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Dashingest Pro Athlete 

Andre Ward

If boxing is the "sweet science" -- a moniker popularized by A.J. Liebling's brilliant 1951 collection of essays -- you certainly couldn't tell from the sad state of today's collection of contemptible promoters, uninspired matches, and bland, often clownish pugs, whose most fetching contemporary character is a fictitious female named Maggie Fitzgerald. But Andre Ward, a dazzling and, yes, dashing super-middleweight, is the next great bright hope who can smooth this rocky situation. Handsome and chiseled, humble yet supremely confident, supremely devoted to family and faith, this 21-year-old East Oakland resident became America's first Olympic boxing gold medalist since 1996, having overcome not only world-class amateur fighters but the chilling jeers of anti-American crowds last summer at the Olympic Boxing Hall in the Athens suburb of Peristeri, Greece. At six feet, 160 pounds, and with a 73-inch reach, he has a classy, smooth style and delivers pure, stinging -- if not always knockout -- punches. Ward is 2-0 as a professional, with an April 7 bout against the equally undefeated Anthony Pietrantonio (4-0) at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula. Headlining that night: heavyweight Riddick Bowe, whose ring misadventures have helped sully the sweetness almost as much as Mike Tyson.

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