Roc Nation Sports hosted an international media conference call on Monday, June 15 with Olympic Gold Medalist and reigning WBA Super Middleweight World Champion Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KO’s) and former World Title Challenger Paul Smith (35-5, 20 KO’s) of England. Below is a transcript of the international media conference call.
Ward vs. Smith, a 12 round bout presented by Roc Nation Sports, takes place Saturday, June 20 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, will be televised live on BET and streamed globally on TIDAL.com at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT and is presented in association with Matchroom Sport. The fight is sponsored by The Waterfront Hotel, Venue Kings, Shoe Palace, CTMS Travel, U-BOAT, FanDuel, Fandango, Q 102.1, 95.7 the GAME and KBLX 102.9. In addition to the great action inside the ring, the event will feature several notable Roc Nation touches that will further serve spectators with an enhanced fan experience, including Nipsey Hussle taking to the ring for a special performance prior to the main event.
For more information please visit www.rocnation.com. Follow Roc Nation on Twitter and Instagram @rocnation and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RocNation.
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David Itskowitch: Thank you, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. Welcome to the Andre Ward versus Paul Smith Conference Call. My name is David Itskowitch. I’m the Chief Operating Officer of Roc Nation Sports – Boxing. Ward versus Smith takes place this weekend, Saturday, June 20 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California and will be televised live on BET and streamed live globally on TIDAL.com at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT. The fight is presented by Roc Nation Sports in association with Matchroom Sport and sponsored by The Waterfront Hotel, Venue Kings, Shoe Palace, CTMS Travel, Q102.1, 957 The Game and KBLX 102.9.
In addition to the main event, we also have an intriguing co-feature pitting two undefeated prospects against each other in Cleveland’s Antonio Nieves and Stephon Young of St. Louis in an eight-round featherweight fight.
In addition to the great action inside the ring, the event is going to feature several notable Roc Nation touches that will enhance the in-arena experience for fans and those watching on TV and on BET and on TIDAL, including Nipsey Hussle taking to the ring for a special performance prior to the main event.
The event will be hosted by notable emcee Sway Calloway from Oakland and will also feature hit master DJ Franzen who will serve alongside Sway throughout the night.
Tickets starting at $30 are still available through Ticketmaster. We urge everybody to get their tickets as soon as possible. This is obviously a very exciting time in Oakland with the Warriors poised to capture their first world championship in 40 years. We’re really thrilled to be a part of the excitement that the city is feeling right now and proud to be part of what could really, really, really be a special week in the city of Oakland.
We have the participants in the main event on the call today. Now to say a few words and introduce Paul Smith. I’d like to turn it over to Eddie Hearn, who is the managing director of Matchroom Sport.
Eddie Hearn: Thank you, David. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in to the call today. It’s a pleasure to be coming to Oakland. Thank you to Roc Nation Sports for giving Paul Smith this opportunity. It’s a pleasure to be working with you guys for the first time. This is an interesting time for the Super Middleweight Division in Britain, obviously spearheaded for such a long time by Carl Froch. Obviously James DeGale winning the IBF Super Middleweight Championship recently against Andre Dirrell, George Groves challenging Badou Jack and some great young fighters coming through as well as Paul Smith’s brother, Callum Smith, who’s fighting for the WBC Silver Title next week and Rocky Fielding another undefeated fighter, as well as Marty Murray as well to sum it up moving up to the middle.
So it’s a really good time. And Britain seems to have the cream of the crop in the division right now in terms of numbers. And Paul Smith is another one you can add to that list, coming up the back of two fantastic performance against Arthur Abraham the first, many believe he won the fight; the second, he put up a great fight and has really established himself at the world level.
We know Andre Ward, one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, absolutely no doubt. Let’s be honest. If there’s ever a time to fight Andre Ward, it’s right now. And Paul Smith, who has had a stellar career and a real resurgence in the last couple of years, has massive confidence through the Arthur Abraham fight. He’s an intellectual fighter who studies the sport. And we’ve taken this fight 100% to win this fight. We appreciate how tough this fight is. But I think Paul Smith is a very, very live fighter in this fight on Saturday night.
Andre Ward, as I said, is a magnificent fighter, but right about now, he’s inactive, and of course the pressure to perform as well exists. We really like Paul Smith showing this fight and we can guarantee one thing he’ll bring all the action, all the passion and 100% desire to win on Saturday night. So it’s a pleasure to be part of the broadcast, the show and the fight and we look forward to coming to Oakland
And I’d like to pass over to Paul Smith to say a few words.
Paul Smith: Yes, no problem. As Eddie mentioned, it’s a pleasure to be asked to fight someone like Andre Ward and it’s good to be part of an event like this and fighting back in the States. I had the privilege of fighting over here before and it’s great to come back again on this big stage. That will be fantastic and I’ve said time and time again. We kind of respect the way of Andre Ward and I thank him for giving me the shot. I’ll give every last thing on that to try and do that.
Operator: And our first question comes from Dan Rafael at ESPN.
Dan Rafael: Thank you very much. Hey, Paul. How are you guys today? David? Hey, Paul. Here’s my question. Eddie touched on a little bit about that if there was ever going to be a time to maybe get Andre would be coming off of what will be about a 19-month layoff. He’s been very, very inactive over the last, you know, couple of years. Can you talk about what you think that layoff may make him look like? Because he’s been spectacular. I mean, he, you know, he beat Carl easily. He’s dominated the Super Six Tournament and was really just not even losing rounds against guys. But now it’s been almost two years. So what are your thoughts about, you know, being in the right spot maybe at the right time to maybe pull the upset?
Paul Smith: I can’t speak for Andre himself because, you know, I don’t know him. Truly, I know of him and I’ve watched him time and again. I was an Andre Ward fan. I’m sure I’ll be an Andre Ward fan after it. But inactivity isn’t good for any fighter and any fighter will tell you that and you have to stay busy and all the trainers and the gym, it’s totally different. And any fighter will tell you the same. It’s that when you’re in the ring and getting in there under the light it doesn’t matter about rounds and activity or inactivity. On fight night, it’s fight. This is fight night where I believe you do need that and, of course, I need every advantage I can get. You know, as Eddie said before, every advantage I can get in this fight and the advantage that’s come from this one is Andre Ward’s inactivity and that’s what I can capitalize on Saturday night.
