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29 Aug 2004
Athens 2004

Ward honours father with boxing gold

The light-heavyweight boxing competition in Athens brought together two athletes who arrived at the Games on the back of spectacular runs of form. The American Andre Ward was only 20 years old, but had put together a six-year unbeaten run. He was inspired by the memory of his father, Frank, who had encouraged him to develop his talent in the ring.

Frank Ward had died in 2002, two years before the Games, but his son competed with a photograph of his late father stuck to his boot.

In the quarter-final, he faced Russia’s Yevgeny Makarenko, who himself had not been beaten for five years. Something had to give.

Makarenko had a more glittering reputation, with two world titles to his name, while Ward had never previously competed outside the USA. The Russian also appeared to have a physical advantage, as he was 15cm taller than his opponent and enjoyed a much broader reach, but Ward brought with him huge determination and canny ring-craft.

The American used his smaller size to his advantage, ducking inside Makarenko's reach, catching the Russian by surprise before landing quick punches. He would then retreat out of harm's way just as he quickly as he had ghosted into position, dodging Makarenko's counter-punch.

It didn't always work, and the bigger man landed some good shots, but Ward also hit home with his own head-shots to eke out a 23-16 victory that set him on the path to the final.

There he came up against another tough opponent, Mahomed Aripgadzhiev of Bulgaria. Ward struggled to deal with his adversary for the first couple of rounds, but kept the deficit down to a couple of points and trailed 9-7 at the halfway mark. In the third round, though, the American's speed and movement started to pay dividends. Ward landed a series of good shots while keeping out of trouble to suddenly turn the bout on its head, establishing a 14-11 lead. He repeated that trick in the final round to secure an overall points victory of 20-13.

Ward later turned professional and went on to become world champion.

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