Andre "S.O.G" Ward has been amongst the best fighters in boxing for many years now, but after his last ring performance against Chad Dawson in which he dominated and stopped the then light heavyweight champion, he cemented himself as the #2 pound for pound fighter in the world. It has been almost a year since that fight and one thing we have not seen since then is Andre Ward back in the ring to capitalize off his new found stature in the sport.
During the 197th edition of "On The Ropes" I had a chance to catch up with Andre Ward to discuss his inactivity and some of the reasons that have prevented him from returning to the ring. Andre also talks about some of the options he has been looking at for his ring return and when he thinks we might see him fight again. Additionally Ward gives his thoughts on a potential rematch with Super Middleweight rival Carl Froch and how he thinks that fight would play out if they were to meet in "The Cobra's" home country. Here is what Andre Ward had to say in part 1 of my interview with him.
Jenna J: It’s a pleasure to have you back on the show Andre. Now the first thing is, fans have been wondering what your future’s looking like and they’re wondering when you’re gonna return to the ring. What can you let the fans know about your future plans?
Andre Ward: Well they can know that I’m healthy, I’m rested, I feel good and I have actually been ready to fight for months now. My promoters and my manager are in discussions with HBO right now, just trying to work through some things in the business side that I can’t dive into at the moment because they’re in the thick of it, but you know opponents and obviously compensation for whoever those opponents are, just that kind of thing. When you’re in a situation like this you gotta stay motivated and I’ve been off for a while but it’s a good thing from the standpoint of letting my body rest.
People jump to conclusions sometimes and they think “Oh here’s another set back.” But you gotta understand that I’ve been boxing for 20 years, 10 years as an amateur and I’m coming up on my 10th year as a pro and I grind and train really, really hard in between fights for every fight that I got coming up. So sometimes when you hit moments like this, even though it’s frustrating and you wanna be in the ring, my body is thanking me because I got years of a grind on it. It’s just allowed me to rest up and charge my battery so when I get the phone call that we got a date, I’m ready to rock and roll.
Jenna J: It’s approaching now the one year mark of the last time you were in the ring, it was an impressive performance against Chad Dawson. It solidified you as the number 2 pound for pound fighter in the world after that performance. Are you surprised that you were unable to get back in the ring, I know you had the injury, you had the fight set up with Kelly Pavlik, but do you really think you would have already fought by now?
Andre Ward: Well the thing is this, obviously we had a good fight on the books, Kelly Pavlik was a big name in the sport, people can say what they wanna say but Kelly’s coming to fight, he’s got a lot of pop and you know, it was a big opportunity for Kelly. I think it would have been a tremendous fight to come off of the Chad Dawson fight.
Obviously the injury happened and like I said, I’ve been ready the last couple of months and at some point I’ll be able to talk about what’s been going on the last couple months but it’s more or less just my team trying to fight for me the way the way I feel I should be fought for.
I’m realistic about where I am in my career right now, I’m the number 2 fighter in the world and my teams job is to fight for me like I’m the number 2 fighter in the world, and that’s what’s been the hold up. There’s been some back and forth as far as negotiations and opponents and that kind of thing. But I’m hopeful and I believe we’re gonna get back in the ring this year and hopefully pick up where we left off.
Jenna J: Now Andre, I know you said earlier that you’re working on names and dates with HBO for your next fight and I know you don’t wanna give away too much cause you don’t wanna cost any of those negotiations but can you let the fans know what names you’re at least looking at, a general list of names that we can possibly see you in the ring with?
Andre Ward: Well there were some names that were thrown out in the press that weren’t exactly accurate but one of the names was accurate which was Dimitri Sartison who’s a former world champion, he’s only lost to two champions. Is he a mega fight? No he’s not a mega fight but he’s the right fight, a fighter that’s gonna push me, test me and I felt like he was HBO worthy, to come back off the surgery. That’s been part of the issue that we’ve been going through with HBO and at the moment.
The whole situation is just, HBO’s pushing, my team’s pushing and we’re just trying to get this thing worked out. So I don’t really know who it’s gonna be but at the end of the day I’m not ducking and dodging anybody, you know whether it’s Stevenson, whether it’s Golovkin, whether it’s Carl Froch, who doesn’t wanna fight anymore. You name it, I’m not ducking and dodging anybody, I’ve never ducked or dodged a fighter in my career and since 2009 I fought nothing but the best. From the way I stand right now, the network wants to continue to throw me lions and bears so we just gotta get ready for the lions and the bears.
Jenna J: Alright, now you mentioned a minute ago that believe Carl Froch doesn't want to fight you, I obviously watched the fight that he had on HBO against Mikkel Kessler, and it did seem that he was not as keen on a rematch with you right away. In regards to that fight, do you want that fight more than he wants it, even though you've beaten him?
Andre Ward: I mean, not really. At the end of the day the only reason we’re even talking about a fight with this guy is cause he keeps talking. People have to understand that that's what fighters do. When you have a fighter like Froch, who’s as arrogant as he is, his fans, not an American fans, but UK fans push him and pressure him, in person or on Twitter, you name it. They say “Hey man, what about Ward?” So he has to come out and say something like “I’ll fight Ward any time.” He has to defend that tough guy mentality and reputation that he’s given himself.
