Andre Ward wins 2011 award

Andre Ward, who unified two super middleweight titles and won the grueling Super Six World Boxing Classic, was voted 2011 fighter of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in balloting results announced Monday.

Ward, who will receive the Sugar Ray Robinson trophy, heads the list of honorees who will receive their awards at the BWAA's 87th annual banquet, which will take place in the spring at a venue to be determined.

Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who has not lost since he was a 12-year-old amateur, was the only fighter in the round-robin tournament to go through it undefeated. In 2011, he won a pair of dominant decisions, defeating Arthur Abraham in the semifinals in May followed by a masterful performance against Carl Froch to win a second belt and stamp himself as the best 168-pounder in the world on Dec. 17.

"I want to thank God for giving me the strength to put in the work year after year to get to this point. I also want to thank my manager, James Prince, my promoters Antonio Leonard and Dan Goossen, everyone who is a part of Team Ward, as well as all of my family, friends, and loyal fans who have been behind me all these years," Ward, 27, of Oakland, Calif., said. "This award is just as much for them as it is for me.

"Even in the midst of receiving this tremendous award, Team Ward is not going to let up. In 2012 and beyond we're going to push forward and, God-willing, we can be considered for these awards every year. It's easy to get comfortable at a time like this, but I can assure everybody that I'm going to continue to put in the work to be the best that I can be. I'm going to stay humble, keep God first and, with that, the best is yet to come."

Ward, who was also named ESPN.com fighter of the year, won the award over nominees Nonito Donaire, Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"I'm very proud of all of what he has accomplished since the day we signed him," said Goossen,
who has promoted Ward for his entire career. "He's been a joy to work with and a tremendous fighter inside the ring. It's been a great ride, but the irony of it all is I think we've just begun. There's a lot more to accomplish and showcase with Andre. You don't have an athlete like this that comes around too often in the history of our sport. He has the fabric and makeup of the great ones. I just think he's headed for greatness."

Ward will have familiar company when he receives his award. Virgil Hunter, who has trained Ward since he picked up gloves as a boy, won the Futch award for trainer of the year.

"I'm very happy for my trainer and Godfather, Virgil, for winning this prestigious award," Ward said. "I'm probably more excited for him than I am for myself. I've always wanted him to win this award because he is one of the hardest working trainers in the game."

Said Goossen, "As proud of Andre as I am, I am equally proud to see Virgil get something I believe he is due. He's a different breed of trainer. From the fundamentals to the mental aspect, he is right there with the best."

Junior middleweights Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak will share the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier award for fight of the year. Their first bout, which headlined on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" on July 15 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, was a rousing all-action slugfest that ended in a majority draw. Many view it as the best fight in the history of "Friday Night Fights" and it will be remembered as an intense battle during which Wolak fought through massive swelling that closed his right eye.

Rodriguez won the rematch by outpointing Wolak in December, after which Wolak announced his retirement.
"Thank you to the true journalists at the BWAA for the honor and my sincere best wishes to Delvin for continued success," Wolak said.

Also to be honored by the BWAA:

• Al Bernstein, the longtime Showtime broadcaster and former ESPN broadcaster who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June, will receive the Marvin Kohn "Good Guy" award. Bernstein has previously won the BWAA's Taub award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

• Dewey Bozella will receive the Crawford award for courage and overcoming adversity. Bozella spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit before being released. His dream was to have one professional fight, which he got and won in October at age 52.

• Don Elbaum, one of boxing's classic characters who has been around so long that he promoted fights involving Willie Pep and Robinson, will receive the Condon award for long and meritorious service to boxing.

• In two previously announced awards, British journalist Colin Hart, who has covered boxing for decades, won the Fleischer award for excellence in boxing journalism, and the late author George Plimpton won the Liebling award for outstanding boxing writing.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.