Andre Ward last lost a fight when Bill Clinton was president, the same year that Steve Jobs went back to work for Apple, and the same year the movie Titanic was setting box office records. You can say that it’s been a long time. Ward wasn’t yet a teenager the last time he lost a fight, and now 15 years later, he’s the Super Six World Boxing Classic champion.
The Super Six World Boxing Classic began in October of 2009. Showtime coordinated the event that would showcase the best of the super middleweight division. Six boxers would face-off in a three stage tournament where title belts could be won and lost, and in the end, the best fighter in the division would be crowned. The tournament didn’t go off without its share of hiccups.
Jermain Taylor was knocked out by Arthur Abraham in scary fashion and dropped out of the tournamet after his first fight. Early favorite (and the person I picked to win it all) Mikkel Kessler dropped out of the tournament because of an eye injury after two fights, losing first to Andre Ward and then beating Carl Froch. Then, Andre Dirrell dropped out of the tournament because of an undisclosed injury after beating Abraham by disqualification. Abraham hit Dirrell while Dirrell was defenseless and on a knee. Allan Green and Glen Johnson would join the tournament as replacements.
The two men who were solid throughout were Ward and Froch. Ward went undefeated in the tournament, taking a fight with Sakio Bika along the way since his fight with Dirrell was cancelled. While Froch lost a tough battle with Kessler, he beat Dirrell, Abraham, and Johnson. Ward also beat Abraham in easy fashion in a semi-final match-up. The two remaining men standing were set to fight in the finals. In a tournament that had its ups and downs, the ups were the two men who were squaring off in the ultimate bout.
The bout was scheduled for late October of this year, nearly two years after the tournament first began. But a couple weeks before the fight, Andre Ward suffered a cut over his eye in sparring and the fight was pushed back almost two months. In a tournament that had three men drop out, there was fear that a winner would never be crowned.
But a winner was crowned and deservedly so. Carl Froch and Andre Ward did their fair share of verbal warfare in the build up throughout. Froch told Ward that he was the harder puncher and that Ward didn’t hit hard. Ward told Froch that the name of the game wasn’t to show that you could take a punch. It was to show that you were elusive enough to where you didn’t get hit. Both men seemed to dislike one another which made their conflict seem real. That’s what you want in a championship fight. You can be friends later. But in the ring, you want to physically dominate the other.
Early in the fight, Ward’s speed advantage was apparent. Froch had the longer reach, but his accuracy wasn’t there. Ward answered Froch’s errant punches with left hooks that seemed to land too easily. Referee Steve Smoger allowed both men to fight on the inside and Ward was also stronger in close.
In the second round, Ward landed a three punch combination that showed Froch’s lack of reaction quickness. Ward threw a double jab that landed and immediately followed up with a left hook. Ward wasn’t even throwing his right hand. Froch started to land to the body, hoping to wear Ward down in the later rounds.
After a great and competitive third round, Froch started to tire. Ward started to play with him. He measured him with his right hand, pushing Froch’s chin with his glove before hitting him with another hook. Ward was out-muscling him as well as out-quicking him and it was starting to look badly for Froch. But you have to tip your cap to Froch. He’s a very tough fighter and even though he was getting outworked, he was standing there trying desperately to put together punches to stop Ward from being able to do whatever he wanted.
I didn’t have Froch winning a round until the 9th in an unimpressive round for both, and I also gave the 11th to him for just being a tad better than Ward in a slow round. If Froch was going to mount a comeback, it was going to be in the 10th. After winning a close 9th, Froch started out the 10th well, but faded and allowed Ward to continue to push him around. In the 12th and final round, it was Ward who landed the bigger punches while avoiding Froch’s wild hay-maker right hands.
If there’s one knock on Ward, it’s that he’s not a great finisher. He’s the type of fighter, not unlike Floyd Mayweather, who establishes a lead and continues to add on to the lead without really putting the other fighter in jeopardy of being knocked out. After the 5th round, I thought Ward would go for broke, but he stayed course and finished the fight like he usually does; being the fresher and more impressive fighter by the time the bell rings at the end of the 12th.
I had the fight 118-110 in Ward’s favor, as did one of the three judges. Two other judges had it 115-113 for Ward, which means they would’ve given Froch five rounds, which is feasible. There were three close rounds that I gave to Ward that very well might’ve been Froch’s. But at the end, it didn’t matter. Andre Ward won the tournament finale and did so in fine fashion.
What’s next for Ward? Ward could face Lucian Bute, who probably would’ve been part of the tournament had he signed on with Showtime by the time it started. A strong fight with Bute could catapult Ward to stardom, but his soft spoken personality doesn’t help in his marketing. He’s the type of fighter who takes care of business and lets his gloves do the taking. Studying Floyd Mayweather’s blue print could do Ward some good, but it would seem unnatural for the religious family man to become the bad guy.
Whatever happens next, Ward is on quite a roll. He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist. He’s a SOG (son of God). He’s undefeated as a pro boxer. He’s the Super Six World Boxing Classic champion. And he’s probably the 2011 Fighter Of The Year. Today was a good day for Andre Ward.
I’m also a writer and editor for Fight Game Blog. If you missed the Ward/Froch fight, you can read the play-by-play.
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