By Robert Hough
Andre “SOG” Ward said his fight with “Bad” Chad Dawson was set at 168 pounds the minute Dawson issued a public challenge to Ward to face him at that weight. Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), the WBA, WBC and The Ring super middleweight champion is scheduled to defend his belts against Dawson (31-1-0-2, 17 KOs), the WBC light heavyweight champion who’s dropping 7 pounds, on Sept. 8 at the Oracle Arena Oakland, Calif.
“It’s negotiating 101,” Ward said Tuesday during a teleconference to discuss the bout that’s set to take place a few miles from where Ward was born and has lived since then. “He was negotiating against himself when he said that. I never demanded that. When I was sitting on my couch and heard him say what he said, to me, the fight was signed, sealed and delivered.”
Ward, who won an Olympic gold medal as a light heavyweight in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, claimed the WBC belt and won The Super Six World Boxing Classic when he beat Carl Froch with some ease on December 17 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The 28-year-old broke bones in his left hand days before that fight and hasn’t been in the ring since then.
He’s facing Dawson almost nine months after the Froch fight, the longest layoff of his pro career, but the break’s done him well, he said.
“I literally think about this sport every day,” Ward said. I always have my mind on the sport and I’m always sharpening my tools, and I think having the age advantage on my side is a big deal, too. If anything, the break has done me good. With the Froch fight, we trained really hard and the Super Six, the toll that took, I think (the layoff) was a good thing.”
As his hand healed and he rested his body and mind, and prepared for the birth of his fourth child, Ward said he wasn’t looking for the Dawson fight.
“He wasn’t on my radar in terms of me gunning for him,” he said. “I always thought that definitely one day it was gonna happen. People said, ‘Why?’ We said, ‘Why not?’”
Dawson, the 30-year-old WBC light heavyweight champion, dominated Bernard Hopkins on April 28, also at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, has said Ward’s versatility makes it hard to prepare to fight him. Dawson said, though, that he’s been more than satisfied with his preparation.
“We’ve had great sparring, better than what we expected,” he said during the teleconference. “On that note, everything is great. We got guys who emulate him very well.”
Dawson pointed out that he’s had success against fighters with diverse approaches and techniques.
“I fought a total of 14 rounds with Bernard I fought and beat a lot of other guys with different styles,” said Dawson, who was born in Hartsville, S.C., and lives in New Haven, Conn. “It says a lot about me that I can adapt to different styles and that I’m not afraid to fight Ward in his hometown. I’m a very intelligent fighter in the ring.”
John Scully, Dawson’s trainer, believes his fighter’s height advantage of a couple inches and reach advantage of about five inches will pose new and serious challenges for Ward.
“More than Ward’s recent opponents, we will be able to implement our plan,” said Scully, who fought for 13 years and retired in 2001. “His recent opponents weren’t able to implement their game plans and some of that was due to the physical limitations some of those opponents had. Chad forces people to adjust to him.”