When Andre Ward easily outpointed Carl Froch to unify super middleweight titles last Saturday in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, he did so with a left hand that was broken in two places, an MRI exam revealed Thursday.
After Ward defeated Froch, he disclosed that he had injured his left hand in one of his final sparring sessions about a week before the fight.
Then Ward said he badly hurt the hand again in the sixth round of the fight. He won in large part because he relied so heavily on his left hook, which he repeatedly landed to Froch's head.
After the initial injury, Ward had an X-ray, in which no breaks were detected. But an MRI in his hometown of Oakland, Calif., on Thursday revealed multiple fractures in the third and fifth metacarpal bones.
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) initially injured his hand a little more than a week before the fight against England's Froch (28-2, 20 KOs).
"The X-ray came back negative. I just knew it hurt like nobody's business," Ward said. "We had to go (through) with the fight. I was extremely concerned the whole week of the fight, but I knew I couldn't pull out. It was inevitable that it would get banged up again in the fight and that is my lead hand. I felt it all through the fight, but I bit down. I continued to do what I had to do.
"Early on the adrenaline was working. But in the sixth round, when I hit him on top of the head, that is when I really hit a wall in terms of the pain. But I had no choice. We got through it."
Ward, 27, will be in a cast for two weeks and then go through rehabilitation. His next fight date is not set, but he won't return until at least next spring.
"I should be fine," said Ward, who tweeted photos of his hands, and of his left in a cast. "We're looking at April or May. I don't think this is going to be major setback."
Ward, a 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, went through Showtime's 26-month tournament undefeated, winning a world title. He was never seriously challenged, including by Froch in the final at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
"After he looked at the MRI, the doctor said his hand was broken before the fight," promoter Dan Goossen said. "He said he could tell by the fracture that it had happened a couple of weeks ago, not in the fight. Obviously, he went into the fight thinking it wasn't fractured because the X-rays alone were not be able to detect the fracture.
"It's funny, because when Andre went to (a different) doctor after he first hurt the hand, he said, 'I don't care if my hand is broken, I'm fighting.' But we didn't know at the time it really was broken," Goossen said.
"When I spoke to Andre on Thursday, he said, 'Thank goodness we didn't know.' "
Goossen said he had some concerns about the hand leading into the fight. He had looked at it when they were in New York for the final news conference a few days beforehand, and he noticed that it was swollen.
"He kept icing it and icing it, but he was determined to fight no matter what," Goossen said. "But this is what the great ones do -- they find a way to get through something like this. It's another reason why I think Andre is destined for superstardom. He overcomes everything."
When no fracture was detected after the X-rays when he first hurt it, the injury was diagnosed as a soft tissue injury.
"I hit one of my sparring partners on top of the head, and it was a good shot," Ward said. "We kept sparring a couple of more rounds and didn't think much of it. I told my team that it feels weird, almost like a fracture."
Ward said when he first visited the doctor and had an X-ray the week before the fight, he was surprised that no fracture was seen.
"When it first happened it felt like a fracture," Ward said. "That's the last thing I wanted to think about going into the fight. Everyone around me was trying to be positive.
"Overnight, the hand just blew up. So when the doctor told me there was no fracture I was shocked. I just couldn't believe it. He said it was a soft tissue injury and just deep bruise. I lived with an icepack on my hand for the week leading up to the fight, but it hurt when I put on the gloves even just to hit the mitts. The way it was looking and feeling, I was very concerned the night before the fight."
He said he was so concerned he had cut man Jacob "Stitch" Duran come to his hotel room to do a run-through on how he would wrap his hands the following night, just to make sure he could deal with it. Ward said it was very uncomfortable, but that he was resigned to fighting.
In the fight, the left hand was open for Ward to use, so he kept firing it despite the pain.
"I just tried to keep using it and other times, I would wince if I hit him with a good shot," Ward said. "But I've seen fighters like Floyd Mayweather fight with one hand.
"As a fighter, you already know that that day is going to come for you. I knew that I was going to have that day, so I had no choice but to keep using the hand. I simply had no other choice."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.