By Robert Hough
There was no Thanksgiving dinner with the family for Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs), who’s away from his wife and three children while training for his December 17th fight against Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs), but he was like a kid on Christmas morning earlier this month when he opened a box with the shoes he’ll wear in the ring against the Englishman.
Ward, who has enough footwear to fill a small shoe store, was thrilled when he first saw the Everlast red-white-and-blue footwear he’ll wear in Atlantic City, NJ.
“I came in representing my country strong against Kessler and we’re going to go out there the same way,” he said about three weeks before the Super Six final, which will be shown live on Showtime. “I’m an American and I’m proud of my country. Wearing the red, white and blue is not for show; it’s an honor to do it. I’m sure Carl Froch feels the same way about England and I respect him for that. We’ll be representing our countries with a lot of pride and determination.”
Ward, the 27-year-old San Francisco native and 2004 Olympic gold medal winner, admitted that he has been less thrilled by Froch’s mouth.
“He is pretty annoying,” Ward said with a grin while meeting the media at King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland, Calif. “He is, but I take nothing away from him. He’s a good fighter. Froch is going to be Froch and I’m going to be me.
“You say to me, ‘You can’t punch.’ I don’t have to believe you. I know what I’ve got. ‘I’m going to rough you up.’ Okay, that’s fine. That’s how you feel. We’re gonna see. That’s the beauty of a fight date. You have an opportunity when the truth comes out. I expect a tough fight, I expect a physical fight and you’ve got to take him very seriously, but I expect to leave with my arm raised.”
There’s a big difference between being annoyed and being distracted, the WBA super middleweight champion said.
“I know what he’s trying to do and it’s not working,” he said. “It’s annoying and it’s definitely fun fighting guys like him because of the way he talks, but if you think it’s going to take me out of my game and cause me just to lose it, that’s not going to happen.”
So what is going to happen?
More of what’s worked so far, said Ward, who acknowledged that he’s wanted to face Froch, the WBC super middleweight champion, in the Super Six final because of the fan interest, his opponent’s accomplishments and his mouth.
“I’ll take the lead, I think; I’ll counter; and I’ll do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’m working hard and sacrificing a lot during training – missing the Thanksgiving meal’s not as big as missing that time with my family – and I know he is, too. I think we’re both taking each other very, very seriously.”
Virgil Hunter, Ward’s trainer, acknowledged that his fighter will have to deal with Froch’s reach advantage, which is listed at four inches.
“He’s got to get inside those long arms,” Hunter said. “He’s not going to stay on the end of his punches.”
Froch boxed more in his last two fights, against Glen Johnson and Arthur Abraham, and said recently that he could box Ward, but Hunter believes he won’t be able to do that.
“He was able to box against those guys because of their size and how they fought,” Hunter said. “Dre’s bigger than Johnson and Abraham, and he’s a far better boxer. He isn’t going to be able to box Andre. He’ll have to go back to what he was before, which is being more of a brawler and Andre can handle that.”
Hunter dismissed a thought that Froch also has an advantage because he can target Ward’s eye, which was cut in sparring and delayed the fight from October 29th to December 17th.
“You can’t just target one area,” he said. “We’re not giving that any thought.”
The scar from the cut, which remains clearly visible, has caused no changes in training or planning for the fight, Ward said.
“It will be fine,” he said. “We’re not doing anything different. We know Froch will try to target that area and I would, too, if I was in his position. I’ve fought with cuts before so if it does bleed, it won’t be a problem.”
Ward pointed out that Froch has bled in the ring, too.
“He’s been cut before too, like when he fought Pascal, and he puffs up and bleeds, so we’ve got a lot of spots we’re gonna be targeting.”
Froch said recently that while he has started slowly in some fights, he’ll get after it from the first round because if Ward’s cut reopens, it could go to the scorecards after four rounds.
“I need to make sure I get a great start and win the early rounds,” he told Sky Sports.
Sounds good, Ward said; I’ll be there to put on a show – and collect a couple more early Christmas treats.
“I’m getting his belt and I’m getting that Super Six trophy.”