Dan Rafael: Also, Paul, do you feel like because you’re two fights in a row prior to this you traveled to Germany to fight Abraham, in particular very close fight. It seems though that judges don’t quite see it that way.
Paul Smith: Yes.
Dan Rafael: But the point is now you went to Germany, you went to the lion’s den over there and fight Abraham on his turf and coming to United States to fight Andre in his hometown. But does the fact that you’ve done that before going to somebody else’s backyard where it’s all their fans, all their promotion and other people make you much more mentally strong than the average fighter that may not have ever done? In other words, when you get to Oakland, you know, it’s going to be another walk in the park because you’ve been in the other guy’s place, you know, more than one time.
Paul Smith: Yes, possibly. You know, I’m in Oakland now and a lot of people just said it’s exactly like Liverpool a little bit. It’s late and we’ve been enjoying ourselves. I think I fight best away from home and I think I’ve proven that in time. So there’s no pressure with this fight especially when you’re away from home. There’s no pressure. There’s no pressure to perform. I do feel to perform better away from home and you’re in a hostile crowd. It doesn’t really bother me. And I’m sure any fighter with any decent level, it wouldn’t better them. You know, once you’re in that ring and the bell goes, it’s just the two of you and the crowd seems to fade out a little bit. You know, the hostility I’m sure I’ll be okay with that.
Dan Rafael: Just one other question for you, Paul. The fight is not really middleweight fight. I’m told the max weight is 172 pounds.
Paul Smith: Yes.
Dan Rafael: You’ve been fighting super middleweight and below for your whole career as does Andre. Do you think that makes any difference? Are you okay with being that heavy or is that no big deal for you? What is your perspective on this stuff being a little bit over your normal weight?
Paul Smith: Yes. I think any fighter makes it in weight limit all the time will probably like an extra pound or two. You know, it was just the case of what the fight was. You know, it was not a catchphrase. And that’s why it’s off of that. There was no real room to negotiate. You know, it’s just is what it is. Yes, yes, that’s what we need to fight.
Dan Rafael: All right, very good, Paul. Thank you very much. Good luck on Saturday. Good luck on Saturday.
Paul Smith: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from Flattop with Fight News.
Flattop: Good day, Paul and Eddie. This is Flattop. Paul, what is your strategy? You know, Ward is used to winning every round of a fight. He’s a complete boxer. And with your fight with Abraham, I mean, you’re able to get in there and rough it up with him a little bit. You plan to make it into more of a brawl or do you want to make it – keep it up a test of skills or boxing match?
Paul Smith: I don’t think many in the world are 160, 168 or 175 are going to outbox Andre Ward. You’re going to make it – going to beat him in a boxing match and a chess match, so to speak. There’s so many fights where Andre Ward is being involved in a rough fight himself. He’s tougher than people give him credit for only stuff that he makes out as well I believe and, you know, he likes to nullify your way and he likes to make you fight his fight. I’m not saying that I’m an exception to this, that I’m better than anyone he’s fought. By any means, you have to fight and box that’s tactical. You have to time, make an attack. We believe we got a decent game plan for Saturday night and we plan to implement it.
Flattop: Tell me a little bit, Paul, about your trainer. How long have you been working with him, what his accomplishments are and what he’s going to prime you for on fight night?
Paul Smith: I’ve been with Joe now for four years and it’s been the best four years. And I don’t see that as a coincidence, I’ll be honest. He’s unbelievable and the passion he has – he’s the first one in the gym and he’s the last one to leave. He has long days and he doesn’t take fighters unless they’re going to go all the way and he’s just got attention to detail which I haven’t seen before in a trainer. He’s passionate about the fighters and he gives his 110% every time and every session. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s the best prospective in British boxing. He’s got Scott Quigg, the Bantamweight Champion and he loved many more – other world champions. He’s a quality fighter who gives – as I said, he gives 100% to his fighters.
Flattop: Sounds magnificent. Who’s working with you on your mental game?
Paul Smith: No one. To be honest with you, I have sports just a few years back and every now and then, I do believe that the boxing game is a very mental game and you need to weigh on your mental senses. I believe I’m mentally strong anywhere now and experience has probably made me mentally stronger and it’s just going right for me at the minute.
Flattop: Yes, I remember watching you in the British version of The Contender.
Paul Smith: Yes.
Flattop: You did well in that, too. Was that your first time on the big stage and, of course, this Saturday, you know, you’d be on the biggest stage.
Paul Smith: Yes.
Flattop: How do you see your progress that you’ve made since The Contender to where you’re at now? Do you think that being on The Contender is what jumpstarts your career?
Paul Smith: Possibly it gave me a bigger fan base and it gave me more of an idea on what to expect in boxing on the broad scale. You know, everyone wants to top bill in Vegas or top bill in the States and – against a good fighter and, you know, I’m not just saying that because of me. That is what the British fighters aspire to do. You don’t want to just spend your lifetime in Britain and everyone wants to get over to the States and top the bill in Vegas and that’s probably the childhood dream alongside being a world champion. So the fact that I’m over – topping the bill in the States against one of the best fighters in a tough pound for pound, in my opinion, is a great achievement in my opinion.
Flattop: Well, thank you, Paul. And, Eddie, any comments from you, sir?
Eddie Hearn: Since we’ve signed, you know, a little ran out and then he fought also Abraham twice and then fought – and then Andre Ward. So he’s been in a real tough run. But, you know, one thing about Paul is he knows Abraham. And as far as how much he thinks he’s been from those fights, he realized there’s much he learned on Saturday night because you don’t really necessarily appreciate how much you’ve learned until you get in that situation again. There’s been nearly every week. So he’s used to the attention. He’s used to the limelight. He knows how the business works. He knows how the sport works. So it will be on Saturday night and it’s a big occasion. But, you know, he’s seen George Groves in front of 80,000. He fought in front of 12,000 in Germany, booing him. And it’s not really like one of those experiences Paul never seen before because he has been around the sport a long time. So it’s just really about execution of the game plan on Saturday night, not even the skills of Andre Ward because everybody knows, it’s not a secret. It’s not that he’s going to go inside. We know how good this guy is. But, you know, he’s got a game plan. He’s smart enough to execute that game plan. It’s all up to whatever works on Saturday night.
