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September 4, 2012 > Local resident is boxing phenomenon

Local resident is boxing phenomenon

By Kenny Jacoby, Photo by Alexis Cuarezma

One of the greatest boxers in the world today grew up right around the corner. 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 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. He began training at nine years old when his father, Frank Ward, took him to King's Gym in Oakland. Frank introduced Andre to trainer Virgil Hunter, asking him "to teach his son to hit and not get hit." Ward is now 28 years old; Hunter remains his coach as well as his mentor and godfather.

Ward played numerous sports while in school, including football at Hayward High School, where he was a star running back and safety. But Ward had to make a 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 to pursue boxing.

Ward's focused work ethic and dedication to the sport were key factors in his rise to fame. When he began training with Hunter as a nine year-old, Ward would show up at the local gym at 5 a.m., three hours before school started, for his daily workout. The hard work paid dividends as he earned virtually every big title and championship possible 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 boxing gold in eight years.

Five months after his Olympic appearance, Ward made his pro debut in which he knocked out Chris Molina in the second round. This impressive first victory set the stage for a phenomenal boxing career; 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, 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.

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.

Ward, unlike many athletes on the top of their sport, has not become a brash and imprudent champion. While excelling in his fights, Ward has been practicing to become a boxing commentator, gaining insight by training with Versus, Comcast, and SHOWTIME; he 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 fans.

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