CARSON, Calif. – Andre Ward more or less defined himself as a fighter when he said something perfectly reasonable after his one-sided victory over Arthur Abraham on Saturday:
“I want to be world champion and take the least amount of punishment possible.”
That’s Ward. He dominates his opponents but doesn’t take the necessary risks to entertain the crowd, which was the case before 5,311 at the Home Depot Center.
Ward outclassed Abraham, who couldn’t begin to cope with the former Olympic gold medalist’s all-around ability from the fourth round on.
The American had trouble penetrating the Armenian-born German’s peek-a-boo defense but got more than enough punches through to win going away, 120-108, 118-110 and 118-111.
The outcome was obvious by the eighth or ninth round, when Abraham did little but cover his face and throw an occasional wild shot. The former middleweight titleholder looked beaten, tired, which prompted several of those at ringside to say the same thing:
“Ward could knock him out if he puts his foot on the gas pedal.”
He never really did. He continued to outwork Abraham but never made a concerted effort to finish the job, which is part of a pattern. Ward (24-0, 13 knockouts) has never stopped a contender.
To be fair, it’s hard to knock out a guy who won’t remove his hands from his face. And Abraham has never been stopped; clearly, he’s extremely tough and has a good chin.
Still, with the crowd lifeless by the late rounds, Ward could’ve given the fans a reason to cheer if he had at least stepped up his pace – and his ferocity — to see if he could hurt Abraham.
I thought of the fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Eddie Chambers, during which the heavyweight champion’s trainer Emanuel Steward screamed at Klitschko to finish the job.
Steward, an astute veteran of the game, knows what’s good for both his fighter and the sport and it isn’t another one-sided decision.
Ward’s victory was important. He beat another world-class opponent, retained his 168-pound title and reached the final of a much-publicized tournament, which is impressive.
Imagine what a knockout would’ve done for his career, though. The fans expect victories from Ward. And that was never really in question on Saturday night. They want more, though, they want some kind of excitement from him and so far have been disappointed.
I personally enjoy watching Ward fight. I admire his ability and professionalism, his knack of adapting to his different opponents. And I think he will be world champion for a long time, perhaps even the No. 1 fighter in the world pound for pound one day.
And he doesn’t seem too fazed by any criticism that might come his way because of his relatively careful style.
“I was always taught since I started boxing as a little boy that getting hit is not cool – period,” he said after the fight. “I know we’re in an era now where everybody wants blood and guts. If there wasn’t blood and guts, they think it wasn’t a great performance or somebody wasn’t a warrior or you didn’t put on a great show.
“I have an old-school trainer, though. My dad went to him and said, ‘Teach my son to hit and not be hit.”
Again, that makes perfect sense. And it’s a approach to boxing that could lead to continued success and save a lot of brain cells.
The question is this, though: Will Ward ever become a true star? That will be difficult to accomplish if some of his big fights don’t end before 12 rounds. Winning just isn’t good enough.