Andre Ward: “I think I’ve earned the right to fight at home and I don’t think the judges, or the referees, or anybody else has played a role in my fights in terms of helping me win”

by Geoffrey Ciani – This week’s 102nd edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs), who is just coming off a successful title defense against Sakio Bika (28-5-2, 19 KOs). Although this fight was outside of the Super Six, Ward still remains on top of the leader board and is scheduled to square off against “King” Arthur Abraham in the semi-finals of the tournament. Ward provided opinions and insight into both the tournament and his career. Here is some of what he had to say:

His evaluation of his performance in his unanimous decision victory against Sakio Bika:

“I wasn’t pleased. Honestly for my standards, I think that kind of performance is unacceptable, but at the same time I am pleased with the fact that as a champion I did what I had to do retain my title. I think sometimes you can get spoiled. People in general can get spoiled with dominating performances and it’s not always going to happen like that, but at the end of the day can you get it done? Can you find a way to win? And we found a way to win in this fight.”

On what it was like adjusting to Bika’s tough, awkward, rough house style:

“I think just trying to adjust was the main thing for me. I wasn’t pleased with my work rate and what I was doing early in the fight, but you got to understand like you just mentioned and I think you do understand, is he’s a very awkward guy. He’s throwing from a lot of different angles. I could have probably fought him—Bute fought him from the outside and maybe made it an easier night, but I chose to stay more in the pocket and stay closer to him. It’s just kind of how the fight turned out to be, but he’s very, very awkward and he’s a very strong guy, but at the same time I expected that kind of fight. I mean I watched Bika for many, many years, and he fights one way and I knew it was going to be that kind of fight. So mentally I was prepared for it. I wasn’t caught off guard, but that being said, just because we knew what he was going to bring that it was going to be any easier in there. At the same time I feel like I got his respect as well. People talked about his toughness and his grit. I think we showed the same thing in this fight.”

On when he believes he started effectively making the necessary adjustments with Bika:

“I think just probably midway, maybe the 6th or 7th round. I could tell he was breathing in there but he’s an old veteran, so he’s not going to quit and give-up just because he’s tired. I felt like my conditioning was stronger than his. He is a strong guy, but I actually felt like I was physically stronger than Bika. I was able to push him back. Not once did he just have his way with me on any of the clinches or anything like that. I think midway was when I just slowly started pulling away and in the last three or four rounds especially. Again, I retained my title and that’s what it’s about, and these kinds of fights are good. It’s not always a good thing to dominate. It’s good to have these kind of fights because it keeps you hungry and it keeps you going back to the drawing board just looking for ways to get better.”

His views on whether his victory over Bika is receiving the respect it deserves because of Bika’s ranking prior to the fight:

“You know I’ve learned and I’m learning in this boxing game that I put on a strong performance against Edison Miranda. I had some people who understood that was a key fight for me. It was a breakout moment for me to fight a tough contender like that and maybe I was ready for championship level fighting, but then you had those who said the guy was washed up. He should have never been in there in the first place. I came right back and after the tune-up fight and fought Kessler. I thought I put on a great performance. Some people gave me just dues and others tore it down. I’m just realizing that you’re not going to please everybody. You’re at the mercy of the laptops, and their computers, and what they have to say, and what they think. Like I always say, I listen to enough of the negatives to fuel me and to keep me motivated. I appreciate all the positive stuff, but it’s just part of the game and in this game you have thick skin and whether people give you your credit or not, you got to stay driven until the day you hang those gloves up and that’s what I want to do.”

His views on whether he will be able to defend his title in March against Arthur Abraham:

“Well I feel fine with the exception of just being sore like you should be after a twelve round fight. I feel fine. With all of the fouls that were in the fight I sustained a few cuts. None of them were significant enough for stitches. The one on my left eye I just had to get it glued shut. So those shouldn’t be a problem. I’m actually on my way right now to the hospital to get my left hand, my knuckle on my forefinger x-rayed. You know I hurt that hand in training camp probably two weeks before the fight and it was extremely swollen and very painful and it almost felt like there was a ligament or a bone floating around in the front of my knuckle. So we just tried to tough it out and just tape it up good, and keep working it. Jacob “Stitch” Duran, he did a great job the night of the fight to protect my hand the best he could, but I’m just going to get it x-rayed right now and hopefully everything comes back positive and there’s nothing serious going on and we should be ready to go whenever the date is set.”

