On June 19th WBA Super middleweight Champion Andre Ward defends his title for the very first time against the dangerous Allan Green. Recently I met with Andre at Kings Gym in Oakland were we discussed many things, including the night he won the title, the criticism that followed, his feelings on when fighters should retire and…his upcoming rumble with Allan Green. You can catch the fight June 19th on SHOWTIME Sports. The SHOWTIME live telecast starts at 10pm ET/PT.
John Raspanti: How’s the knee?
Andre Ward: The knee is doing exceptionally well. I’ve had zero pain…Pretty simple formula I think when the knee started feeling better I backed away from the strength work in my legs. Coming off an injury like a torn ACL…I’m just going to have to do this life, I’m going to have to keep that up…when I keep that up the muscles around the knee get bigger and get stronger and it takes the pressure off the knee. When I lose that muscle mass in my quads my hamstrings get weak and stuff…the knee pain is coming back. So when it started feeling good I backed away from the rehab and the strength work and that’s what the problem was again now that I’m back on it and I’m doing everything I need to be doing I can’t complain about that...it’s feeling good.
JR: You hurt it playing basketball right?
AW: (sideways smile) Originally yeah…24 hour fitness.
JR: Playing a pick-up game?
AW: Yeah I was coming off the Rebello fight…I considered it a cross training kind of thing. I always knew in the back of my head that something could happen…but I was always hoping and praying that nothing would happen and then it happened. You know I heard this pop. I knew instantly it was bad and that was it. I took some time off…I’m just grateful to be back at one hundred percent, my legs are big part of my game.
JR: Back to the night you won the championship…do you remember what you were thinking when Jimmy Lennon Jr. read the judges scoring?
AW: Yeah before he read the scoring I didn’t want to celebrate. I was telling my team Virg…lets get these scores first. The referee made it clear it was a TKO…that had me a little nervous. I knew I had won but you never know so I wanted to hear it…once I heard it was like a thousand pound weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Not necessarily because of the pressure the media put on me to become a world champion…coming off being an Olympic gold medalist. But I put a lot of pressure on myself; I have a high standard as does my team. Just to accomplish that and do it in my hometown was just an unbelievable feeling so I would say just a release that’s the first thing I felt and then obviously the weeks and the months of training…it was like…I am the world champ…I beat the man.
JR: Yes you did. Was it like winning the gold medal again? Or a different feeling?
AW: Different…different feeling in terms of…obviously with everything that the USA was going through at that time and still going through it was different feel and with the other countries involved. The super six is too but it was just a slightly different feel kind of hard to explain. I don’t think anything can ever top winning the gold medal…it’s just more personal there’s money involved with professional sports, it’s more of a business. Amateur boxing is more for the love of it and…representing my country against I don’t know how many countries and be able to be on the podium as number one…it’s just special. But don’t get me wrong winning the world championship is right up there.
JR: Yeah you looked pretty happy.
AW: Oh my goodness I was like a little kid. People don’t really understand…you do interviews…train…but people have no idea the sacrifices that were made and the things I had to give up. I gave up part of my childhood and the thing that I sacrifice now, being away from my family. To accomplish a goal like this especially when people didn’t think it was possible, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. People can see and get a sense…man he’s excited but you can’t understand what all goes into it. It was awesome.
JR: You dedicated the Kessler fight to your dad…how sweet was that?
AW: Unbelievable…obviously bittersweet but unbelievable in the sense that…something that he invested a lot of time and effort and money into. We accomplished it, one of our dreams. And…made me feel good that the work wasn’t in vain and finally seeing some serious fruits to not only to Virgil’s labor but my dad’s labor…and just an unbelievable feeling. The bittersweet part that he wasn’t there to witness it but…but it kind gave me some closure in a sense you know hey pop left but…I kept working. I kept putting in the work and we accomplished one of are goals so that was very special to me.
JR: Let’s talk about the fight itself…with all the complaints of butting by Kessler and his people…do you feel a bit cheated…like they are trying to take away from your victory?
