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The Heart of a Champion (part 2)

November 18, 2009

I first met Andre as he came through the doors of Victory Outreach Church of Hayward back in the late 90’s when his father Frank Ward first introduced us. Frank was a resident within our Special Services home. He was a  man who my Father took attention to because of his background in boxing.  My Father loved sports and especially took to the sport of boxing.  My Father even had a brother who became a golden gloves champ.  So when my Father became a Pastor and opened up a Special Services home in Hayward, CA, heard there was an ex-boxer who came into our Home, he naturally gravitated toward many conversations with him throughout his stay within Victory Outreach.  I found that Frank was a man who really had the Heart and Character of who he truly was.  He had always told me that he really wanted me to meet his 2 boys.  That I would really love them because they were athletes, just like me.

Andre after a Victory!

I was a young, vibrant Youth Pastor at the time and I was meeting a lot of parent’s kids from all over the Bay Area.  On a Saturday afternoon getting ready for a picnic, Frank called me over near the lobby of the church doors.  He said, “I want to introduce you to my 2 sons. You gotta meet them. They are both future World Champs…in the making.”   I met both Jonathan and Andre.  Both were real quiet, collective & didn’t really say much.  As a Youth Pastor you’re happy to meet all the young people that come your way.  I was a little extra excited when I met athletes.  There’s just something about another athlete that is understood when a conversation is sparked.  You don’t really have to explain yourself fully because the other person is doing exactly what you’re doing in terms of discipline, dedication, commitment, and other great qualities in order to be great at their sport.  So when Frank told me that his sons were athletes I was able to talk with them right away, even though Andre was as quiet as he was.  It was all good!  Champions don’t talk much with their mouth’s, they speak with their character.


So for the next year and a half, Andre & his brother Jonathan were apart of our Youth ministry there in Hayward.  Andre has always been a great, young man with a strong head on his shoulders since I met him. When his Father told me “He’s gonna be World Champ One Day”, I believed him.  Over the years, Andre’s life has reminded me of a quote by Mohandas Gandhi.  He said, “Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without CHARACTER; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice.”  If you ever get a chance to meet Andre, you would be able to see how much his passion for people drives him to have such great Character.  Or, in other words, HEART.


The other day, myself and Pastor Al Valdez (Senior Pastor of Victory Outreach Church in San Diego) had an opportunity to go see Andre fight in Temecula, CA.  After Andre had whooped on his opponent (TKO in 2nd round), we had an chance to talk with Andre after his

Myself, Andre, & Pastor Al

fight & press conference.  It was such a great time to spend and reminisce on some old times and even share some future goals.  One memory that I shared with him that I have never forgotten was his Father’s funeral at the church.  When it was Andre’s turn to share from behind the pulpit of the funeral he said one thing that really struck me. He said, “…I’m going to win the gold for you, Dad. For you.”  You don’t exactly hear people share things like winning an “Olympic Gold Medal” at a funeral.  And even if you did, you would maybe think “…Oh, there just being emotional. I understand.”  But there was something about that moment in 2002 that has always been etched in the corners of my mind.


How many times do people, including myself, say things that sound so good at the time just to maybe appease our conscience in order to ease the pain?  I know I have.  It takes a lot of discipline to stick to a goal with great rewards. Why? Because that great reward is preceded by great trial.  By great opposition.  By great adversity.  However, not only did Andre win a Gold Medal in 2004’s Athens, Greece Olympics, he is about to contend for the WBA Super Middleweight Championship belt this coming Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009.  Andre started boxing when he was 14 and has never lost a fight. I don’t expect that streak ending anytime soon.  I look forward to writing a part 3 after this weekend’s fight.

Kessler vs. Ward - Sat, Nov. 21, 2009 WBA Championship

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