For Andre Ward, it has already been a fairly dizzying career:
Olympic gold medalist in 2004.
WBA super-middleweight champion in 2009.
WBC champion in 2011, following which the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) voted him Fighter of the Year.
He is regarded by virtually all observers and reporters as one of the top boxers in the world, pound-for-pound, and in the eyes of some, second only to Floyd Mayweather Jr. He has impressed not just for the caliber of the opposition he has defeated, but for the manner in which he has done so, the variety of styles he has deployed in response to the tactics and skill sets of his assorted opponents.
But his dominance comes with an asterisk; as his level of competition has increased, so too has the number of rounds he has needed to defeat them all. After scoring 12 knockouts in his first 17 contests, he has secured just one stoppage in his last eight. It is one aspect of his game that Ward says he is looking to improve.
“I think one thing I need to do is become a good finisher. And that takes time,” he told reporters recently. “A lot of that is instinct, knowing when to step it up and then going in and stepping it up. To be honest with you, I think probably in my last two, three or four fights, there were opportunities where I could possibly have got guys out of there. Sometimes you look back at the tape and kick yourself, and say, ‘Man, right there, I didn’t see that in the moment but I could have gotten the guy.’ If you follow that up sometimes at just the right time, you can knock a guy down, you can buzz him, and potentially get him out of there. It’s just the different nuances that come with championship boxing at a high caliber.”
He points out in his defense that, for all his achievements and plaudits, he remains, at 28, a relatively young man, and with 25 bouts under the belt, a relatively inexperienced one.
“I’m still learning on the job,” he emphasized. “But I’m happy I can still learn without getting beat up in the process. Some guys take a loss, they get knocked out, they say they’re going to learn from it. I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be able to win, and still learn along the way.”
The next step in that learning process comes on HBO World Championship Boxing on September 8, when he defends his belts against light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson – an opponent he clearly respects, but one he also confidently picks himself to defeat.
“Chad has proven his worth over the years against – some people may say older fighters, but a lot of those guys he’s beat, they’re going to the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Bernard Hopkins definitely. Antonio Tarver. And Glen Johnson’s been in a lot of good, tough fights. It’s hard to say what the fight is going to look like, but at the end of the day, regardless of whatever tactic we have to take, we will emerge victorious.”