Flattop: I agree with you. Those fights after Abraham were good training and they…
Eddie Hearn: …he’s had those fights, you know, in what will be probably nine months he brought Abraham and Andre Ward. Now there’s not many super middleweights like that. I mean he had a tough loss in the Abraham 2 fight. It wasn’t one of those fights where, you know, he took a lot of punishment. So I think he’s fresh. I think he’s probably the best prepared, mentally and physically and experience-wise for the fight that he’s ever been, any stage in his career.
Flattop: Paul, the Arthur Abraham, your second fight with Arthur Abraham was only four months ago.
Paul Smith: Yes.
Flattop: Did you suffer – and I did watch it but it was unfortunately on my computer. It didn’t come in well. Did you suffer any injuries? Are you fully recovered?
Paul Smith: I have an elbow problem which was probably before the first day of fight, on the second day fight but it gave me no problems in the fight. I can’t use it as an excuse because it wasn’t. It just needed fixing and I had a quick heal. And I’ll just say, you know, that’s no problem. I had some bones shaved off in the elbow to stop the pain. The jolt was getting there when I was jabbing but that’s all. Apart from that, I didn’t get any injuries. Just the usual wear and tear that you get from a hard fight. You know, I needed a little bit of rest, two weeks, three weeks rest and I was going straight back in.
Operator: Our next question comes from Mark Whicker from Los Angeles Daily News.
Mark Whicker: Over the years, when you watch Ward fight and you sort of realize being in there with him and what you might be able to do that no one else have been able to do against him.
Paul Smith: To be honest, I’ve never visualized being in the ring with Andre Ward. That route was for the likes of other fighters who reached levels of world title, world champions, you know, at the end of the day. I was offered the fight that came up and I was never going to say no to a fight with Andre Ward. I love to get in there and sign me against the best. So when I came in, I’ve watched him over the years. I’ve watched his style. I think he is a very good tactical fighter and for a chance to go against him is big for me. You know, I’m delighted. I’m very happy. And I’m looking forward to Saturday night. He’s almost perfect and he’s a very good fighter. He’s been here before. He’s been down before. It’s so hard to predict the defense and Ward doesn’t go pick a fight with Abraham. It’s a different fight. It’s a different style for me. And I will train twice for the one fighter on the balance of two fights. You know, it’s a nice, refreshing change to go against someone else with a different style, albeit Andre Ward.
Operator: Our next question comes from Eddie Goldman from No Holds Barred.
Eddie Goldman: Thank you very much. Hello, everybody. Paul, let me ask you about the attention this fight is getting. It’s the first fight staged in the US on BET and they’re going to stream this on TIDAL, Sky Sports in the UK. It has the return of Andre Ward after this layoff. How much does that inspire you to give, you know, perhaps the best performance of your career?
Paul Smith: It inspires me a lot. I know what it is and I know what it’s about. So because it is Andre Ward’s comeback. It’s not Paul Smith’s comeback after being on fight and I know the attention is not on me. The same attention I receive in the UK for this fight is what I got the previous fight. Last time it was Germany and a lot of you were tuned in, in Germany. There were around 9 million viewers watching the fight in Germany. Again, none of that causes pressure but it does inspire me.
Eddie Goldman: In the past, Andre Ward has called himself a chameleon. He’s been more of a boxer against Carl Froch, more of a brawler against Sakio Bika, adapting to the different styles. How are you going to factor that into your game plan that he can fight in so many different ways?
Paul Smith: Yes, he does and he does it well. I’ve said this before when we’re talking about a fight, I will adopt to whoever I’m fighting because you can’t win with one game plan and one style and expect to win against everyone. So chameleon, what he said, is a good example and a good analogy of that. I always say I adapt and fit the game plan of Andre Ward – if he comes out to fight and to brawl, we have to combat that as well. So there’s different ways – I’m still waiting to see which Andre Ward comes out from the night whether he’s going to box with the fight, whether he’s going to turn.
Eddie Goldman: Okay, thank you. Good luck in the fight.
Paul Smith: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from Jake Donovan with the BoxingScene.com.
Jake Donovan: Hey, Paul. I know you said before you don’t want to compare yourself to any of Andre’s opponents, not, you know, trying to put yourself above any of them. But what can Andre expect from you that he hasn’t seen yet in his career? But what can he expect from you without, I mean, necessarily giving away your game plan?
Paul Smith: He probably has seen most styles. He’s won a gold medal. So he’s probably seen a lot of it and I’m going to try and do some of it a little bit different than what he’s probably been expecting out of me on Saturday night. It is about unknowns as well for me, you know, getting in there because we don’t know which Andre Ward we’ll expect, whether he’s going to come out and fight, whether he’s going to come out and box.
Jake Donovan: All right. As far as 172 catch weight, what advantages does it pose for you? Because I know you’ve gone back and forth between weight, you know, you decide a little heavy I think for non-title and then you have to come down when you have to fight for the title. What advantage does it pose for you fighting a little bit heavier than super middleweight?
Paul Smith: It’s just probably a bit of breakfast. It just makes it a little bit easier at 168, obviously.
Jake Donovan: Anything spectacular we can expect from the ring?
Paul Smith: No, just the usual what you get with me. Same style, same boots. It’s always the same music as well in the ring walk.
Jake Donovan: Cool. Best of luck, Paul.
Paul Smith: Thank you.
Operator: We do have one final question. And it comes from Javier Gorbea with the Newspaper Claredad.
Javier: Hi, Paul. Paul, he hasn’t been that active over the last couple of years. How can that benefit you? And can you talk about the fact that he hasn’t fought in a long time?
