On Tuesday, August 2, Two-Time World Champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) and power-punching Colombian Alexander Brand (25-1, 19 KOs) participated in a media workout at King’s Gym in Oakland, California in advance of their August 6 fight at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Ward and Brand will meet in 12-round WBO Intercontinental title bout televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® beginning at 10:35 p.m. ET/PT.
After shadowboxing in the ring and a few rounds on the punching bags, both fighters participated in interviews with media members in attendance. Also on hand to catch the hometown hero were a dozen members of the West Oakland Boys and Girls Club chapter. Ward surprised the group of local youths with tickets to Saturday’s fight.
Below is what the fighters had to say during the final media workout:
ANDRE WARD, Two-Time World Champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter:
“It was good to get back in camp right after the last fight. I was a lot sharper early in camp than I normally am. The last couple of years, typically, you have to get the rust off first, then work on getting sharp, work on technique and the game plan. This training camp was continuous of the last training camp, I probably put in over 130 rounds. I feel really good.
“I know enough about Brand. He’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose. He swings for the fences with every punch. He’s a dangerous guy to fight.
“It feels good to be back at Oracle Arena multiple times this year. I don’t know how much stock you can put into the last couple of years. A lot of people are talking about it, but people have to weigh in the amount of time I have been doing this, which is all my life. You look at Floyd Mayweather, he took a couple of hiatuses and it may have given him two or three more years. It was a mental break and it was a physical break. Taking those couple years where maybe you’re not fighting as frequently, it’s not always a bad thing, especially late in your career.
“I came up a little different in my Olympic days. Virgil Hunter is the type of coach who will get you away from everybody and turn your phone off. We didn’t have snapchat in 2004, we didn’t have Instagram in 2004. We had a room that we all had to huddle around with desktop computers where we all had to get news about what was going on. But now, in 2016, I see the USA team snapchatting and Instagramming. Part of you wants to tell them to shut it down and do it like I did it, but that may not be the right thing. Understand why you’re there, understand you’re not going to get this moment again. You don’t typically repeat when you go for the Olympics. Understand why you’re there, take it seriously and everything else will fall in place.
“The key is to have a good team. I’ve got a great lawyer, a great manager and a great promotional team in Roc Nation Sports. They are going to make sure the details are right. This is a very much a business, and before there’s combat, business has to be handled and taken care of. I think fighters and all athletes should be unapologetic about taking care of business. That way, when you get into that ring or field or court, your mind can be free.
“Unfortunately, our women don’t get the respect they deserve, they don’t get the notoriety. They don’t get the exposure that they probably should get. Raquel Miller, who will be on the card, and other female fighters, they do what we do. They’re training and grinding but they are not always noticed. I remember the Christie Martin days where she fought on the Mike Tyson undercards with Laila Ali. They got some good publicity and shine. However, there are so many other young female fighters coming up, ones who are established and have been fighting, whom people don’t know about. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m happy for Raquel and excited to have her on the card. I don’t believe when people say there is no market for women’s boxing. Let’s create a market then, let’s create some buzz!
“Sergey Kovalev is not on my mind at all. I’ve got a job to do. I haven’t even talked about Kovalev. We can talk about Kovalev on August 7th, that’s what I told my team. I didn’t watch his last fight, he’s not my next opponent but I know what happened and what people are saying about it.
“I’ve never seen Brand in person. It’s tricky, in my last fight, Sullivan Barrera was a little bit bigger than me. Everyone made a big deal about that, and Brand is smaller than me. You’ve got to be able to get it done, short or tall, explosive or wild. Brand is wild, so it’s going to take a few rounds to break him down and tame him before we start doing what we want to do. As a championship-caliber fighter, you’ve got to be able to deal with everything, every style and size. I’ve never seen the guy in person, so it’s hard to gauge.
“Taking away my opponents’ best weapon away is a skill that I developed as a kid, right here at King’s Gym. Virgil was a really, really good coach. He’s probably the last of the great teachers. I’ve been in here with pros at 13 and 14 years old. Seasoned veterans hitting me on my head, trying to discourage me, trying to bully me. I would go back to the corner and say, ‘Man he hit me on my head. Man he’s pushing my head back.’ And Virgil would say, ‘Then make him stop.’ In other words, I had to figure it out. Having those sessions here year after year, I had to get my respect in here first before I could even fight others. I had to learn to adjust here first before I had the chance to adjust in a big fight. So, it started here. And, it carried over. Even today, we bring in top sparrers. Sparring is different than a fight, but we bring in top sparrers to make sure my senses are on point. I don’t like to lose a second of a round so even when I am tired, I try to figure it out mentally. What can I do to offset him? How can I take that away from him? Exploit his weakness? That is constantly on my mind. I think it shows when the lights come on.
“Being back at home, it’s two-fold. Part of me wants to stop and take it in. Go down memory lane and remember all the times I’ve walked into the gym, all the battles I’ve had in here. Remember the good days and the bad days. Then there is another part of me that doesn’t like looking back too soon. I’ve got to stay in the moment. It’s kind of surreal. It’s surreal to be in the arena that I have driven past for years. Driving down 880 and wishing I could headline. I’m blessed. Not a lot of people get the opportunity. I know a lot of great fighters who didn’t get the opportunity for one reason or another. And to have that opportunity, I don’t take it lightly.
“I’ve been given a tremendous opportunity. God has blessed me a lot. There’s an inscription in the bible that says to whom much is given, much is acquired. He’s given me a talent, and I’m probably not the most talented, but I want to make sure I use it the best I can. I’m running my race right now in this professional game, and when I look back I want to say that I didn’t cheat anybody, that I gave everything that I had, and this is what I have to show for it. Finishing strong is really important to me. Becoming an all-time great is really important to me. I’m just giving God a return on his investment, because he’s invested a lot in me. I’m thankful.”
ALEXANDER BRAND, Former WBC Latino Super Middleweight Champion:
“I didn’t want to show too much at this media workout but I’ve got something in store for the day of the fight.
“It doesn’t really matter that the fight is in Ward’s hometown, it’s going to be a fight. Wherever it is, whether it’s in his backyard or anywhere else, I’m coming to fight and that’s the most important thing.
“It’s nothing new for me, I fought at 175 pounds in the amateurs. My last fight in December was at 175 pounds against an undefeated Russian when Andre Ward got hurt and couldn’t fight me on the Cotto-Canelo card.
“Whatever Ward brings, I’m going to have something for him.
“Ward still has 12 rounds to fight before he can think about Kovalev.”
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August 2, 2016