Andre Ward has a proud aunt in Carson City | NevadaAppeal.com

Andre Ward has a proud aunt in Carson City

Dave Price

Andre Ward had his own personal rooting section in Athens, Greece, Sunday when he became the only American boxer to win a gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games.

The new light heavyweight champion also had his own rooting section in Carson City – a proud aunt, Ruth Rivera – who was cheering, and at the same time, watching on television for other members of the family in the crowd.

“My sister, brother-in-law and both my nieces were there in Athens. We could see them on television holding up the sign, ‘We love Andre,'” Rivera said, smiling.

The gold medal victory against Magomed Aripgadjiev of Belarus on Sunday was an emotional one for the 20-year-old Ward, who looked upward from the medal podium afterward and blew a kiss to his late father, Frank “Duke” Ward, who died suddenly of heart failure two years ago.

“My brother, Duke, has always been in Andre’s corner,” Rivera said. “It was so sudden, and he was only 46. It was very hard on Andre when he died. Duke was his mentor and confidante.”

Frank Ward was the one who introduced his son to boxing.

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“Duke was a boxer himself,” Rivera said of her brother. “Both his boys are into boxing. Johnathan lives up in Washington now; he was every bit as good as Andre.”

The Olympic gold medal is just the most recent in a long line of successes for Andre Ward, who is riding a win streak in the ring that dates back to 1998 and was dominant in qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team – outscoring six opponents by a combined 118-28 points.

Rivera, who has lived in Carson City for 11 years, has two children of her own who are athletic – Nathan plays baseball and Rachel plays softball – although she plans to return to the Bay Area in the near future.

“We’re a very close family. We get together to do things all the time,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m moving back. I want to be closer to them.”

Ward and his wife, Tiffany, have two children – Andre Jr. and Malachi.

The 6-foot, 178-pounder certainly paid his dues in the ring, according to his aunt. Even to the point where he moved to Oakland to be closer to his long-time trainer, Virgil Hunter.

“His love and his passion have always been boxing,” Rivera said of Andre, who did play football while he was at Hayward High School in the Bay Area. “His dream for the last 10 years has been to go to the Olympics, and if he was going to get there, he was going to bring home the gold medal. He became even more determined after his father passed away.”

“He’s always been a real go-getter. I don’t care if it was checkers or wrestling or playing catch, he always had to win. At the same time, he’s so humble and so spiritual. He’s so much like my brother, it’s not even funny.”

Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1214.