The World Boxing Association's undefeated super middleweight champion, Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs), is described as humble yet open about his Christian faith, but criticizing him for his nickname probably isn't a good idea.
But the World Boxing Council's champ, Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs), allegedly made some negative comments about Ward's nickname, “S.O.G.” or “Son of God,” leading up to this Saturday's fight in Atlantic City.
“If I'm not mistaken, something was said about me being ignorant for taking on that nickname,” said the 27-year-old Ward, according to boxingscene.com. “So yeah, absolutely, I take offense to that. My faith is not a crutch. It's my foundation. It's everything to me, so when you hear something like that, yeah, absolutely, I take offense to that.”
According to boxingscene.com, Froch didn't deny the accusation, but said, “I think there's just two subjects you should leave alone, and one of them's religion.”
Ward, who won Olympic gold in 2004 before turning professional, is married with four children and has been a regular attender at The Well Church in Dublin, Calif., for the last eight years. Napoleon Kaufman, pastor of The Well, told The Christian Post on Friday that he approves of the way Ward handled himself in defending his nickname.
"I think he handled it perfectly well ... It's pretty tough when you have someone critical of you [because you picked] a name that you feel really represents you and your relationship with God. Quite frankly, I think it's unfair for anybody to really criticize someone's name in terms of what they feel like what they want to call themselves," Kaufman said.
"For Andre ... he has a relationship with the Lord. He loves the Lord. The Bible says that we can all be sons of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So there's a scriptural precedence for what he's saying."
Kaufman, who spent six years playing in the NFL before founding his church and was a first-round draft pick of the then Los Angeles Raiders, says he understands that some Christians are critical of combat sports. What determines whether they are right or wrong, he says, depends on the motives of each athlete.
"I know that Andre's heart is right. He's not angry. He doesn't have hatred in his heart toward his opponent. He's not trying to permanently hurt them. As his pastor, if I ever felt like he was fighting for the wrong purposes, and his heart wasn't right in dealing with opponents, I would question him then,” he said.
He also said that Ward does a good job of representing Christ in his sport. He says it is imp¬¬¬ortant for Christian athletes to not be hypocritical, and for them to not force their faith upon anyone but still be courageous enough to share it when the opportunity arises.
"Make sure you're giving God the glory not only when you win, but also when you lose. I think that's important too, that people realize we're not exalting the name of Christ just when we win,” he added. He also acknowledged that Ward has only won in his career thus far, but said he is confident Ward would give God glory even in defeat.
The bout between Ward and Froch will take place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, and will be shown on Showtime. Both men will put their belts on the line for the fight.