RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward shared his memories of what it was like to win an Olympic gold medal in a press release ahead of his HBO-televised bout opposite RING light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson that is slated for Sept. 8 at Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Ward, 28, whose father died in 2002 of a heart ailment, also credited his trainer and father figure, Virgil Hunter, for helping to guide him to Olympic glory in 2004.
“Virgil, man, this is as much for him as it is for me,” said Ward after dethroning Mikkel Kessler for his first professional world title — the WBA’s version — by decision in November, 2009. “Virgil has a gold medalist, and now, he has a world champion. He knows how to keep me focused in a fight from round to round.”
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) became RING champion in December, when he unanimously decisioned Carl Froch to add the Englshman’s WBC 168-pound belt to the WBA crown that he already owned in addition to earning him the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup.
Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) earned a majority decision win to dethrone the legendary Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) in April.
Andre Ward: Discuss what it was like competing in the Olympics and how it feels to be the last U.S. boxer to win a gold medal.
“Competing in the 2004 Olympics and winning a gold medal was one of the highlights of my life and boxing career for a lot of reasons. To have the chance to represent my country, back in 2004 in the first Olympic Games after 9/11, when the U.S. was at war was extremely special.
“This was a goal that I had for myself and I had worked toward for 10 years. Then, it was just for the love of the sport. It had nothing to do with money. It had nothing to do with fame. It was about representing your country. From that standpoint, everything was pure.
“No professional experience that I ever have will supersede winning at the Olympics. The Olympic Games shaped me and gave me confidence. It gave me the attitude to know that I belong at the highest level. It strengthened my faith in God, because it was something that was placed on my heart as a young kid that I could win.
“I went through ups and downs, but my Father and Virgil helped me to stay focused through all of that. To accomplish a goal that big was surreal. Standing on that podium and hearing the national anthem play for me was surreal and was something that will always have a special place in my heart.
“Aside from winning the gold medal, going to the opening ceremony is something that did a lot for me. I wasn’t initially supposed to be there because I thought I was going to have to fight the next day. But I found out just before that I got a bye and could go.
“Outside of winning gold and standing on the podium, the opening ceremony was the highlight of my Olympics. Even before winning, the opening ceremony jumps out in my mind about the 2004 games. It really solidified that I was at the Olympics and that it was real.
“I had never really had a feeling like I did walking into that stadium with hundreds of top athletes from the United States that night to kick off the 2004 Games. I had goose bumps. I had chills.
“I thought about my father. I thought about everything that it took to get there. It was an unbelievable feeling and an unbelievable experience and it catapulted me into my first fight and really helped me out.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]