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Weekend Review: Ward's big night
Andre Ward evolved from a tremendous prospect into a true star during the Super Six tournament, punctuating his dominating performance with a one-sided decision over Carl Froch on Saturday.
Andre Ward: Ward had the pedigree going into the Super Six World Boxing Classic. The product of Oakland, Calif., capped a tremendous amateur career by winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, the first American to do so since David Reid in 1996. However, going into the tournament, he was deemed by many to be too inexperienced to win the championship against the likes of Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. Well, Ward (25-0, 13 knockouts) proved a lot of people wrong. He used his unusual ability – on both offense and defense -- to dominate all four of his opponents in the tournament, the last being capable Carl Froch on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. The unanimous-decision victory gave him the tournament and THE RING super middleweight championships. I feel it’s safe to say that a star has been born. Up next: We hope Lucian Bute. If Ward can win that one, he could be well on his way to becoming the next pound-for-pound king.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Carl Froch: Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) also wasn’t given much of a chance going into the tournament. We all knew he was tough but he seemed to be a crude boxer with limited athleticism. He, too, fooled us. The brash Englishman has proved to be as skillful and cunning as he is resilient, going an impressive 5-2 against big-name opponents in his last seven fights to prove he is an elite fighter. He lost only a close decision to Kessler in the Dane’s home country and what should’ve been a one-sided nod against Ward. One could argue that he’s the best active fighter from the UK. Plus, the class he demonstrated in his post-fight interview – giving full credit to Ward – was both impressive and refreshing. Froch came up short on Saturday night but he should be proud of his performance in the tournament. And the Brits, who love a never-say-die fighter like Froch, should be proud of him.
The scores of Craig Metcalfe and John Stewart: We all understand that scoring is subjective, that judges see fights at least somewhat differently from one another. But 115-113? That means that had Metcalfe (Canada) and Stewart (U.S.) given Froch just one more round, the fight would’ve been a majority draw. That would’ve been a travesty of monumental proportions. Ward outclassed Froch. He was better in every facet of the game. Froch admitted as much in his post-fight interview, saying he lost “fair and square.” His words sure didn’t reflect a 115-113 fight, which is seven rounds to five. I won’t dismiss Metcalfe and Stewart as incompetent without talking to them. I will say that I’m baffled. I don’t see how anyone could score that fight so close. Also, we must give credit to John Keane. The British judge scored it 118-110 for Ward, which reflected reality.
Super Six: The tournament had its problems. The two-plus years it took to complete the competition. Fighters pulling out. Delays. Still, it was a major achievement. Its participants faced one elite opponent after the other, which is exciting and how it should be. All the matchups were compelling even if we ended up with some one-sided fights. And the tournament format provided a layer of drama that typical fights lack. The participants were fighting for more than a title and money; they were fighting to win a competition, which I found thrilling. I hope the premium networks view the Super Six (as well as Showtime’s bantamweight tournament) as a success and put together another one soon.
Ward vs. Bute: Ward has hinted that Bute doesn’t deserve a showdown with him because he sat on the sidelines as the other top super middleweights battered one another in the Super Six. Let’s hope Ward sees this for what it is: A great opportunity to prove he’s the king of his division. Who would win? Ward dominated Froch in good part because of his vastly superior hand speed. I think Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) matches up better with Ward in this department, which could make him more competitive than Froch was. At the same time, Froch might be second only to Ward in toughness in the 168-pound division. Bute is hardly fragile but I think he might have difficulty handling Ward’s rough-and-tumble style, much as Kessler did. That’s why Ward is so tough: He’s both quick and bruising, which is a tough combination to overcome. And I haven’t even mentioned his chin: I don’t remember him being buzzed the entire tournament. Ward’s only weakness (if you want to call it that) is a relative lack of power, which at least allows his best opponents to stick around. So who wins: Ward or Bute? No one at 168 is going to beat Ward. I want to say the same about 175 but I’ll hold off … for now.
Kell Brook: The 25 year old from England hoped to make a splash in his U.S. debut on the Ward-Froch undercard. Mission accomplished. Brook dominated Puerto Rican Luis Galaraza en route to a fifth-round TKO. Brook (26-0, 18 KOs) appears to be a complete fighter – quick, skillful, powerful. The only thing missing is experience. He has victories over Lovemore N’dou and Rafal Jackiewicz, which is a good start. We need to see him against a next-level opponent to get an idea of how good he can be. Brook called out fellow Briton Amir Khan after his victory Saturday. Khan definitely would be a next-level opponent, although Brook might want to gain a bit more seasoning before taking a challenge like that.
Overturning Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins result: The California State Athletic Commission did the only thing it could after listening to testimony on Dec. 13. Referee Pat Russell, who ruled Dawson a TKO winner after Hopkins crashed to the canvas and couldn’t continue, said he would’ve ruled the fight “no-decision” had he been able to review video of the Oct. 15 fight in Los Angeles. And the video contradicted Dawson, who said he merely straightened up to get Hopkins off his shoulders. The video demonstrated that his actions were much more forceful than that. Thus, the fight was ruled “no-decision,” which was the right decision. I think a rematch is in order but bad blood between the camps probably would preclude one. One more thing: Instant replay immediately after the fight might’ve saved everyone a lot of time and money.
Froch, on his setback against Ward: “I lost tonight fair and square.” Who says that these days?