Andre Ward spoke in depth with WBN about his new role as the host of the fifth season of ‘The Contender’.
The show is coming back after nearly a decade off-air, and Ward – the former pound-for-pound number-one – is taking the hosting mantle, with the first episode airing on the 24th of August.
The two-weight world champion discussed what it was like to be hosting the latest season of a show he loves.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been a big fan of the show for many, many years and the four seasons before this one. To be able to be hosting it is so rewarding on so many levels,” Ward exclusively told World Boxing News.
“The actual hosting position is a challenge and it’s a bit surreal considering I was such a big fan of the show. Just having the opportunity to share new experiences – good and bad – with the 16 fighters is great. They are dealing with real stuff, not just the fighting.
“They’re dealing with stuff at home and their relationships. There are guys on the show who are going to get married or have been recently married; just stuff I have already been through in life,” he added.
Ward was able to lean on his experiences to offer guidance to latest raft of young fighters.
“I was just able to take a moment and help them get through the pressures of being in the house and being on the show – it was so rewarding on so many levels,” he explained.
The show is a reality show/boxing competition which sees 16 boxers divided into two groups live and train together and Ward revealed this time there will be a couple of minor changes to the previous installments.
“It’s very similar, you have 16 contestants and instead of going through competitions to see what team gets to pick the next fight there is a blind call-out at the beginning and it basically boils down to whoever wins that fight would get to control the matchmaking abilities.
“That is one of the biggest changes to the format and the fights are no longer edited, you now get all five rounds,” Ward revealed.
The show in the past was an engaging way to introduce new fans to the sport and the 34-year-old thinks this season has the potential to do the same.
“I think it is and I think it will be; I think it’s great for both generations,” he said. “The generation who watched the first four seasons and the new generation, who know about it but haven’t had the opportunity to watch it live,”
Former seasons have produced some brilliant fighters including former world champions Sergio Mora and Sakio Bika and when Ward was asked if this season’s contestants could do the same, he said: “Of course, why not. If you look at the history of the show, previous Contender contestants have gone on to challenge for and win world titles and become household names and season five will be no different.
During his career, Ward established himself as the best in the world and retired undefeated. When asked whether his presence was helpful to the contestants, he added: “The conversations about their upcoming fights and the thing they need to be working on. But to be honest with you the bond came from personal conversations beyond boxing.
“When all was said and done I was in the dorm rooms with those guys and we were spending quality time with each other talking about real life and I had the opportunity to talk about my life and the thing that I have been through, good and bad.
“Some of those guys were like deer in the headlights and were like ‘bro, I didn’t realize you went through that’ and didn’t know I could relate like that. People see you from far off and see you on television and admire you,” Ward concluded.
Thomas Davison is a staff writer for World Boxing News. Follow Thomas on Twitter @thomasdavison93