Paul Smith: Yes, we said this, inactivity isn’t good for any fighter, I do believe, even if he’s good as Andre Ward. So that first round, it’s not the same feeling as sparring with headgear on. You know, you need to just maintain your level as a fighter, in my opinion. So, of course, I’m hoping to capitalize on that and every advantage in my favor is more than welcome.
David Itskowitch: All right, I think that’s it for you, Paul and Eddie. If you have anything you guys want to say in closing, the floor is yours.
Eddie Hearn: No, just looking forward to Saturday. Like I said, without doubt inactivity can only be a negative. One thing we know it can’t be a positive. Very unlikely that Andre Ward will be as good on Saturday night as he was in his last competitive fight or particularly in the Super Six Final against Carl Froch. So a wonderful fight, a great talent and don’t be surprised to see another UK victory in America right now. We don’t very often come to America and lose. So bear that in mind, David…
David Itskowitch: You lose the big ones, though. Remember the War of Independence? You lose the big ones.
Eddie Hearn: It’s a long time since then. I look forward to it, mate.
David Itskowitch: All right. See you guys later this week. Thanks again.
Paul Smith: Thanks, David.
David Itskowitch: All right. Now turning things over to the Andre Ward portion of our call. He captured the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the last American boxer who had brought home a gold medal. His list of vanquished foes reads like a who’s who of the Super Middleweight Division, including Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Sakio Bika, all of whom he defeated en route to winning the Super Six. He also dominated and knocked out former Light Heavyweight World Champion Chad Dawson in their 2012 showdown. He is the pride and hope of Oakland, California, a family man, and in an age when athletes are not always the best role models. He’s someone that you want your children to emulate.
He embarks on the next chapter of his career this Saturday night as he makes his highly anticipated return to the ring against Paul Smith. It’s my pleasure to introduce the reigning WBA Super Middleweight World Champion with a record of 27 and 0 with 14 KOs, from Oakland, California and an athlete that all of us at Roc Nation Sports are proud to represent, Mr. Andre Ward. Andre?
Andre Ward: Thank you, David. How are you?
David Itskowitch: Good. How are you doing?
David Itskowitch: All right. You want to say a few words before we turn it over to questions?
Andre Ward: Just excited to be back on a conference call for a week of a fight. It’s been a while. We’re starting to feel like, you know, the fight is around the corner. Obviously, it is around the corner but I’m starting to feel those emotions again since it’s been 18, maybe 19 months. So just happy to be back and excited to take any questions you guys have.
Operator: Our first question is from Dan Rafael with ESPN.
Dan Rafael: Thank you very much. Hello, Andre.
Andre Ward: Hey, how are you doing there?
Dan Rafael: I’m good. Welcome back. I know it’s been a while since you fought. I’m wondering during the course of the time when you were out of the ring, you know, you talked a little bit about it when you made your agreement with Roc Nation Sports, you did some interviews and we talked a little bit about it. But how much did you miss boxing and just – and the anticipation of, you know, whether it was going to the training camp or the actual fight night or the attention that was on you, that sort of thing? How much over the last 19 months did you miss that and how much are you looking forward to basically getting back in the groove, you know, and restarting your career, which was obviously going very, very well?
Andre Ward: Oh, yes. I mean, obviously it was devastating, you know. And in my profession and in my job, I’ve learned to plant a poker face, you know, pain and discomfort and different things like that. So, I didn’t really let on to a lot or talk about a lot because I just didn’t think it would be appropriate. We have the legal battle going on and, you know, every word is being taken literally and I just have to be very careful about what I say publicly. But it was very devastating to the point where, like I said before, and this is just not a line, you know, for you guys but I really wanted to walk away. I didn’t want to walk away but was on the verge of walking away because I didn’t see any light at the end of any tunnel. I noted behind the scenes regardless of what was written. I did all that I could do to sort of rectify the situation after it was underway and try to settle something that was reasonable that everybody could live with and it’s just one thing after the next. I literally wrote two retirement speeches because I didn’t want it to end on anyone else’s turn but myself. So if that’s what it was going to take, then that’s the route we’re going to take. And fortunately, you know, every time I got to that point, someone in my life, my past would tell me “it’s not time…I understand your frustration but, you know, just wait this out, it’s going to end at some point” and it finally did.
And as far as just, you know, missing, the positive that I was able to broadcast and be around the fans and when something like that happens human nature is to stay away from people not be seen and not want to be around it. But, I had to be there because I have a job to do and obligation to HBO, but I wanted my fans to see me and talk to me. Professionally this was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in because that’s what it’s really all about. And now that I’m back, that made me stronger. I have a greater appreciation for the sport. I didn’t think I could have a good appreciation but I do. And I prepared for this fight and I’m excited.
Dan Rafael: So, Andre, do you have, you know, any regrets about going into this situation? Because, you know, it was a choice to go into a legal fight that some people may have done it differently, perhaps they may have just played out the contract and then gone their separate ways. Other people maybe did what you would have done which is to fight and try to extricate yourself from that situation. Do you have any regrets and how do you think of that 19-month layoff physically when you’re in the ring will affect you on Saturday night?
Andre Ward: I mean, I could have – I could have accepted a lot of things along the course of my career and it doesn’t mean that – I mean, you can’t always look for the road that’s the easiest to travel. I mean, it’s just not a reality. Any professional sports, you know, any time you’re willing to trail blaze a new task or step out and take the lead there’s going to be opposition. I don’t care what it is. And I don’t base my decision solely on how easy it’s going to be. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be in the sport that I’m in now because this is very grueling physically, you know, mentally and the whole nine. So, you know, we made an educated decision and sought counsel before I made the decision for multiple people. I prayed about it. I thought about it. But ultimately, you know, the Book stopped with me. You know, I had the final say and I didn’t know exactly what was going to be on the other side but I believe what I was fighting for, again, regardless of what was written because everyone didn’t have the full narrative or the full story. It would not have changed anything. It’s something I had to go through. I got through it. It should have been my faith and my relationship with God. You know, it brought me and my wife closer and it just shows you a lot of things. It brings the sport of boxing into reality because when you’re no longer a commodity for individuals, sometimes the phone stops ringing. And certain people continue to call. Many people rallied around me personally and then there was some that was distant because there was no money to be made, there was no fight on the horizon and all those things are good. Those are life experiences. Was it uncomfortable? Yes. Did I hate every moment of it? Yes. But did it force me? Did it teach me? Absolutely. So, no, I wouldn’t have changed anything. And we’ll see Saturday night about the layoff. I mean what compounded this last layoff was the first layoff.
