Andre Ward has advice for Kevin Durant: Don’t let critics get you down
Oakland native Andre Ward has some advice for his friend and fellow Roc Nation client Kevin Durant as he makes the transition from Oklahoma City savior to the loaded Golden State Warriors after his surprise decision on Monday.
As someone who has endured criticism for his own career moves, Ward advised Durant to block out the personal attacks and just be himself. Durant has been pilloried for leaving a small-market team on the verge of a championship to a club that is expected to win titles.
“Don’t let the negativity of others pollute you,” Ward told RingTV.com on Monday. “Don’t let them twist you into being a villain or wearing the black hat. Be KD. Be who you are. And then as a player, yes, you can use that as motivation. Use it as fuel. But stay who you are.”
Ward (29-0, 15 knockouts) speaks from experience. Ward, who is close with several players on the Golden State Warriors, sees similarities in the way fans reacted to Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder to his own move to Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports in January of 2015. When Ward signed with Roc Nation, there was the feeling he was leaving the company that groomed him for the new, flashy kid on the block, not unlike what Durant is going through today.
Ward was plagued with inactivity from 2012-2015 because of injuries and legal issues with his former promoter, the late Dan Goossen. Ward reportedly tried to break his contract with Goossen Promotions several times, even accusing him of violating the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. Goossen countersued for $10 million for defamation.
“My move and going through what I went through with the lawsuits and different things like that and then coming out of left field with signing with Roc Nation was a shock (to people),” Ward said in a phone interview. “Nobody expected that. And for us to kind of drop it one day — it was kind of mind-boggling and obviously there was some criticism. So it was very similar (to Durant). And ironically, Roc Nation was in the middle of it, too.”
The former super middleweight kingpin has forged a friendship with Durant and says the seven-time All-Star could turn up at his next fight against Alexander Brand on Aug. 6 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Ward has fought at Oracle Arena seven times, where the Warriors play their home game. “It’s definitely not out of the question,” Ward said. “I haven’t spoken to him and he and I communicate. We have each other’s number.”
Both Steph Curry and Draymond Green attended Ward’s light heavyweight debut against Sullivan Barrera on March 26 at Oracle Arena. Curry even walked Ward to the ring before his fight with Paul Smith in June of 2015. Ward and Durant first came into contact after Ward said Durant reached out to him on Instagram to say he was a fan nearly two years ago. Their friendship has grown since then. Ward gifted Durant with a pair of his custom Jordan Brand boxing shoes; the two are both repped by Roc Nation Sports.
“I was like, ‘Come on, is this the real KD?'” Ward said of the time Durant messaged him on Instagram. “And basically he told me how much he respected me, how much he appreciated my craft and what I do in the ring but more so the individual that I am and I was just blown away. And I just responded and said, ‘Hey, I respect you and you’re an inspiration for me too.’ So I’m looking forward to continuing to build with him on a personal level and I would hope to see him in the building (on Aug. 6).”
Ward is also looking forward to his fight with Brand, who was not the first choice for him to face. If he gets past the 39-year-old, Ward is on a collision course with unified light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on HBO PPV. Kovalev also has an interim fight on July 11 in Russia.
“First thing, I’m just happy to have an opponent,” Ward said. “People don’t realize the amount of opponents we went through to get to this point. We had two or three undefeated fighters at light heavyweight and they fell off for one reason or another. I’m just excited about the opportunity and excited to be healthy and consistent and one more and then we have the big showdown in November.”
Ward, who attended a number of Warriors games last season, wouldn’t promise a championship with the addition of Durant. “I don’t want to say that,” Ward said laughing. “They were guaranteed last season. Listen, put it like this, we’re contenders in the West and I think we’ll be right there.” He still can’t believe Durant left OKC to sign with Golden State. “I couldn’t imagine a guy of his caliber coming to a team that’s already as dominant as it already is,” he said. “I thought it was too good to be true.”
Mitch Abramson is a former reporter for the New York Daily News and can be reached on Twitter at: @Mabramson13.