Michael Rosenthal

Abraham is focused on Ward, not the past

Don’t ask Arthur Abraham about his disastrous 2010. You’d be wasting your time because he has almost nothing to say about it.

A reporter prodded the once-feared former middleweight titleholder after a recent news conference to promote his Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal against Andre Ward on Saturday in Carson, Calif., on Showtime but came up almost empty.

Abraham would only say that he doesn’t want to look backward and, in his most-telling statement, that he doesn’t know what happened in back-to-back losses last year.

“I have nothing more to say,” the Armenian-born German said through a translator.

Who could blame him?

Abraham (32-2, 26 knockouts) entered the tournament undefeated and one of the favorites to win the championship. Now, after going 1-2 in his three opening-round fights, his reputation is in near tatters.

He gave a good performance against former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in his first tournament fight, controlling the fight and scoring a spectacular 12-round knockout that ended Taylor’s career and enhanced his own reputation.

However, he followed that with two disastrous setbacks. He was thoroughly outboxed by Andre Dirrell before he was disqualified for punching Dirrell while he was down in the 11th round and then lost a near-shutout decision to Carl Froch.

Many used the dreaded “E” word – exposed – to describe the impact of the back-to-back losses. Abraham is powerful but, many decided, a limited boxer.

The humbled warrior made a wise decision to take a fight outside the tournament to establish some momentum and stopped Stjepan Bozic in two rounds in February. Mission accomplished.

Abraham made his most-revealing comment of the interview when he acknowledged in so many words that the devastating setbacks affected the once-unshakeable belief he has in himself.

“I started 2011 with a win,” he said. “It’s good for my … confidence, very good for me. Now I want to finish 2011 with only wins.”

That would reverse his fortunes in an instant.

Abraham qualified for the tournament semifinals as a result of the knockout of Taylor, which gives him the unusual opportunity to face an elite opponent — two if he wins Saturday — even after consecutive losses.

First up is Ward, who he will meet before what is expected to be a crowd filled with passionate supporters from the large Armenian community in Los Angeles. He’ll probably have many more fans than Ward at the Home Depot Center.

Abraham is a prohibitive underdog, though. Ward opened the tournament with a breakthrough victory over favored Mikkel Kessler, roughing up the Dane and thoroughly outboxing him to win a clear decision in the biggest fight of his career.

The gold medal winner from the 2004 Olympics then dominated Allan Green (who had taken Taylor’s place in the tournament) and beat rugged Sakio Bika in a bruising fight outside the Super Six after Dirrell pulled out.

Abraham acknowledged that Ward is a capable fighter but, in a moment of bravado, suggested that the sudden rush to anoint him the next great thing might be premature.

“He beat Kessler,” Abraham said in English, “only Kessler. No one else.”

If Abraham somehow wins on Saturday, he would then face the winner of the other semifinal between Froch and Glen Johnson (another replacement fighter) for the tournament championship.

And if he hoists the championship trophy in the end, we won’t have too much to say about his two early setbacks either.

“I don’t even remember 2010,” Abraham said. “I’m always looking forward, looking forward. I’m prepared for this fight.

“I will be back.”

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