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Andre Ward, Boxing Icon

By Kenny Jacoby

Hayward native Andre Ward prepares for fight of the year, and superstardom

Photos by Alexis Cuarezma

August 30, 2012

It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest fighters in the world today grew up right around the corner from us. A native of the Fairview neighborhood of Hayward, Andre Ward has risen to stardom in the world of boxing, and is now considered by many to be the top middleweight boxer in the world.

Ward attended Fairview Elementary, Bret Harte Junior High School, and Hayward High School before making his professional debut at the age of 20. Ward began his fight training when he was nine years old, when his father, Frank Ward, took him to King’s Gym in Oakland. It was then that Frank introduced Andre to his trainer Virgil Hunter, asking him “to teach his son to hit and not get hit.” Ward is now 28 years old, and Hunter remains his coach today, as well as his mentor and godfather.

Ward played numerous sports while in grade school, including football at Hayward High School, where he was a star running back and safety. But it wasn’t long before Ward had to make the difficult life decision of which sport he was going to pursue. Frank Ward had been a boxer in high school, and he inspired Andre by telling him stories about riveting fights and triumphant victories. Frank tragically passed away in 2002 when Andre was 18, but Ward continued his father’s legacy by choosing solely to pursue boxing.

Ward’s focused work ethic and pure dedication to the sport were key in his rise to fame. When he started training with Hunter as a nine year-old, Ward would show up at the local gym at 5:00 AM, three hours before his school started, to get his daily workout in. Ward’s hard work paid dividends for him, as he amassed virtually every big title and championship imaginable for an amateur fighter. This led to Ward’s trip to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, where he earned a gold medal in the light heavyweight division, becoming the first American to achieve gold in boxing in eight years.

Five months after his Olympic appearance, Ward made his pro debut, where he knocked out Chris Molina in the second round. This impressive first victory set the stage for the rest of Ward’s career, where he has now racked up 13 knockouts in 25 matches. To date, Ward’s record is a perfect 25-0.In that span, Ward has been crowned World Boxing Council [WBC] Super Middleweight World Champion, Ring Magazine Super Middleweight Champion, SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic Champion, and World Boxing Assocation [WBA] Super Middleweight World Champion. Ward has been undefeated since 1996, when he lost a controversial decision to Jesus Gonzalez as a 12 year-old.

Though Ward is currently ranked number one in the world in the Super Middleweight division (168 pounds) by ESPN, WBC, WBA, and Fightnews, his flawless record is at stake. On September 8, Ward will take on Chad Dawson at Oracle Arena, in what many speculate to be the fight of the year. Dawson has a 31-1 lifetime record with 17 knockouts, and is ranked number one in the world in the light heavyweight division (175 pounds) by ESPN, WBC, and Fightnews. Dawson will drop to 168 pounds for the fight, which will air live on HBO at 7:00 PM.

Ward vs. Dawson is expected to be the most challenging fight of Ward’s career thus far. Ward has made appearances in multiple media days promoting his upcoming fight, including one for HBO at Xfinity TV in Oakland on August 18. There Ward signed autographs and chatted with his fans, who were lined up out the door for the meet-and-greet. (Pictured below)

Ward, unlike many athletes on the top of their sport, does not get brasher and more imprudent the further into his career he gets. While excelling in his fights, Ward has been practicing to one day become a boxing commentator. He has been gaining insight in his training with Versus, Comcast, and SHOWTIME, and is currently employed as an intern at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. At home, Ward is happily married to his high school sweetheart, with whom he has four children. Nicknamed “Son of God,” Ward is a devout Christian and role model for his young fans.

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