That made this layoff even worse because I came off of I think 11 months or somewhere around there with a shoulder injury and I thought I was on my merry way after the Rodriguez fight and then, boom, I’m hit with another layoff. So all I can do is what I could do which was, you know, dedicate myself, focus and as you look at some of the greats like Floyd Mayweather, Ali took three years. I mean, these guys, they come back and they may not be at their best. I mean, Floyd took two years off and took a guy in Juan Manuel Marquez who was a little bit smaller than Floyd but if Floyd wasn’t on point, he would have some problems with Marquez. So it’s not out of the question. I love that Eddie Hearn and his whole team, they’re banking on that. But if that’s their game plan, they got the wrong game plan come June 20.
Dan Rafael: Andre, one other question, the fight contract did 172 pounds, you’ve never been a guy that’s ever really had issues making 168 where you’re the champion. But are you doing that 172 because this is the first step toward you making that move that we talked about for years eventually to becoming a light heavyweight?
Andre Ward: I just think selectively everybody decided that this is the best move to make. You know, why go to 68 right now? Just see what you feel and for two reasons. Yes I can make 68. I haven’t had any issues making – and I think to my credit until I show that I have some issues I’ve never missed weight. I’ve never come close to missing weight. Until I show that I have some issues, I think it’s safe to say that I can make 68 with no problems. But then it’s also just a gauge in a barometer to see how I feel. Is it time to move up or do we go down to 68? So you have that – your question is accurate. Plus, it’s just to ultimately see how I feel overall.
Dan Rafael: All right, very good, Andre. Thank you very much and welcome back and good luck Saturday.
Andre Ward: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from Mark Whicker with the Los Angeles Daily News.
Mark Whicker: Hi, Andre. Going back to what you said earlier about the layoff, how much has that built the urgency to – in your career to get the big fights and to get the form that you proven that you deserved? And also when you talked about fighting at light heavyweight, you know, you look at Kovalev and Stevenson and those guys. And then at 168, maybe there’s eventually a guy like Golovkin to come up. How much motivating things are those fights?
Andre Ward: They are very motivating. It’s what we’re in this sport for. I mean, there’s definitely a place for tune-up sites to get into groove and get your body back. But ultimately, I think I’ve shown this throughout my career, ultimately, you want the biggest fight and that’s, only citing the best in the division. And I don’t think it’s realistic to do that fight in and fight out. I don’t think that’s smart either. But, you know, at some point in time, you have to go with those guys and, like I said, throughout my whole career, I’ve done that. And me fighting those eight-level, other champions, former champions, top contenders, they came back for me because of the Super Six and then obviously the Chad Dawson fight and even Edwin Rodriguez. So I just want to see where my body is after this fight and continue to get my body fat measured, continue to see what my body is as a whole and how I feel. And then when we go up to 75, we’ll make that decision if we stay at 68. It’s always about ultimately getting the best fight. But the reality is I can’t make these guys fight me. And all I can do is be in a position to be ready. And the only thing I believe stopping me from pay-per-view is just having the right dancing partner.
And right now, I don’t have a slew of components that can make for pay-per-view fight but I just have to continue taking a fight at a time and I think at the right time, those things are going to happen.
Mark Whicker: When you look at – and a lot of fights, fans are always looking at the next great fight and trying to project things and even as analyst at ringside, I’m sure you guys have the same thing. You know, when people who look at Ward possibly versus Golovkin or Ward versus Kovalev and it’s that great matchup of the matador and the bull. I mean, how – is that kind of the way you look at those slides, too? The styles might make those classic fights if they ever happen?
Andre Ward: I don’t want to talk too much about these guys because all I can think about is Paul Smith. And that’s no cliché. I’m glad he started talking this week because I was getting a little worried. I hadn’t heard anything coming out of the UK. So I’m happy he did that. It’s not that I needed any more motivation but a little bit extra. I think if you watch my fight that I like to be the full time. I think either one of those fights are great matches, yes.
Operator: Our next question comes from Flattop with Fight News.
Flattop: Oh, good day, Paul. You mentioned social media with allowing you to reach out to your fans and for the fans to reach out to you. Do you see social media playing a big role with fighters such as yourself and not only hyphen you or popularizing you but also just give you more insight to the fans? And plus, talk a little bit about your HBO broadcast. Is that something that you want to look at as a career afterwards? Because you did a great…
Andre Ward: Appreciate that. Thank you. With social media, you have to stay on top of social media, so social media does not stay on top of you. I’ve seen that you have to evolve with the times and you have to kind of keep up with the pace or you kind of get left behind. So, of course, the different outlets that we have to connect with fans and supporters alike, it’s essential that you stay up to speed, like I said, and you stay current because in a lot of cases, many people, at least certain demographics are not obviously reading newspapers or going online to read the news. You know, they’re all on social media. Some people get their news from Twitter alone or Instagram alone or Facebook alone. So you have to do those things. Those things definitely allowed me to continue to stay in contact with my fans. You know, I answer personal questions and different things like that.
I listed the things that I envisioned doing and becoming andbobviously there were some smaller goals like national championship, the bigger goal of winning the 2004 Olympic gold medal and becoming a broadcaster because my favorite fighter of all time and the first fighter that ever caught my eye was Roy Jones. And obviously, he was a fighter and he was a broadcaster and I wanted to be just like Roy. And so, I love broadcasting. It’s a passion of mine. I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for HBO to give me this job because it’s at the highest level and I’m thankful for guys, like Max Kellerman and all the individuals who have mentored me, continue to mentor me and continue to help me on this. I truly want to get better.
