DeAndre Ware is shadowboxing around the center of the ring at Glass City Boxing and Fitness, looking in the mirror as he throws punches in the air.
Rap music blares throughout the room, helping Ware get in a rhythm as he begins his workout. A black do-rag covers Ware’s head, and he’s wearing a black T-shirt that reads DeAndre “Axeman” Ware on the back.
He’s nicknamed “Axeman” because he’s a firefighter at Station 4 on Hill Avenue.
A Toledo native and St. John’s Jesuit graduate, Ware has two jobs — and he tries to give both his best.
He’s been a pro boxer since the end of 2014, and the super middleweight looks to be on the verge of a breakout. He’s undefeated at 12-0-2 with eight knockouts in his career after upsetting previously unbeaten Enrique Collazo on June 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
But along with that, Ware, 30, also works 24-hour shifts with the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department, generally working 48-72 hours a week.
“It’s tough, I gotta sacrifice, and when I’m tired I suck it up,” Ware said. “I got my supporting cast, I got my family at home, my coaches and everybody else just there to push me when I am tired and I don’t feel like I have it to go that particular day.”
Ware has a wife and two children, a daughter and a son.
He has his boxing family, too. Lamar Wright has been Ware’s trainer since he became a pro boxer. Marcos Dominguez works as a coach for Ware along with Wright. James Easter also works with Ware a bit in the gym. Easter is the uncle and business manager of IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr.
Fellow Toledo boxers Easter, Jr., and Tyler McCreary are a part of Ware’s support group as well. Ware has sparred with Easter, Jr. in the past, and he has sparred with McCreary, too. McCreary is the No. 6 boxer in the world for the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) featherweight division.
As Ware works long shifts as a firefighter, his devotion to training for his boxing career is high as well. Easter said Ware trains at least 32 hours per week for boxing.
“A firefighter’s job ain’t no easy job,” Easter said. “And then you come in here, if you knew anything about boxing, boxing ain’t no easy job. Wherever he has time to do anything else, God bless him. To do the things that he’s doing, it’s great.”
The victory against Collazo, an Olympian in 2012 representing his native Puerto Rico, broke new ground for Ware. It was the first time he went the full eight-round distance in a fight to earn a decision, and beating such a highly regarded boxer gives Ware the potential to garner interest from one of boxing’s four major sanctioning bodies — the WBA, IBF, World Boxing Council (WBC), and World Boxing Organization (WBO).
Wright said one of the sanctioning bodies might rank Ware next month.
“That’s going to open up a lot eyes throughout the sanctioning bodies,” Wright said of the victory. “You know, they might be fighting over him.”
David McWater, CEO of Split-T Management and Ware’s manager, said the plan is to get Ware ranked and on TV by the end of the year.
McWater hopes to get Ware on Showtime’s Shobox, a series that showcases up-and-comng boxers. According to ShoBox’s website, more than 50 fighters who have fought on the show have gone on to become world champions.
As Ware looks for a promoter, it’s possible he’ll sign with Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Promotions. The fight against Collazo was on a Real Deal card, McWater said it’s “almost a lock” Ware will sign with the promotion by the end of this month or in July.
“I have every reason to believe that’s who he’ll be be with,” McWater said over the phone.
As Ware grows as a fighter, he also wants people to know he’s a complete fighter. He’s been called a puncher because of the power he has. In his first five pro fights, Ware won either by knockout or technical knockout. Wright said Ware has now fine tuned his power and has added skills.
Still, when Ware steps in the ring to fight, he doesn’t care what people make of his boxing style.
“Once I get in that ring it’s just me and my opponent,” Ware said. “And it’ll all show and everybody will see then that there’s no need for me to even really talk that much about that.”
As Ware finishes his workout, he sits on the blue canvas, just outside of the blue and red ropes. Sweat covers Ware’s face, as he’s just finished hitting a pad that Wright held near his chest.
“That last part was the hardest part of my workout,” Ware said after he finished.
As he looks to take the next step in his boxing career, Ware is on the right path because of his hard work.
Dominguez, who has been a boxing coach for more than 30 years, sees how hard Ware works. And because of that, he sees Ware’s potential.
He knows that with time, Ware can be a champion.
“He will be somebody, you watch,” Dominguez said.