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20 NOVEMBER 2018


Andre Ward Looking For Respect at Homecoming

Andre Ward:
Andre Ward:

By Jason Pribila

At one time an Olympic Gold Medal was an American fighter’s introduction to the world. The moment when a camera zoomed on a fighter’s face when the medal was placed around his neck was often the equivalent of being handed a blank check. Andre Ward is the only American to capture gold during the last two Olympic Games, but it has yet to translate to gold around his waist or in his bank account. In fact, he agreed to break camp early to participate in a conference call to promote his May 16 bout against Edison Miranda.

Entering his fifth year as a professional boxer, Ward boasts a record of 18-0 (12). His professional career has been moved at a measured pace. When he was about to make his move in 2008, he was sidelined by a knee injury suffered during a pick-up game of basketball. The good news for Ward is that he is still only 25 years old. The bad news is that his progress to date pales in comparison to another “Golden Boy” from California.

Oscar De La Hoya’s eighteenth professional fight was a lightweight unification bout against Rafael Ruelas. Five years into his career he had already won super fights against Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker. He was already a pay-per-view staple poised to put the sport on his back when Mike Tyson melted down against Evander Holyfield.

A career like De La Hoya’s comes along once in a generation, which is why Ward seems to be comfortable with where he is at this point of his career.

“People are going to have opinions about my opponents and how tough they think they are,” he said. “The bottom line is we’ve taken a steady climb up. We haven’t been fighting tomato cans. These guys have six to eight weeks to prepare for me and win.”

“Yeah this (Miranda) is a step up, but at the same time this is right where we need to be,” agreed Ward. “These are the kinds of fights that bring out the best in great and potentially great fighters.”

It was only two years ago that Miranda was being talked about as the fighter on the rise. The power-punching Columbian walked and talked his way into the boxing spotlight and a title eliminator against Kelly Pavlik. While he spent that promotion calling out Taylor, he failed to focus on Pavlik, and was knocked out in seven one-sided rounds.

The loss was blamed on trouble making weight, and soon Miranda moved up to super middleweight. He talked his way into a rematch with Arthur Abraham, and hoped to avenge his controversial first loss (a decision loss to Abraham in Germany). This time, Abraham climbed the scales to fight Miranda at the catch-weight of 166 lbs. Miranda was knocked out in four rounds.

Suddenly the man that everyone was supposed to fear is being called out. Miranda is now viewed by many as being one dimensional. He is considered to be more sizzle than steak, and someone whose style will make the fighter on the left side of the marquee look sensational.

28 year-old Ward 32-3 (28) fell short of admitting this, and instead views himself as the fighter with something to prove.

“Absolutely (he is) the best fighter I have fought on paper,” he said. “I don’t have any predictions. I’m the underdog in my mind. That’s how I prepared, that’s how my focus is.” Ward confidently went on to say, “If you’ve seen one of his fights you’ve seen them all. Miranda is going to be Miranda and I’m going to be Andre Ward.”

Ward has fought several times in his home state of California, but this fight will mark the first time that he has fought in his home town of Oakland. While it is obvious that Ward with be the overwhelming crowd favorite, there is some debate about whether or not that is an advantage.

“Fighting in your backyard could either be a gift or a curse,” said Ward. “I don’t get caught up in lights-camera-action. I have a job to do. I have been preparing for nights like this since I was 9 years old. Trust me, there’s going to be a lot of energy in the building, and I’m going to deliver on May 16.”

There will be added incentive for Ward to look impressive on the network that has already seen it’s investment in the super middleweight division to pay off. When Showtime jumped at the chance to televise the Carl Froch vs. Jermain Taylor title fight two weeks ago, their hopes were greatly exceeded when Froch earned a come-from behind knockout victory with 14 seconds left on the clock. As an added bonus, the opening fight of the telecast saw an explosive Allan Green deliver a second round knockout, and immediately challenge ring-side observer, Lucien Bute to a fight this summer.

A division that was supposed to suffer due to the void left from Joe Calzaghe’s retirement and Mikkel Kessler’s promotional problems has instead thrived. Young fighters with television friendly styles, who are willing to fight each other, have made super middleweight a deep and exciting division. Showtime’s commitment should continue to pay off with intriguing match-ups for years to come.

While Ward is surely aware of what a win on May 16 means to his future as a player in the suddenly hot division, he remained focused on the task at hand.

“For me this fight is totally about respect,” said Ward. “Respect from the media, the whole 168-pound division in general. There is always something to prove. Nice guys do finish first, not last. I’m eating, sleeping, and drinking Edison Miranda.”

If Ward takes care of his business on May 16, his next seat will be at the dinner table with the division’s elite.

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