Super middleweight champion Andre Ward, recovering from Jan. 4 surgery to repair a tear in his right shoulder, returned to the gym on Thursday for light training after being cleared by his doctor.
"It was amazing to be able to say that I was going to a boxing gym and not physical therapy," Ward said. "I just have to respect the markers I've been given from the doctor. I couldn't go crazy. That's where I have to be careful. I felt great, I felt fast and my wind felt great. It was an amazing feeling to be able to work out in my gym."
Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), of Oakland, Calif., was originally scheduled to fight former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik on Jan. 26, but when the shoulder began to bother him the fight was postponed until Saturday with Ward believing he could rest it and rehab it in time to fight. However, when the shoulder did not respond to treatment, he elected surgery and the bout was canceled.
Ward, who turned 29 on Feb. 23, is going to physical therapy three time per week but now is allowed to shadowbox and do cardio exercise.
"I definitely had to hold myself back," Ward said. "I could throw my right arm but I can't overdo it. Each week I can do more and more, but I have to respect the markers that my doctor set. In next couple months, I'll be cleared to do everything, but for now I have to respect the boundaries that are in place.
"For somebody like me that competes at a world-class level, it can be frustrating at times to not be able to do what I love to do, which is to box. But all of these things that you go through make you who you are. This is just something else that I have to persevere through and it will help me become the person I'm supposed to be. These injuries and setbacks are something that every top athlete has to overcome."
Ward's last fight was in September, when he authored a dominant 10th-round knockout of light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, who came down in weight for the fight. Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and the 2011 fighter of the year, probably won't fight again until late summer or early fall.
"A lot of times people just focus on the high times," Ward said. "I want to take this low time and make it work for me. I want to show my fans that I'm focused and that I'm still working. Whenever we get the opportunity to step in to the ring for the first time, they're going to see what I've been doing on my down time. I'm still focused and I'm still grinding."
Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter, is pleased that his recovery is on schedule.
"It's unbelievable the progress Andre has made in the period of time since the surgery," he said. "Seeing him working out in the boxing gym is just the next step toward the recovery process."