On what he expects from Arthur Abraham in their Super Six Semi-Finals match-up:

“I think desire-wise, I think he’ll still be hungry. I mean he’s getting another title shot. That’s the irony of the Super Six. Skill-wise and tactical adjustments, I don’t think he’s going to make them. If he was going to make them he would have made them in the Carl Froch fight. I think it’s going to be the same old Arthur Abraham. He spoke about stepping his work rate up. I haven’t watched his fight. I heard about the fight and I think he tried in the first round or maybe the second round, but he went back to his old ways. I just think it’s too late to teach this old dog some new tricks. He’s had success. He hasn’t at much success at 168, but he’s had success at middleweight for many, many years. I guess he and his coach felt like there was no need for changes and I think it might be just a little late to make some changes right now.”

On whether he was forced to make more adjustments than usual against Bika or whether it just took longer to make the necessary adjustments:

“I think it just took me a little longer to make the adjustments. I think I was getting all the right instructions in the corner. Virgil did a great job. During the rounds he was on point, but it’s something totally different when you’re in there with live action and punches are flying. So if anybody takes any heat for anything I take all the heat because I have to be the one to go in there and perform. I just wasn’t satisfied with the way I looked as a whole. I wasn’t satisfied with the way I performed as a whole, but again I have to give myself some credit for pulling away at the end. Like Sugar Ray Leonard has said before, the difference between a guy who wins and loses at that level is the guy who wants it just a little bit more, and I just feel like I wanted it a little bit more than Sakio Bika.”

On how motivated he is to perform at a higher level when he faces Arthur Abraham given his disappointment in himself with his efforts against Bika:

“Oh man, it’s off the charts already and I’m not even a week removed from this fight. I mean I am so fired-up just internally man to get back to work in training camp but also to get in a fight. I honestly believe that my fight with Arthur Abraham, taking nothing away from him, it’s going to be a dynamite performance. I feel like I owe it to the fans and I owe it to myself, and I think that’s a good kind of pressure to put on yourself because the reality of the situation is you’re not going to have a fight where you dominate hands-down at this level. It’s just not going to happen. You have eras like with Roy Jones, and he’s probably one of the last guys that could have done that. Even Floyd has had close fights with De La Hoya, before he caught Ricky Hatton that fight was close. You’re going to have fights like that because you have different styles and sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But can you work through it, can you make adjustments, and if at all possible can you get your hand raised? So this was good. This was good for my development. It was good for my desire. It was good for me mentally. I’m not pleased with it, but it was good. It was one of those things that I need and I’m just fired-up. I’m fired-up for the next one.”

On the art of learning how to adapt and make adjustments inside the ring:

“Well for me, I think I’ve learned to adapt in the gym first and foremost, and what I mean is my coach Virgil didn’t baby me coming up. I always seemed to be in a situation in the gym when I was younger and even to this day where I have sparring partners who I’m fighting just like a regular fight and I had to make the adjustments. He didn’t always put me in situations where I was having my way, so I think just over years and years of, you know when I first started boxing it was all about me surviving in there. Then I started holding me own and then I started dominating, but even in dominating you have guys who come in the gym and they got something to prove every single day. At this level when we bring guys into training camp and we have sparring partners, that’s what they get paid for. They don’t get paid to lay back. They get paid to bring it and in some cases even get rewarded for having a good day. So just being in the gym day in and day out, working my craft, not being babied, not being pampered, but just understand that long before I dance under those lights and have to make adjustments under those lights, I have to make adjustments here in this gym and it just flows into the fight. I’ll add another thing to it. Also that kind of training develops your instincts because how many times have we seen a coach yelling at their fighters to do something but they just don’t do it. Sometimes it’s instinct. Sometimes you go in there and you just sense that this is going to work or this isn’t going to work, and you go with it and you see what happens and you hope that it works. It was just something that instinctively happened. It wasn’t anything by the book. It wasn’t something that your coach told you. You were just in there and from all of the experience that you had over the years. You were able to just do something without even thinking about it.”