Like I told everybody that once I left the UK, I said this is what’s gonna happen; they’re gonna talk in front of the cameras, they’re gonna talk on the websites they’re gonna get on the radio shows, they’re gonna say one thing, but behind closed doors they don't want the fight. Here’s the deal, if a fighter wants a fight, they’re gonna make it happen. He wants to do whatever he can to avoid it, try to close out his career on a high and I don't blame the guy. But stop bringing my name up, be honest with the fans, be honest with yourself and say I don't want to fight the guy no more.
I'm not the type of fighter to chase a guy who makes it clear that he doesn't want to fight, but when my name keeps coming up then I say, hey lets fight, you wanna fight lets fight. And then we find out he doesn't wanna fight. Those are the games that are played and unfortunately the fans, they get involved, they get excited and riled up, but really a lot of the time it’s just talk.
And all this stuff about being boring and being this, turn the tape on. Froch is this warrior and this tough guy, you didn't see Andre Ward running. I don't run in fights, I'm still right there right in his wheel house where he thought he wanted me but it was a lot different than he expected. I was injured and hurt going into the fight and I'm not chasing or looking for this fight but if it happens it’s gonna be a whole other story fully healthy coming in there against Froch if we fight again.
Jenna J: I spoke to Carl Froch not too long ago, and he said that he wanted the fight with you because he wanted to avenge his only other loss, but he would only take it if you were willing to go over to the UK. He believes that you coming over to the UK it will throw you out of your comfort zone and have the fans against you for the first time in your career. What do you think of Carl's view on taking that fight with you?
Andre Ward: At the end of the day he's not in a position to call shots. I've been perfectly clear in America through the American media and on some of the UK's biggest networks and radio shows you know, the BBC, Sky Sports, you name it. I have no problem talking about it, I'm not ruling out going to the UK and it’s not to accommodate Froch, it’s more or less for the fans.
You have to understand that I have a huge fan base in the UK and that would be more of a thank you to them to come and fight there because they keep asking me to come fight there. It’s not gonna be cheap to get me to the UK, cause I don't have to fight, I don't have to come to the UK. It’s not something that I have to do, I'm not chasing him and trying to avenge the loss to him, so that's the misconception that fans start to believe the stuff that's being said sometimes if somebody doesn't correct them. So listen, we can talk about it and we can see what the numbers are and see if it makes sense but I thrive of it.
I've been fighting on the road my whole career. People have this misconception that I've fought in Oakland my whole career. Just go to Boxrec, that's why I love Boxrec, look at the amount of times I've fought in Oakland, five times, you can count them on one hand, and then count the number of times he's fought in Nottingham. It’s almost exclusively throughout his whole career. So tell me who's been fighting at home and who hasn't. These are the things that people have got to dig a little bit, don't just read the article and believe what you hear, do your research.
Jenna J: Do you have any fear going over to the UK because of the last fight even though you clearly won it, I scored it nine rounds to three for you. It was officially on the scorecards as seven rounds to five. They had it as a close fight. Do you think that if you go over to the UK that there's a chance that if it is close, there is a chance you could potentially get robbed? Is that a risk to you going over there?
Andre Ward: Yeah, two out of the three judges had it seven rounds to five but the UK judge had it the right way. That was the third judge, the UK judge had it the way it was supposed to be 118-110. That's the way the fight should have been scored. I think what happened is that he made such a fuss about getting his fair shake that I think that maybe those judges, and I don't know those judges personally, but I think they overcompensated and made sure that he had a fair shake and they overcompensated. That being said, of course they are going to try and give him anything close and allow Froch to ride off into the sunset as the hero if I go over there.
My job, if I chose to go over there, is to not make it close from round one to round twelve and it’s gonna be a totally different fight than it was the first time. I think I put on a good performance the first fight given the circumstances but second time around its gonna be a whole other ball game. My job is to not make it close but you better believe they are gonna try and find any reason they can to try and give him the fight. That's the whole point of him trying to get me to the UK.
Jenna J: Speaking of Carl Froch, he actually has a fight coming up on November 23rd against the undefeated George Groves. Do you see George Groves posing any kind of threat to Carl?
Andre Ward: Well he's got two hands so of course he's gonna be a threat to Froch. I've actually only seen Groves fight one time which was when I was in the UK calling the fight on the under-card of Froch's fight with Kessler and I think he's a good fighter, I like his attitude, he's not an arrogant kid but he's confident and you've gotta be confident in the sport. He's been calling for Froch probably for the last year and a half. I know they have sparred together and I don't know how those sessions went but I think you have to give him a shot.
I think Froch has the edge, he has more championship experience and he knows how to go the rounds at a high level, but these fights can be tricky. You've got a kid like George Groves who's hungry, he hasn't lost and he's been in the ring with Froch before so he has an idea at least with headgear on and big gloves of what Froch brings to the table, what his temperament is like, what his conditioning is like and he doesn't seem to be intimated by whatever happened in those sparring sessions because he's called for this fight so you gotta give the slight edge to Froch with the experience but this is one of those fights where there can be an upset, there's no guarantee that Froch is gonna get his hand raised.