on] what is in front of me,” Ward said. “It is boring, it is mundane, but that’s the recipe.”

Ward will fight Alexander Brand at Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Saturday. If he wins, he will face undefeated Russian Sergey Kovalev in a fight that is billed as boxing’s biggest fight of 2016.

Kovalev, known as “The Krusher,” is a powerful puncher who has knocked out 26 of his 30 opponents. Boxing observers consider Kovalev  and Canadian light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson as the best fighters in the division. They see Brand as a limited but tough opponent who will give Ward the rounds he needs before the expected fight with Kovalev in November.

Brand has a record of 25 wins and one loss in 26 fights but boxing insiders don’t expect him to pose a challenge to Ward. Brand said: “I want to have a good fight. I worked very hard. It’s really a true honor to be in the ring with a champion like Andre Ward.”

Hunter doesn’t expect any problems against Brand on Saturday night, nor against any fighter in the light heavyweight division.

“It really boils down to skills,” said Hunter. “They’re not bigger than him. They look bigger but they’re not bigger than him. It is just the way they’re built. He’s built different. Nobody has a size advantage at all. He’s been there long enough now where he’s settling in [at light-heavyweight] that he has to make the weight too.”

Ward took the boxing world by storm when he won the Super Six World Boxing Classic — a tournament which featured the best super middleweight boxers — in 2011.

But a combination of injuries and a legal dispute with his former promoter Dan Goossen kept him out of the ring for 19 months. A knee injury kept Ward away from the ring for another nine months before he moved up to the light heavyweight division to fight Sullivan Barrera in March. Some boxing fans and sections of the boxing media have criticized Ward’s absence from the ring and his cautious fighting style.

Ward touched on those issues when he spoke to the media on Thursday.

“I think what we have to understand is that this is a game called life. I don’t regret anything I went through,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’m happy I went through it. It made me a stronger man. I became a better business man. It’s important for people to not just see you when you’re up, but to see you when you’re going through it.

“Everybody knows where I want to be. I want to be the light-heavyweight champion of the world. A two-division champion.”

And, Ward, said: “Its impossible for me to overlook this man. I’m not built like that. I’m not raised like that. I wasn’t groomed like that as a young fighter. I don’t operate like that. This man is coming. This is his Super Bowl… Because it’s his Super Bowl, this has to be my Super Bowl. My ribs are showing. I’m hungry. See you on Saturday night.”

(OAKLAND — Andre Ward (right) fights against Sullivan Barrera in their light heavyweight bout at Oracle Arena on March 26; Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)