"It's tough to be a top amateur, number one. It's tough to make the adjustments to the professional ranks. And then there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes with the managerial side, the promotion side, the way you're being promoted and how you are being moved. This stuff doesn't just happen. You gotta have the right team and right machine behind you....A lot of people thought early in my career that I wouldn't make the adjustment, but it just took time. It took time and people had to understand that I had been an amateur for 10 years and I came up in a system with points and I was taught don't let them touch you; they may look at that and push the button. And then I went into a situation where I had time to set things up. If I got hit with a shot, I didn't have to get it right back. That's the physical side and then on the business side, you gotta have the right team and there are a lot of things that have to work in your favor to be a star in this sport," stated super middleweight king Andre Ward, who made a recent appearance on FightHype Radio and reflected on the amateur program, his own transition to the pros, and much more. Check it out!
PC: I wanna do a throwback with you and ask you about the amateur system a little bit. They have decided to remove the headgear from the amateur ranks. Do you think we will see more open and friendlier scoring for the US fighters because of this or do you think we will just simply see people going pro a lot earlier than they would? Because you know like I know each fighter only has so many punches they can take during a career. What are your thoughts on this move?
AW: I think we will see them go pro earlier than normal and I think that that's not a good thing. I'm gonna be honest with you, I don't like it. I think if that were to happen when I was on my way up, I probably wouldn't be an Olympic Gold medalist right now. I probably would have turned pro at the advice of my coach Virgil because the sport of boxing is already dangerous enough. And for the headgear to be stripped away that early while guys are still learning; they are top level amateurs, but they are still learning to deal with fighting without headgear on. And then they go into the open class and they start fighting grown men and they are only 18 or 19 years old and they are fighting guys 24, 25 or 26 years old. I don't like it. You gonna see a lot of cuts, you're going to see a lot of knockouts, and I think it's way premature. I don't think they should have to deal with that type of punishment that early in their career.
PC: I always like to get info from guys who actually experienced these situations and not from some independent study or research from a doctor or whoever, but they are trying to say that the headgear really doesn't cushion the blow like many people would think. I disagree with that just based on what we have seen over the years in the pros and amateurs, but how do you see it?
AW: I have heard that and I try to keep my eyes and ears on what's going on with USA boxing. I try to be involved as much as I can. I am passionate about the program. So I heard that and I have had some discussions internally about that. I don't know what type of research they did, but I've done both, and from an experience standpoint, it hurts a lot more to get hit with no headgear on. I never had the back of my head or the side of my head be sore after an amateur fight, but I have had that in a professional fight. Never really got buzzed in an amateur fight, but I have been buzzed in a professional fight. So for me, if I had a son and he was fighting, I would 100% have headgear on him, especially early in his career, versus not having anything at all. I don't know, I kind of think that is a no-brainer in my opinion.
PC: Mentioning your kids, do you foresee any of them wanting to get into the sport of boxing or are you keeping them away from it?
AW: You know what? My two oldest sons, I have a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old and neither one of 'em...these guys do other sports, man. They play basketball and football and run track and I'm cool with that. I got a feeling, man; I got a younger daughter who is very beautiful, but very, very tough and she is only 5 years old, and I'm telling you...I'm giving it to you here first at FightHype. And my youngest son, my baby, he's only 5 months old, but I just got a feeling that those two are gonna grow up and see what I accomplished in my career and I think they are gonna want to do it. But it's not something that I'm going to push. They would have to have an exceptional talent and tremendous work ethic before daddy agreed to something like that.
PC: You don't have to name any names, but if you want to, you can, but is there anyone from the amateurs that you thought would have flourished as a pro, but they just didn't make it as a pro or they never turned pro?
AW: Man, that's a good question and it's also a tough question. I don't know. I don't want to put anybody out there because it's tough, man. It's tough to be a top amateur, number one. It's tough to make the adjustments to the professional ranks. And then there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes with the managerial side, the promotion side, the way you're being promoted and how you are being moved. This stuff doesn't just happen. You gotta have the right team and right machine behind you. If I did know someone, I probably wouldn't put it out because I understand, man, it's very difficult. A lot of people thought early in my career that I wouldn't make the adjustment, but it just took time. It took time and people had to understand that I had been an amateur for 10 years and I came up in a system with points and I was taught don't let them touch you; they may look at that and push the button. And then I went into a situation where I had time to set things up. If I got hit with a shot, I didn't have to get it right back. That's the physical side and then on the business side, you gotta have the right team and there are a lot of things that have to work in your favor to be a star in this sport.
PC: Not to throw him under the bus, but I'm more interested than anything, do you ever hear from or know what's up with Juan McPherson, who was an outstanding amateur and undefeated in his short pro career? Any news on him?
AW: I don't keep in touch with him, but Juan made it look easy. He was one of those amateur fighters that just made it look easy against some of the best and top guys in his division. Again, I don't really know everything about his story or why he didn't pan out, but that's a guy that if he could have made the adjustments and built his body up and was physically strong, he would have been like a southpaw Mark Breland so to speak. He was tall and rangy and he can box. He would have just needed to make those adjustments to the pro game. It's sad, man, to think back to what those guys could have been if they would have turned pro or stayed in boxing.
PC: I remember seeing a few of his fights and just thinking this kid is something exceptional.
AW: Yeah, he was the real deal. Man, I tell you what, man, there are not too many kids from Ohio, whether it's Cincinnati or Cleveland, wherever, that I didn't like in the amateurs. Ohio had some bad boys, period, hands down. I grew up watching Ricardo Williams and Ricardo Williams was unbelievable. Not just what he did in the ring, but his attitude. I can remember he went up against a kid in the Silver Gloves named Miguel Espino and it was a major fight; it's the finals and this guy is sitting up with his feet cocked up on a chair and my coach asked him, "What you gonna do tonight; you fighting a tough guy?" He took his headphones off real slow and said, "Man, I got too much speed for him!" And that was it. And he went out there and dominated this kid and I never forgot that, man. And for some reason, fighters from Ohio had a lot of skills and they just got it. I don't know why, but they just had it, man.
PC: I appreciate the trip down memory lane. I know you get a lot of questions about current situations, so I wanted to pick your brain a little bit about the amateur days. Thanks Dre!
AW: Yeah, no problem, man. I love talking about the amateurs. I love it!
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]