Flattop: It seems like you’re spreading yourself out and lately, you’ve been getting back into sort of the Hollywood heart of being a boxer, you know, throwing the ball out at the Oakland A’s game, being on The View. But it seems like you’re getting back into the stretch of being that pound for pound fighter, one of the superstars of boxing. When you look at boxing today and you look at the people who are the superstars, you know, the Mayweather’s, you know, where does it go from there? But do you see the sport has been half full or half empty? Do you see the sport now with a lot more boxing on television? Do you see that as a big positive? Do you see that the sport kind of bringing itself back like a resurrection?
Andre Ward: And just to back up really quick, I want to give a shout out, too, because he’s one of my first mentors and he still mentors me and I really appreciate that. We need a veteran in the sport. And when it comes to broadcasting, he gives me critiques and he’s done a great deal to help me in my broadcasting career. But, yes, I mean, I’ve always looked at the sport like it’s half full. I never buy into the headlines that say boxing is dead. I feel like boxing has been around for many, many years, obviously long before, I was born and it’s going to be around long after I leave. I just think boxing is one of those fixtures all around the world that will never go anywhere. Do we have our issues internally? Yes. Do we get a lot of criticism? Some of it is warranted. Some of it isn’t. But I like the steps that are being taken right now to just as a whole, get everybody involved, every network, every promoter, every manager to try to support the sport and the fighters, individuals who are getting in there and taking the physical risk. You know, they’re getting compensated like they should and they’re getting exposure like they should because we know that the more exposure you get, the bigger you become. So I like what the sport is and I just think we just need to keep pushing, keep moving forward.
Flattop: So you and Miguel Cotto are the flagship fighters for Roc Nation. David, let me ask you a question, too. Miguel Cotto coming off at his victory. Andre Ward posed for another stellar showing, what are your plans for Ward if he is successful on Saturday? And is there a possibility of seeing a mega super card with both of these guys on it?
David Itskowitch: With respect to plans for Andre, we’ve kicked around some ideas as a team, here at Roc Nation and with his management team, James Prince and Andre himself. A lot of what we do will be dictated by how Andre feels coming out of the fight on Saturday night, how we feels about his weight, how he feels about the performance that he gave, obviously how he looks. So we have a few different paths that we’ve been talking about. Saturday night will go a long way towards helping us to dictate what path we go. But, the goal is for Andre to fight in big fights, in marquee fights. And, you know, that’s the direction that we’re headed. It’s just the question of what the road is based on how things go on Saturday night. With respect to Andre and Miguel fighting on the same show…
Flattop: Oh I know that’s a big dream.
David Itskowitch: Yes. I think economically, that might be a little difficult.
Flattop: No, it’s just wishful thinking on my part.
David Itskowitch: Crazier things have happened. I’ll never say never. But, you know, just economically, that’d be something that would be pretty difficult to pull off.
Flattop: And not to take away from Andre at all but, you know, congratulations with Cotto there.
Operator: Javier, with Newspaper Claridad, please go ahead.
Javier: Hi, Andre. The people seem to think that you won’t be as sharp because of the layoff. What’s your answer to that? But you talked a little bit about wanting to do pay-per-view fights. How do you see that becoming a reality in 2015?
Andre Ward: I’ll answer the second question. Yes, I totally think it’s a reality in 2015. Again, it’s just about finding the right dancing partner at the right time. That’s the key. Very rarely do you see somebody just come on the scene and they can just jump into a pay-per-view fight, especially when it’s their first one. So I’m just in a unique spot where we have to find the right opponents and we have to find opponents that are willing to step up and that can also carry their end up of a pay-per-view fight. But again, those are the types of things where I just try to let those things just happen. As a team we talk about these things and strategize but to a degree, you just have to let life happen and let these things just come into play. And it’s okay. It’s okay that people feel like I’m going to be rusty. People have to talk about something, right? It’s really interesting to me that Paul Smith is really kind of hanging his hat on that. I was really surprised. And I thought he was a little bit smarter than that when I met him in New York a few months ago. But apparently, that’s what they’re banking on. And I think he’s in for a rude awakening come Saturday night because I’m going to be very sharp. I’m going to be hitting harder than I think he realizes. I’m going to be stronger than I think he realizes. And I don’t know who he got his advice from.
Javier: One last thing there, Andre. This will be the first fight on BET, who is doing boxing for the first time. I know you want to go to HBO. But how much do you see that being on BET will help you get bigger in order for you to become a pay-per-view star when you go back to HBO?
Andre Ward: My team will sit and talk to HBO after this fight. And they will figure out what the next step is. I don’t think this is a downgrade. I don’t think this is anything bad. I think this is just for this particular fight, just moving in the different direction which is a good direction. You have to realize that BET is in over 92 million homes. Probably a good number of those people aren’t diehard boxing fans. And that’s ultimately what it’s about because typically, the diehard, they’re going to follow you wherever you go. So I’m not worried about that. I just have to take advantage of the situation I’ve been given. And you have to look at one thing like even The View. The View came about because of BET, because we announced my fight on a BET platform and bumped into Whoopi Goldberg. And Whoopi Goldberg took a liking to Roc Nation Sports’ publicist and they followed up week-in and week-out to make it happen. And so those things happen when you venture out and you do new and different things. So I’m excited about it. I’m thankful to BET for what they’re doing. I’m thankful to Roc Nation Sports because they work around the clock. I don’t think anybody at Roc Nation Sports gets the full eight hours of sleep at night. I doubt it. Because they’re constantly working, they’re constantly pushing, they’re constantly working on their phones and just trying to make things happen and then making things happen. And my job is to prepare, like I have. It’s a beautiful thing when you come to fight week and you know that you haven’t cut any corners. I didn’t cut corners on any run. I didn’t cut corners on any sparring session. Every round for me counted. Every day counted. And I’m more than prepared for anything Paul Smith brings to the table. I just think this fight isn’t going to go the way he anticipates it. And I say that with all do respect. But I just think he’s going to be hit early. And he’s going to realize very quickly like, “Man, this isn’t the guy that we scouted on paper.” It’s a little bit different.
