HOMETOWN HERO VONDA WARD “THE ALL AMERICAN GIRL” FROM NORTHFIELD VILLAGE!!
By Victor Milani
Vonda Ward, born March 16, 1973, grew up in a sports-oriented family, as her father, Larry Ward, is a famous harness racer. Ward grew up around the stables of Northfield Park, living in Northfield Village. Vonda’s mom Roseanne raised her as a single mother, sometimes working 3 jobs until midnight to make ends meet. Vonda credits her mom, and University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summit, as the two major influences in her life. The two women served as role models to Ward. Ward went on to graduate from Trinity High School in 1991 and The University of Tennessee in 1995.
At Trinity High School in Garfield Heights, Vonda Ward was a two-time Ohio Ms. Basketball and Parade Magazine All-American. As a junior in 1990, the 6-foot-6 center led Trinity to the state Division II championship. Heavily recruited by major colleges, she chose the University of Tennessee and was the tallest player ever recruited by Coach Pat Summit. During her four years at UT, she started 49 of 125 games while the Lady Vols put together a 122-11 record and won three straight Southeastern Conference championships with 11-0 records. She averaged 6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds while blocking 98 shots – still the 10th most by a Tennessee player. The Vols did not win a national title during her career, but they finished second to Connecticut in 1995. After a brief pro basket basketball was cut short by a broken leg, Ward turned her attention to professional boxing.
Ward’s boxing debut occurred on January 15, 2000, when she knocked out Faye Steffen in round one at LaPorte, Indiana. Her first four fights all ended in first round knockout wins for Ward.
Ward’s next five rivals did not make it past the second round, with two first round knockouts and three second round wins. At this point of her career, she had a streak of twelve knockout wins in a row.
On February 2, 2001, she met Kisha Snow in Columbus, Ohio. Snow came into the fight undefeated. The two female warriors engaged in a four round war, but Ward made Snow her thirteenth straight knockout victim. Then came the next victim, Carley Pesente, on June 16, at Kansas City, Missouri. Pesente lasted two rounds.
Ward challenged for the IBA’s world’s Heavyweight title on August 16, 2002. Ward became the champion, but saw her knockout win streak gone when she outpointed Monica McGowan in ten rounds at Canton, Ohio.
Ward defended her title successfully with an eighth round knockout over Kathy Rivers on December 6 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland. On March 1, 2003, she and Martha Salazar made their Las Vegas debut, with Ward taking a four round split decision win in a non-title bout.
Ward unified her IBA world Heavyweight title with the WIBA’s by defeating Salazar in a rematch, held on July 11 in Canton. Ward won by decision.
On May 8, 2004, Ward fought a nationally televised championship bout with Ann Wolfe in Biloxi, Mississippi. At one minute and eight seconds of the first round, Wolfe knocked out Ward with a devastating right. This first round knockout defeat caused her to lose her title and her undefeated status.
On December 12, 2004, Ward returned to the boxing ring, knocking out Marsha Valley in four rounds in Cleveland.
Ward’s boxing record stands at 23 wins and 1 loss, with 17 wins by knockout. She officially retired from boxing in 2010. The one bout she always dreamed and demanded was a match between her and Layla Ali (Muhammad Ali’s daughter). This match never came to fruition with the rumors of Ali ducking Ward were rampant in the boxing circles. This would have been by far the biggest fight for Ward, as well as worldwide recognition.
Ward and longtime Manager Ed King would show up at Ali’s fights and attempt to get her to agree to a dream match. Unfortunately it never occurred. Ali would always seem to have scheduling conflicts, or unreasonable contract demands. I think Vonda Ward would have fought Ali for nothing, just to prove she was the better fighter. I was fortunate enough to be the official TEAM WARD photographer during her championship tenure. My high school friend Ed King, of Kings Gym in Bedford, served as her longtime Manager. Between Ed King and her mother Rosanne, her best interests were always maintained!
Northfield Village, Trinity High and all Northeast Ohio should all be proud of our Champion Vonda Ward. From helping her dad clean stables at Northfield Park, to becoming a member at one time of the Northfield Village Volunteer Fire Department, Vonda is Northfield Proud. She retired from the ring, and has been a personal trainer at Kings Gyms in Bedford: www.kingsgymohio.com. Vonda teaches boxing, nutrition, and personal training. Vonda was honored to be inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 in Columbus. She is also a new mom, her biggest role.
We are proud to say congratulations to Vonda Ward. World Women’s Heavyweight Boxing champion FROM NORTHFIELD, OHIO. OUR HOME TOWN HERO!