AW: I think it’s unfortunate…just like he got cut I could have easily got cut, I was cut in the Miranda fight…it happens. But for them to say it’s malicious…you don’t start butting in the 10th and 11th round…there’s no reason to…number one I’m not that kind of person…I’m not a malicious kind of person…I think it was just me being young…being aggressive and anxious and it happens. I’m not a professional head butter. I don’t know how to butt a guy without getting cut…it just happens. It’s unfortunate. Those comments…but in this sport I’m learning you have to have thick skin. A lot of things are said, but the way I looked at is…it’s part of the game. I think if you really know the sport and really know boxing, I think that people really saw what happened. That was at the end…what about the other ten rounds. I mean to my credit I could have possibly cheated myself out of a TKO because I felt like he was ready to go…but you know again it was unfortunate it happened but it was just me evolving as a fighter. That was my first world title fight…lots of nerves…lots of anxiety…plus I’m still a young fighter so I have a lot of extra energy that I use.
JR: Not saying anything bad about Kessler…he’s a nice guy…but
AW: Real nice guy…
JR: Yeah…I think he was shocked by what you did to him…do you think he underestimated you?
AW: I think so…I think I’m one of the most underestimated fighters in the game right now. I would like to be coined the most feared…skillful…but I think I’m the most underestimated for some reason. It’s like Floyd Mayweather said on the one on faceoff with Shane on ESPN, for some reason they all think it’s easy. That’s what they do with me…Green is making the same mistake. He’s lookin' and he’s saying…oh he’s not a physical fighter…you know I read a quote a few days ago in Boxing Digest…where Green said…I’m the one he’s least worried about in the tournament…you know I’m a decent fighter…I’m a thinking mans fighter…but I’m really not anything to worry about. So it’s happening all over again...so I believe he’ll be surprised like Kessler was.
JR: Were you surprised that he never adjusted to what you were doing?
AW: Not really…we expected that. We looked at the Calzaghe fight and we knew that was gonna happen. How you do some things is how you do all things. Which is what he’s done in forty one fights…he may of made some subtle adjustments but….he’s going to be the same guy. And we didn’t see him making any changes Joe Calzaghe…did the same exact thing even though he wasn’t successful. In all his fights he did the same thing…the same approach so we didn’t expect him to make any adjustments. We were right…
JR: You seem to be able to concentrate real and focus, how do you do it?
AW: (smiling) I don’t know…I’ve always been a serious person…you know I love to have fun and stuff but I’ve always been…call me an old soul. For a young guy I’ve always been locked in…it’s kinda strange when you see a young kid locked in like that. But thank God that’s carried over to my professional career. Actually right now I’m working on just having more fun. Because…we got to put in the work…you got to work…you have to grind…that’s part of it. But…you also have to enjoy what you do. You gotta have fun so if anything I’m working on staying focused but giving myself leeway to enjoy myself but as far as the focus it’s God given. I’ve always been even as a kid. I was trained to lock in on something and go get it, that’s who I am.
JR: Yeah and in boxing, your career is over so young. I wrote an article about…how would anybody feel if they had to give up something they love at like thirty three, thirty four years old. You’re not old…but you’re old in boxing. I mean you’re done you can’t ever do it again. It’s got to be the hardest the thing in the world to do.
AW: (nodding) Right…it’s tough...for example I’ve been doing this since I was nine years old, I’m twenty six now so God willing I’m going do this for another five or seven years…hopefully at thirty two…thirty three I’m done. But still to give it up like that…man after all those years…It’s going to be difficult.
JR: Kessler was trying to time you with his right hand; did any of his punches buzz you?
AW: He never buzzed me…he hit me a few times and Virg saw that and said hey man we have to be busier, he caught maybe once or twice but…he never buzzed me. In the sport of boxing your going to get hit but…if you can count on two hands how many times you got hit, that’s pretty darn good. I was encouraged about that but always, I’m looking to get better and try to be perfect and saying hey you shouldn’t have got hit by that. That’s the great thing about Virg…he educates me on that. A lot coaches look at what you do well and they praise it…Oh my gosh that guy can punch. Oh he’s the best boxer…Virg…doesn’t look at me when I fight. He looks at me a little when I spar but he watches the other guy and see’s what he’s doing and looks at where you can get beat. I know you can do this and that, I know your going to keep refining that, but where can you get beat? And…that’s what we work on, that’s why there’s always work to be done as far as how high you want to go. So…that keeps me humble.
