SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. — Promoter Dan Goossen hopes that Arthur Abraham gives more of himself against Andre Ward on May 14 than he did at a Tuesday press conference for Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal bout, otherwise fans won’t get much of a fight.
Goossen, who promotes Ward, expected more fire from Abraham, who decided not to make the trans-Atlantic trip to be present at the afternoon press luncheon held at an Italian restaurant next door to the American promoter’s offices.
The Germany-based Armenian fighter, who addressed the assembled Los Angeles-area media via a satellite hookup, said very little despite legitimate questions from the few boxing writers who were present and Goossen’s constant prodding.
In a way, the often surreal back-and-forth between Abraham, the media and Goossen was indicative of the fighter’s disappointing showings in Showtime’s 168-pound tournament.
The former middleweight beltholder didn’t say enough at Tuesday’s press conference. He didn’t do enough in his back-to-back Super Six losses — a disqualification to Andre Dirrell and lost a one-sided unanimous decision to Carl Froch.
Abraham (32-2, 26 knockouts) likes to calmly stalk his opponents behind a high guard and gradually wear them down with steady pressure and sporadic power punching. However, this style, which served him well against the second-tier middleweights he fought in Germany for many years, didn’t get the job done against the top-level super middleweights he had to face in the Super Six.
Abraham had been knocked down and was behind on the scorecards when he blatantly clubbed Dirrell in the head after the American slipped to the canvas in the 11th round of their bout.
It was an ugly act that was born out of desperation. Abraham found himself in a hole because was not fast enough to cut the ring off on Dirrell or aggressive enough to set a pace that the fleet-footed boxer couldn’t maintain.
Against Froch, Abraham spent the entire 12-round bout following the Englishman around the ring while eating a constant flow of jabs. Abraham never got his jab going, nor did he ever go for broke and let his hands go in combination. His inability to make adjustments during both the Dirrell and Froch fights is the reason 31-year-old veteran is huge underdog to Ward, who has become the tournament favorite.
“I know he’s the favorite, which motivates me even more,” Abraham said through a translator. “A lot of big favorites have come crashing down in boxing history.”
Abraham is one of them. He was favored, along with Mikkle Kessler, to win the Super Six tournament.
That early pick looked like the ticket after his brutal 12th-round stoppage of former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor in the first round of the tournament in October of 2009. However, that momentum quickly dispersed with his next two fights.
What went wrong? Don’t ask Abraham. It’s not a subject he cares to discuss.
“I don’t want to speak about what went wrong in the past,” Abraham said. “For me, that’s not a topic anymore. Those two fights are gone, they died to me.”
That comment was about as much as Abraham would elaborate on any subject.
When asked how he planned to defeat a fighter who has never been defeated as a pro he stated: “With my heart, my fists, my body and my head.”
When asked if his inability to adjust to Dirrell and Froch caused him to lose confidence in his longtime trainer, Ulli Wegner, Abraham replied: “I have full confidence in Ulli. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have continued to train with him.”
When asked if he thought Southern California-based Armenians would come out to support him at the fight, which will take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., he said: “The Armenian fans will motivate me. That makes this fight more special for me. I will not disappoint them.”
When asked if the German sports media was giving him as little chance to beat Ward as American boxing writers, he said: “You need to ask them, I’m just a boxer.”
Goossen told Abraham that was a cop-out answer.
“Come on Arthur, you can do better than that,” said Goossen, who seemed to delight in needling the underdog. “What have you heard or read about the fight in Germany? These are good questions, at least try to answer them.”
“I’m happy to answer questions,” Abraham said. “I’m not used to giving long speeches.
“You’ll be surprised on May 14. It’s not my style to make big predictions. I want to show you inside the ring.”
Ward won’t underestimate Abraham:
None of the media (or other assorted characters who like to crash boxing press events) present at Tuesday’s luncheon, which took place at Sisley’s Italian Kitchen, gives Abraham much of a shot of upsetting Ward. But the 27-year-old titleholder refuses to buy into that perspective — even if it’s an accurate one.
“In my preparation I’m probably giving him more respect than he deserves,” said Ward (23-0, 13 KOs), THE RING’s No. 1-rated super middleweight. “I’m not buying into people saying that Abraham is not the same (after the losses to Dirrell and Froch). I know Arthur and his team are preparing for a storybook ending but it won’t be at my expense.
“My job is to put him away from the opening bell. My job is to make him feel the same way he felt right after the Carl Froch fight as soon as possible.”
If Ward is able to do that (and most observers believe he will), the Bay Area boxer-technician will be two fights from his ultimate goal, recognition as the undisputed champion of the super middleweight division.
If Ward beats Abraham he’ll face the winner of the Froch-Glen Johnson fight in the Super Six finals. If he wins the tournament, he says his next target is fellow undefeated titleholder Lucian Bute, THE RING’s No. 2-rated super middleweight.
“There’s too much confusion out there, too much argument as to who’s the best in the super middleweight division,” Ward said. “The winner of the Super Six tournament should fight Lucian Bute for THE RING magazine championship.”
Photos by Craig Bennett / Goossen Tutor Promotions.