Ward gets team's first gold
The light heavyweight salvaged a mediocre performance by the U.S.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The dog in Andre Ward got him to the top of the podium.
That's the term used by the American light heavyweight to describe the combination of talent, training, smarts and unflinching determination he employed to beat every single opponent he faced in the last six years.
Ward unleashed the dog one last time as an amateur Sunday, capturing the mediocre U.S. team's only gold medal with a 20-13 victory over Magomed Aripgadjiev of Belarus. It was the last bout of an Olympic boxing tournament again dominated by Cubans and Russians -- and highlighted by a handful of entertaining fighters, including Ward, who overcame the sport's two superpowers.
Won in father's memory
Clearly, Ward's teammates could use a little more dog.
"It wasn't my best performance, but I had to dog it out," he said. "The dog in me, I got that from my father. I could be a whole lot of different places right now if it hadn't been for him."
Frank Ward died two years ago, just as his son was emerging as a can't-miss amateur prospect. Though Andre Ward and his wife, Tiffiney, are raising two sons, the 20-year-old ignored the lure of pro money to concentrate on his Olympic hopes.
To save money, his family moved in with Virgil Hunter, his godfather and coach. Ward was away from home for much of the last year, training and traveling -- and even when he was home in Oakland, Calif., his wife and children left town so Ward could focus.
"I haven't even seen home in two, three months, but this makes it all worthwhile, without a doubt," he said.
Ward even impressed the fans at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall, where Americans were booed throughout the tournament. He was the crowd favorite in the final, riding the cheers to a third-round comeback after a tentative start sent him to an early deficit.
He rallied with his signature speed, landing most of his third-round punches before Aripgadjiev could see them. Ward ignored his swelling right eye and maintained the lead in the fourth, ducking and dancing away from his taller opponent.
"I felt good at the start, but in the third round, I felt like I was lagging behind," said Aripgadjiev, who won Belarus' second silver medal of the tournament. "He was just much quicker than me."
Quickness was thought to be the young American team's strength, though even its supporters knew that pure athleticism would be no match for the experience of Cuban and Russian fighters who spend years in the strictures of amateur boxing.