Roc Nation Sports hosted the final press conference for the June 20 showdown between Olympic Gold Medalist and WBA Super Middleweight World Champion Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KO’s) and former World Title Challenger Paul Smith (35-5, 20 KO’s) on Wednesday, June 17 in front of City Hall in Oakland, California.
Along with the main event participants, undercard fighters Meng Fanlong and Wang Zhimin were also in attendance. Other speakers included David Itskowitch (COO – Boxing Roc Nation Sports), James Prince (Ward Manager), Virgil Hunter (Ward Trainer), Joe Gallagher (Smith Trainer) and Lynette Gibson McElhaney (Council President – City of Oakland).
Here’s what press conference participants had to say:
“As long as I have been boxing, I don’t take any opportunity for granted. Especially after the last two years with what I had to go through. Some people know what the absence was about. Some people don’t know. I was tied up in litigation with my former promoter. It was a stance I had to take. I believed in what I was fighting for. Sometimes when you make a stance you have to deal with the consequences. The consequences for me was not being able to do what I love to do which is get in the ring, entertain the fans and make a living for my family. During those times, when things aren’t going your way, they can either make you or break you. It could crush you. It could take everything from you. I thank God for my relationship with him, my family, my friends, the close people I have around me that just stayed on me and continued to encourage me. The fans were phenomenal. I would see them in the street and talk to them on social media and they kept saying “we want you back and we miss you.” That’s why we brought this fight back to Oakland, as a thank you to the fans for your patience, diligence and for supporting me as long as you have. I’m excited about this opportunity. Especially coming off the heels of last night with the Golden State Warriors. Oakland has two champions now! For some reason in the Bay Area they don’t like to give us our due. I don’t know if it’s the size of the city. What I have learned in my sport up until this point is that you have to show and tell. That’s what I’ve prepared to do Saturday night, June 20 at Oracle Arena.”
James Prince – Ward’s Manager
“It’s been a long time coming for our team and we are excited to be back in the great city of Oakland. I know Andre has a lot of frustrations that he’s planning on releasing in the ring come Saturday night and I look forward to seeing it. I happen to be from Houston. We all know what the Warriors did to the Rockets. We couldn’t beat them so I had to join them. After Saturday night, I’m asking Smith to join Andre Ward’s team and go back to England and let them know ‘that’s a bad man.'”
Virgil Hunter – Ward’s Trainer
“I have to really admire Andre’s resolve going through the things he went through. I think it’s made him a more mature man. I’m anxious to see how he has evolved. He’s not the same fighter that he was before all the litigation. He’s been tested. A lot of people are mentioning ring rust, but I brought in some of the baddest guys I could bring in [for sparring] and I’m happy with what I’ve seen. I know we have a tough task ahead. I’m looking forward to a good fight and moving on from there.”
“It’s an amazing shot and chance that I have been given. As always with me, you’re going to get 100%. I’m going to give it every last thing I’ve got. I’m going to try my best Saturday night to upset the apple cart. Andre Ward is a quality fighter. He’s a fighter that I have watched and admired for years. It’s hard not to be a fan of Andre Ward, but the plan is to show him what no one has ever done Saturday night and I’ll be giving everything I can to do that. So buy your tickets and tune in and I’ll see you all on Saturday.”
Joe Gallagher – Smith Traine
“It’s going to be an uphill task. Some would say mission impossible, but we plan to spoil the party Saturday night. I wish good luck to both fighters. Good luck to Virgil and his team. See you Saturday night.”
David Itskowitch – Roc Nation Sports
“June 20 is a going to be an experience for fans in the arena like nothing they have ever experienced before at a boxing event.”
“This is a very exciting time in Oakland with the Warriors capturing their first world championship in 40 years. We’re thrilled to be a part of the excitement that the city is feeling right now. I want to issue a challenge to the city of Oakland to come out and support Oakland’s other champion on June 20 and to make Oracle Arena look and sound the same way it did during the NBA Finals.”
Tickets priced at $250, $125, $90, $60 and $30, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale now and available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. Doors open at 3:00 PM, the first fight begins at 3:30 PM and the BET telecast and TIDAL.com stream begins at 10PM ET/7:00 PM PT.