Fort Meade Soldier battles in the ring
November 1, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Nov. 1, 2012) -- After working a full day with the 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion -- and when most people head home for the night -- Staff Sgt. Andre Ward starts to warm up.
Following a short drive to Laurel, Ward changes from his Army uniform into workout gear much like any other Soldier for physical training. Only he adds one final touch -- boxing gloves.
While Ward serves as an active-duty Soldier with the Fort Meade-based military intelligence unit, the 32-year-old also trains as a professional boxer with the Young Titans Boxing Club in the evenings.
His training hit a climax Saturday night as Ward fought in his fourth professional bout at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. Ward's cruiserweight fight against Mario Flores ended in a majority draw, bringing his professional record to 1-2-1.
"It would have been nicer to win," Ward said. "I'll give him the last round, and maybe some of the third. But I think I won the first two, if not the three. I think I did enough to win."
Training started two months ago as Ward embarked on the long and rigorous buildup to the fight. The young boxer's preparation was led by trainer and manager Lorenzo Whitehead, who began working with Ward in 2008.
When Ward first started training with Whitehead, he said he was beginning from square one, with little skill and experience.
"I couldn't throw a punch properly," Ward said of his early boxing days. "I couldn't even jump rope for two or three minutes."
Now, Ward's daily routine consists of hourlong jump-rope sessions and bag work for six, four-minute rounds. Whitehead said that Ward has become a solid boxer despite his early struggles.
"Andre has come a very long way," he said. "He's very dedicated. He's a workaholic."
Ward credits his improvement and success to his dedication to the sport, giving up time with friends and family to spend three hours in a gym, six days a week.
"I've sacrificed so much and I'm not even anywhere in the sport," he said. "There's so much you have to give up to do this. ... If something's really important to you, you'll find a way to do it."
In preparation for Saturday's fight, Ward's routine consisted of jump roping, bag work, shadow boxing and sparring two or three times a week. But because not many boxers are in Ward's weight class, he and Whitehead had to travel to find sparring partners.
"We've had to go out to get sparring, but we've got some good work," Whitehead said.
In addition to the physical regiment, Ward also changed his diet heading into the fight by cutting out sugars. Sugar, he said, slows down fast-twitch muscles, which help generate short bursts of strength or speed such as punching or running.
In the week leading up to the fight, Ward cut back on the heavy workouts and focused on hand-eye coordination on the speed bag and endurance with the jump rope.
At the weigh-in Friday night, the 6-foot-2 Ward was weighed at 195 pounds. After the weigh-in, he was able to eat carbohydrates and some sugar again in preparation for the four-round bout.
Heading into the fight, Ward hoped to bounce back after a loss in his last bout and return to his winning ways.
In Ward's first professional fight, the bout was ruled a draw. Ward called it a "moral victory" having gone punch for punch with an 8-0 fighter. The following fight, Ward took advantage of a weaker opponent and sealed the victory by knockout.
But following the win, Ward said he entered the next contest overconfident and without a game plan and was defeated. He planned to learn from his mistakes for Saturday's bout.
"I'm going to go in there seeing a full scope, being able to apply what I learned from last time," he said.
On fight night, Ward's bout was the second of the evening. While physical harm is part of the sport, Ward said his biggest concern or fear heading into the ring is embarrassing himself in front of the crowd. The contact isn't even a thought.
"Everybody gets nervous," he said. "You don't think about it, you know you're going to get hit. Floyd Mayweather [a five-division world champion who has won eight world titles] gets hit and he's the best."
Early on in Saturday's fight Ward took control, dominating the first two rounds. But Flores battled back in the middle of the third round and took control of the fourth round.
The fight was ruled a majority draw, with two of the three judges ruling a 38-38 split.
"It was hard," Ward said. "You know what you're doing in the gym and what you execute in the gym. You have such high expectations from what you put in the training, then go out and not win."
Ward said that he didn't implement all his skills in the fight and needed to run harder and faster. Even though it wasn't a loss, he said it still felt similar to a loss.
"Maybe I should have thrown a couple more," Ward said after the bout. "I feel like I did enough to squeak out a win. I may not have won by a large margin, but I think I did enough to win."