Operator: And our next question comes from Eddie Goldman with No Holds Barred.
Eddie Goldman: Thank you very much. Hi, Andre. It’s good to see you getting back in the ring.
Andre Ward: Thank you.
Eddie Goldman: I want to ask you about this stage of your career because from the amateurs through the Olympics, through your pro career. There were zigs and zags. But there’s never been this kind of layoff, this kind of separation between a fight. So it really represents to me a new chapter – a beginning of a new chapter in your career. Tell us about what you envision for this fight and the next several years in your career and what you plan to do, say, to get that Mayweather-type status.
Andre Ward: We draw a lot of things around, I mean, just a boxing community as a whole. We draw, you know, pay-per-view star out there like you walk around the corner and become that. You know, we draw the Mayweather status around. We draw the Manny Pacquiao status around. And we just have to stop for a second and realize what went into that, what these guys had to do. And I’m talking a handful of guys that you can count on one hand in the last 10-12 years that we’re able to pull something like that off.
You look at Floyd Mayweather. Look how long he was champion and how long he reigned as champion before he got Arturo Gatti, his first pay-per-view fight. And then things began to snowball and pick up. And then he got his Oscar De La Hoya. And then he got his Ricky Hatton. And then, you know, Floyd worked extremely hard to go from Pretty Boy Floyd to Money Mayweather. He did his part. And there were a lot of things that worked out right for Floyd, obviously a lot of physical hard work. He did his part and then he had the proper fight and then he took off. Same thing happened with Manny. Manny brought his country here. Manny, you know, brought the Philippines here and he had a massive following. And he did his part. If you look at Canelo, Canelo brings his country here, Mexico. If you look at, you know, Oscar De La Hoya, Oscar De La Hoya is Mexican-American. And what Oscar had was very rare. You look at Tito Trinidad. Tito Trinidad brought his country here. Floyd, American, it takes time. And it’s not an easy feat to become a “pay-per-view star.” And in my opinion, a pay-per-view star is not just someone who participates in one or two pay-per-view shows. The pay-per-view star is someone who can command the pay-per-view time in and time out regardless of who they fight.
And I’ve been a professional over ten years now. And I’ve heard one guy after the next say “I’m next in line.” I’ve heard one promoter after the next tell their guy, “It’s the guy.” But there was a handful of guys. And there’s only one American probably in the last ten years. I mean you have to draw Oscar in this. See I don’t remember how long Oscar had been retired. But since I’ve been a professional, probably Oscar and Floyd are the only two guys that you can say that are from America, where you consider them bona fide pay-per-view stars out of all the fighters.
So this isn’t just something we can, as a team, Roc Nation Sports, my men, we can’t just concoct and just make it happen. And because it hasn’t happened at this stage of my career doesn’t mean that something is terribly wrong. I mean you have to look at all of the fighters that are active and that are fighting right now. And there’s yet to be a bona fide pay-per-view star from America. You have a handful. Like I said, Canelo. You have Manny Pacquiao. You have Tito Trinidad. You have a handful of guys. I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out.
So this is a long way to say that we just have to keep fighting. And we just have to keep doing what we do. And hopefully the right opponents will come at the right time. And then I’ll become as big as I’m supposed to become. But in the interim, I don’t want to squander what I do have. I have influence now. I have reach now. I have a fan base now that I have to be cognizant about and give them my all. So I don’t want to make it seem like there’s this feat up here or everything else just doesn’t make sense, you know, like everything else just is not worth anything. It’s just not like this. So it takes time. It takes effort. It takes a lot of things falling into place. And then if it happens, then I’ll be as happy as anybody. But I got to stay focused and keep doing what I’m doing fight by fight.
Eddie Goldman: Obviously you have a different personality and a different kind of person than Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao for that matter also. Do you think that the Super Six Tournament that you had a couple of years ago – how do you look at the legacy of that? Because when you went into that, some of us thought you had a real good chance of winning. But I don’t think it wasn’t real obvious at the point and you ended up cleaning everybody out. Tell us about the legacy of that tournament and how that can help you propel yourself in the next stage of this career.
Andre Ward: Well, I think the Super Six as well as the Chad Dawson victory has given me the status that I have in this sport. Nobody remembers anything before that. So, it’s key moments like that in your career that do make you, because obviously it was unprecedented. It was something that has never been done. And then, obviously, the reality, the television aspect of it where you get to come into our home and get into our lives and see who we are as people. That had never quite been done like that. And we had some hiccups. But we got through it. We ended up having the Canelo hit and then the rest is history. So the Super Six, along with the Chad Dawson fight I think is the core of what made me who I am today.
Eddie Goldman: And who do you see perhaps in the future? I know you don’t want to look past Paul Smith. No fighter does that. But you said you need dance partners for the pay-per-view fight. Who are some of the people that might be on your radar? And not just from United States, from the UK or around the world.
Andre Ward: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. From my experience, a lot of times, pay-per-view likes fights that should really be on pay-per-view, the fights that the fans deman. They’re fights that you didn’t just concoct and pick and say, “Hey, that’s the perfect guy.” It’s typically a matchup that fans are clamoring about and fans are demanding. We just have to let that take its course and we have to let it happen. I’m not going to make any in bold claims about anything because this is not my goal obviously.
You know, I’ve had a phenomenal career. I make a great living. I don’t talk about the money I make. I mean I’ve got some – I’ve got a great team in terms of my endorsements. The things that I’ve been able to do and accomplish just in my lifetime, being a professional fighter and a world champion, I just never imagined. So I just got to let life take its course and let my team do what they do. But again, all that matters right now for me – and that’s a great question that’s asked. It’s just Paul Smith because if there’s no Paul Smith victory, then all of these things are on the backburner. And I can’t allow that to happen. So, look for spectacular performance Saturday night against a tough game opponent. Don’t miss it.
Operator: And our next question comes from Mark Whicker with the Los Angeles Daily News.
Mark Whicker: Andre, what do you think you learn from being a ringside analyst that? You’re a student of the game, anyway. But what do you think you picked up that might help you be more refined in the ring?