JR: Yeah look at Mayweather he got hit with those two right hands against Mosley…
AW: Those things start happening when you get thirty three, thirty four, thirty five, that why I would like to see guys give it up man. They got enough money, there secure, walk away. I’d like to see more guys walk away from the sport, instead of the sport retiring them.
JR: Your next fight is with Allan Green who sports a pretty impressive record of 29-1 with 20 knockouts…have you watched any tapes of his fights?
AW: We’ve watched him for years; we’ve seen a ton of his fights. Good fighter man…he seems to be athletic, pretty rangy…his money punch is his left hook although I don’t think he’s as good as he says he is, this is his opportunity to show the world what he’s got. He’s been crying for a title shot and crying about not being in the tournament, so he’s got to put up. But as far as technically, he’s a pretty good fighter.
JR: I read where you said he’s a beast…a monster…can you explain what you what meant?
AW: What I mean is that I’m not a guy whose going to take anything away from my opponent and make the mistake that Kessler made against me or Green is making against me, where I could eventually let my guard down. So I’m looking at like this guy is a good fighter but I almost make 'em better then what he is so that causes me to come in here and push as hard as I push day in and day out. I create a monster in my mind…I don’t really focus on the flaws I focus on…this guy is great. He’s got a good left hook; I better watch out, I get my self to the championship level mentally so you’re always alert because you’re giving your opponent your just due and his respect. Now what will happen in the fight, that remains to be seen but you got to give a guy his respect in order to prepare.
JR: He (Green) is talking a little trash now…when a fighter talks trash Is he trying to convince himself or is he trying to convince you, what is the thinking there?
AW: It could be a combination of things…I think with a guy like Miranda…he believes everything he says and he tries to do it. Green…I think he’s trying to convince himself… trying to intimate me…he’s barking up the wrong tree. I’ve been in the game to long amateur and professional and there’s not too much that he can say that I haven’t heard before. Like I said at the press conference, once the date is set and the contracts are signed there’s nothing left to talk about. We gotta a date…you know if he feels he’s going to bring certain things to the table that’s fine. I’m not afraid of being tested, I’m not afraid of having to whether a storm…and come back that’s what professional championship boxing is all about. So I’m putting it all on the line and he’s putting it all on the line and all the talking is going out the window…it means nothing. I’ve never been a talker…I’ve always been a quiet guy. I was raised that way…hey man close your mouth work hard and go do it. Don’t talk about it, that’s just the way I was raised. Why he does it…I have no idea.
JR: You said he’s got a good left hook and right hand, is the best plan to counter or is better to wait a bit?
AW: There are certain area’s where he likes to throw it. I’m not going to be standing there waiting to let him throw that left hook. People try to coin me…as a pretty boxer because they can’t define me. So they put that tag on me…but if you really watch my fights…I flow I slide I’m in and out and back in…I’m inside then I’m outside…there’s gonna be a little bit of everything. We have identified where he likes to throw the left hook, certain area’s of the ring where he likes to close his eyes and swing for the fences.
JR: You were so up for the Kessler fight, so motivated by all the doubters…will you be just as up on June 19th against Green?
AW: Even more so…I know I’m officially the champion but I have so much work to do…I’m just so driven right now, especially when a guy talks the way he talks…the fire is already on. He just poured gasoline on the fire so he’s making it worse for himself. I’m putting in the work day in and day out…people don’t understand it, they want to point out my flaws that’s fine…that’s cool. Everybody has flaws but can you do anything about it? At a certain point there are really no secrets, once you’ve been fighting for years everybody knows what you have. But can you stop what I have. I know Kobe’s going to do but can you stop him?…I know what Lebron is going to do but can you stop him? That’s what it’s going to boil down to…I know what he’s going to bring…he knows what I’m going to bring…at the end of the day can you stop what I’m doing. He’s desperate to win it but I’m desperate to keep it. You got two desperate men in there so that should make for a good fight.
Andre is sure right…
June 19th at the Oracle Arena it’s Andre Ward versus Allan Green.