On criticisms he gets from some fans that his last few fights have been in his home town:

“At the end of the day they can say, whomever the detractors may be, what they want to say about me fighting at home. If they get the list of some other guys that fight at home exclusively then my four fights at home won’t even match up against some of the other guys, so I just think they need live well enough alone and let it be what it is now. If there’s clear injustice taking place every time I fight at home, if there’s some kind of foul play going on where guys are getting cheated I can understand an uproar, but I think I’ve earned the right to fight at home and I don’t think the judges, or the referees, or anybody else has played a role in my fights in terms of helping me win. So at the end of the day that’s just something that they’re writing about. It’s unfortunate, but I’m going to continue to do what I do and every opportunity I get to fight at home I’m going to fight at home.”

His views on Carl Froch’s victory against Arthur Abraham:

“Again, I haven’t watched the tape. I heard he boxed really well. He did what he had to do. I take my hat off to him. He redeemed himself from his last loss against Kessler. He is a two-time world champion. I’m sure he’s feeling really good about himself right now, and we’ll just see how he does in his next fight. I’m just excited that the tournament is moving forward and we have four dynamite fighters. We have two semi-finals and the a finals left in this tournament so it’s going to be a great, great run down the stretch.”

His views on the semi-finals match-up between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson:

“It’s interesting. Glen’s going to work offensively a lot more than Abraham, but every fighter in this tournament is respected and they have credentials. Anybody in this tournament has the ability to beat the other guy. So it’s just a matter of who prepared and I know both guys are going to prepare well and who can get it done on that night, and I love to say that because it’s not always the guy who has the best record who has the most credentials. It’s about who can get it done on that night. It’s not about who has done all of the talking. It’s not about that. It’s about who can get it done. You got two good fighters in Glen Johnson and Carl Froch. Glen’s got a little momentum from his fight with Allan Green. He’s feeling good at 168 and Carl Froch is feeling good. He wants to keep his title, so I think that’s going to be really a barnburner.”

His views on how many more wins he needs to be widely considered as one of the top ten fighters in boxing:

“I don’t know. I think that kind of thing just kind of creeps up on you. I’m not the type of person that demands things like that. I just want to put my nose to the grind and just keep working. Like you just mentioned, if you keep winning and you keep putting on better and better performances, I just think we’re going to look up and be there one day. But I’m not going to demand it with my mouth. I want to demand it by my performances and by the work that I put in.”

On whether he believes Arthur Abraham is better suited for middleweight than super middle:

“I don’t know. I mean I haven’t read a lot of commentary, but I heard he had mentioned something about that. Initially it wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t a problem when he fought Jermain. It wasn’t a problem when he fought Dirrell. It just happened to be a problem after the Carl Froch fight so only he knows. From my understanding, he came to the super middleweight division because one of the reasons was having trouble making weight. You’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. If you’re having trouble making weight you got to go up. If the guys are too big, then what do you do? So that’s a question for him and his team and I can’t really speculate on that. Only he knows.”

On what he wants to say to all of his fans and supporters:

“I just want to thank them for the support and just tell them that I don’t overlook it. I appreciate it and any opportunity that I can get to connect with you guys I’m going to take it. Just know that I’m always looking to get better. I’m not resting on any victory. I wasn’t pleased with my last performance, but I’m going to come back and I’m going to come back a lot stronger and I’m going to look a lot better. Just stay tuned because the best is yet to come.”


For those interested in listening to the Andre Ward interview in its entirety, it begins right at the start of the program.


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Boxing News Andre Ward: “I think I’ve earned the right to fight at home and I don’t think the judges, or the referees, or anybody else has played a role in my fights in terms of helping me win”