Andre Ward: I get two or three days before I have to be at a particular venue to call a fight. I have a stack of literature and background information about the fighters. It could be two fights on the card that we’re calling, sometimes three fights, sometimes more. And mentally, I have to dig in there and kind of go back and follow a guy’s career up until the point where he is in that particular day. And that just keeps me fresh and keeps me sharp from a mental standpoint and then also ringside.
You know I’m a genuine boxing fan. And I will probably say my brother had more talent than I had and probably could have been better than me. But he didn’t love it, didn’t like it. I love this sport. So when he was downstairs at 11 years old watching cartoons, I’m watching Tuesday Night Fight. I was enamored with the sport.
And when I sit ringside and I call the fight up close, you see the kind of punches that are being thrown. You can read the fighter’s mind. There’s just a lot of different little nuances that I’m picking up on. And I’ve learned that, along with my ringside work, my analyst work, as well as just how I am as a person, when I’m away from the gym, I’m constantly taking mental notes about how I can get better. I’m consumed with the sport because I’m so competitive and I just love it so much.
And that translates in the gym. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym, I could maybe be off a couple of weeks and say, “Man, I still feel sharp. I still feel good because my mind was always on the sport.” It wasn’t on partying and going here and doing this and that. I’ve always been engaged.
So the analyst work reflects how I was raised as a young fighter and knowing that I have to stay connected to the sport. All of those things help when you have a layoff like I’ve had. And I think that people are going to be really surprised on Saturday. I’m not going to say that there’s not going to be any ring rust. I am human. But I don’t think it’s going to be the kind of ring rust that Paul Smith and his team is banking on.
Mark Whicker: One last thing. How excited are you about the Warriors?
Andre Ward: I’m ecstatic. It’s storybook. It really is. Mark Jackson, the previous coach, did a great job of giving these guys a foundation and getting them to a certain point. And then Steve Kerr came. And he’s just doing unbelievable things as a rookie coach. Not many people expected the regular season that they had. And they’ve had very few hiccups. And they’ve responded like champions. And I think that it’s our year. I mean, you have take your hat off to LeBron James who’s single handedly carrying this franchise to this point. And he’s still fighting. It’s not over yet. He’s still kicking. And he knows what it would mean to Cleveland to bring a championship back there. But it means just as much to us here in the Bay Area after a 40-long-year drought to hoist that trophy and then bring a championship here.
Plus, when I was on The View, and I’m not superstitious, but I got a chance to hold “The Trophy.” I just hope that helps a little bit. I hope that’s kind of a prelude to what’s getting ready to happen that one Bay Area kid got a chance to hoist that trophy up and down. I think in a few days that the Golden State Warriors will do the same.
Operator: And we do have a question from Kirk Jackson with the Boxing Insider.
Kirk Jackson: As mentioned before, this fight is going to be in Oakland. It’s your hometown. And obviously there’s a big buzz going with the Warriors playing where they are. This fight is also going to be streamed on TIDAL. It’s going to be the first fight on BET Networks. You, along with Miguel Cotto are the main guys representing Roc Nation Sports. And he recently knocked out Daniel Geale. Do you feel like there’s any added pressure for you to perform in spectacular form this upcoming Saturday?
Andre Ward: Not really. Miguel put on a great performance in his fight. I thought he would put on that kind of performance. He’s a veteran. I’ve looked up to Miguel for years, watched him when he started at 140. And to see him with the longevity that he’s had, still at the highest level, is amazing. I tip my hat to him.
No, there’s no direct competition. I mean, as a competitor, I want to put on a great show for Roc Nation Sports, for BET, for my manager, my lawyers, my team, just for my fans. I want to put on a show from that aspect. But this is boxing. A show may be dazzling the fans for 12 rounds. It may be a first round knockout. It may be a middle round stoppage. It just depends, you know. But the goal is to obviously win. And the second goal is to win. So, I can’t put that kind of pressure on myself to go out there and try to compete with Miguel Cotto. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
Kirk Jackson: Is there anything about Paul Smith’s style that concerned you?
Andre Ward: I don’t know if concern is the right word. I mean there’s respect there. I think that what I’ve learned to do over the years is even give back in my mind more respect and more kudos than maybe they’re entitled to just to make sure that I don’t have a mental letdown in my preparation. And I just expect a fighter who is obviously banking on some kind of ring rust. He stated in the media that he just fought ten weeks ago and he’s still in shape. One thing he’s going to realize — and his promoter should know this, too, because we’ve been on the opposite side of the ring before — is that I don’t take anybody lightly. I don’t think tune-up has been used in this training camp the whole time we’ve been preparing. I just won’t allow it because there’s really no such thing. If Paul Smith beats me on June 20, he earned it, he deserves it, and I tip my hat to him. But it’s not going to be easy.
David Itskowitch: All right. Well thank you, everybody. Andre, a few closing thoughts before we end the call?
Andre Ward: I’m just happy and excited again for this event. We’re days away. I’m so thankful to Roc Nation Sports for the job that they do all the time. They’re always on point. They’re always working. Just everybody on the Roc Nation Sports team. I don’t want to start naming people because I’ll leave somebody out.
My lawyer, Josh Dubin and James Prince, they work tirelessly. People don’t always realize that it takes a lot of work to get those things done, including this event, for going up against an NBA final. We’re not directly competing with the Warriors but indirectly, we’re kind of battling with the Finals. And my team is persevering through that. And the best way I can thank them is to perform Saturday night and go out there and give it my best and just put on the best show that I possibly can.
David Itskowitch: Well said. Well thank you to Andre, to Paul, Eddie Hearn, the media that dialed in today. Again, Saturday night, June 20, Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Andre Ward versus Paul Smith, live on BET and streamed live globally on TIDAL, 10:00 PM ET /7:00 PM PT. Tickets are still available starting at just $30. Everybody, get out there at your Ticket Master locations, ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000. Looking forward to a really, really exciting week in Oakland. It’s something that the city hasn’t seen in quite a few years. So we’ll see you all in Oakland. And thanks again.