"When Bernard Hopkins first started off, I guarantee people didn't think he was a future Hall of Famer. He probably didn't look like a future world champion to some people. So it's hard to say, but when I look at someone having the potential other than Floyd Mayweather being in there, Andre Ward, the kid is the whole package; can mix it up and box, smart in and out of the ring, and his sole focus is boxing. That's a dangerous combination. I look at this young boy Ward and there wasn't a doubt in my mind, man. The mentality and the talent points in that direction; as much as the talent, the mentality points in that direction. His mental approach to life and the sport," stated world-class trainer Naazim Richardson, who discussed a number of subject, including Andre Ward, 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather, and much more. Check it out!
PC: You went 2-0 recently on the Adamek/Walker card, getting wins with Karl Dargan, Dynamite, and Steve Cunningham.
NR: Yeah, Dynamite got that kid out of there, man, and he was coming off of more than a year long layoff with the back injury and he ended up facing a kid who had the best record that he had faced up until this point in his career. I'll be honest, it's not the ideal opponent I had for him coming off of that kind of layoff, but sometimes your athlete has to remind you how special they are. The kid was 8-1 and the only thing that made me feel good about this fight is that he had only had one fight this year and he knocked the guy out in the 1st round, so even though he was more active than Dynamite, getting that one fight in, he didn't have many rounds. And I wanted Dynamite to go for the knockout, but at the same time, I wanted him to get rounds, but he got him out of there in the 4th. He looked real good and like I said sometimes your kid has to remind you how special they are and he is. I told him he's on the fast track now. He's gonna be one of those guys that's only gonna get like 15 fights before they throw him to the wolves because pretty soon, these C-level guys aren't going to fight him anymore. So we're trying to get him ready for that.
PC: I know you wanted to keep him busy. Is that still the plan?
NR: I want him to fight once a month for the rest of the year. With your athletes and with your kids at home, you set that bar high, and 9 times out of 10, they will get there. It's when you don't expect anything is when they will not achieve anything. But if you set that bar high, they usually don't let you down. When you see guys like Mayweather and Ward, they set the bar really high for themselves. But even with guys like that, when you see Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather talk so much shit, it's because they need their backs against the wall. They need a challenge. Believe it or not, sometimes it can start seeming easy to these guys, so Floyd Mayweather or a Bernard Hopkins will talk shit and basically back themselves into a corner because that's when they are at their best. Ward isn't going to talk a whole lot, but he do his thing in a different way. The better the competition is the better he looks.
PC: You're right about that. I want to go back to Steve right quick. I thought he looked really good at 207 and thought it was smart for him not to try to hit 220 or something like that.
NR: That was the main thing. We wanted to be comfortable and Steve (laughing), you probably shouldn't tell a fighter this, but I told Steve if they showed your losses on HBO, you would be the biggest star in fucking boxing. His losses are just as exciting as his wins because he's always gonna get up and not just get up to survive, but he gets up swinging. I told him a few times, man, the shit you get dropped with, if you look over at me...I got the towel in my hand (laughing), that joker get up trying to rumble though. And that's what we have to be careful of in this heavyweight division because one punch changes everything. In this last fight, he came back to the corner after one round and said, "I think I can go after him now." I had to calm him down off of that because I knew we had 10 rounds to get it done in, so I wanted him to keep turning his guy and use angles. A lot of that is that old school Philadelphia fighter in Steve, but we don't have to be that brave just yet while fighting guys like Gavern.
PC: You said if Chad Dawson wasn't careful, Andre Ward could stop him. That's what happened. What did you think of that fight?
NR: Well, Ward is a lot better puncher than most people give him credit for. I remember watching this guy fight as a kid and he was always a good puncher; it's just not his style to go for knockouts. But here is a guy that idolizes Bernard Hopkins, and I knew he would carry that into the ring with him and I knew if he put his foot on the gas, he could stop Chad, and that's what he did. Once he hit Chad with that left hook, that was the beginning of the end. Worse than that though, Perc, I'm gonna tell you, Chad Dawson did the one thing that could hurt his reputation in that fight. He quit. Ward could have knocked Dawson out with the first punch of the fight and he would have been okay because his next fight was already sold. He gets knocked out with the first punch and the network is going to buy his next fight because he's still the light heavyweight champion; they wanted to see if it was the weight cut and if he goes back up, will he be okay? So his next fight was sold. He did the one thing that could hurt his marketability, hurt his brand, and make him a hard sell, and that's quit, and that's what he did.
PC: Where does this put Andre Ward as a fighter in general in your opinion?
NR: Well, you can't ignore the pound-for-pound talk anymore. This kid is the real deal. I remember when people were questioning everything about this kid. It was never that he couldn't fight; he just had to step up in competition to bring the best out of himself. Malik, the guy who is always with Bernard, said someone asked him the other day what fighter did he see right now that could possibly be a future Hall of Famer. Listen, it's hard to say that because you can't predict the Hall of Fame. When Bernard Hopkins first started off, I guarantee people didn't think he was a future Hall of Famer. He probably didn't look like a future world champion to some people. So it's hard to say, but when I look at someone having the potential other than Floyd Mayweather being in there, Andre Ward, the kid is the whole package; can mix it up and box, smart in and out of the ring, and his sole focus is boxing. That's a dangerous combination. I look at this young boy Ward and there wasn't a doubt in my mind, man. The mentality and the talent points in that direction; as much as the talent, the mentality points in that direction. His mental approach to life and the sport. See, even Mayweather scared me for a while because I always thought this dude gonna end up in the joint somewhere. What is this now they say that him and 50 already broke up?
PC: That seems to be the word out there. I'm not too sure what that situation is right now.
NR: I kept telling people from the go when I seen 50 with him, I said, 50 got a plan. I said 50 got a plan and Mayweather is the springboard to 50's plans, but I said, 50 got a plan for boxing and it might not include Mayweather. 50 done outgrew all of that, flashing stacks of money and all that shit. When 50 went in a gym and saw them motherfuckers drinking that water and he jumped out on that, and then he realized this is a sport where primarily the people that get in it is poor; and he's a street dude, so a lot of rich people that try to come into the sport can't come down to the level of being in and out of the gyms. That's not their comfort zone. He will never be exposed to anything in that gym that he hasn't been exposed to in the streets yet. 50 watching people like J Prince walk in there and get that bread and be able to build an empire in that shit just off of street credibility. He came in that joint with a goal. Even other athletes that come in and try to do it, like Magic Johnson doing it, they just don't fit in to that group. When you deal with boxers, it's a different world.
PC: I spoke to James Ali Bashir the other day and we were talking about guys like yourself, Barry Hunter, and Virgil Hunter, as well as Mike Stafford, and he was just saying how rare of a breed you guys are because you guys get these guys as kids and turn them into world champions. You used to always tell me the guys that can put the gloves on the kids' hand and the title around their waist are the deserving trainers.
NR: I appreciate him saying that, man. I remember when Virgil had Andre in that gym as a kid, man. He really took that kid to the next level. But you know, I have found to respect guys like Freddie Roach and some of those guys who get these veterans and have some success with them, because one thing that I learned from training some of these older guys and veterans is that it's hard to get them to break those old habits, so I respect the artistry in taking these vets and doing something with them, but he's right, it's rare to see these guys take these kids from amateur standout to world champion. I remember fighters that Barry Hunter had, I remember fighters that Mike Stafford had, and I've seen these guys do it more than once as far as turning kids into champions.