Both THE RING’s No. 9 pound-for-pound fighter, Andre Ward, of Oakland, Calif., and the man he will face on Saturday, Carl Froch, of England, say their participation in the Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic has caused them to evolve as fighters.
Ward (24-0, 13 knockouts) will put his WBA super middleweight title on the line against WBC beltholder Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) in a clash for THE RING’s vacant 168-pound title as well as the Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
THE RING’s top two-rated super middleweights say the tough competition of the unique round-robin tournament forced them to change their boxing styles in ways that have improved their overall ability.
“The competition, that’s what does it. I mean, you can fight C-level guys and look great, and you can fight B-level guys, and old veterans and look great and you can do what you want to do. But when you fight A-level guys, you know, it causes you to step your game up,” said Ward, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the light heavyweight division, who was known primarily for his boxing skills as he entered the tournament after consecutive unanimous decisions over Henry Buchanan and Edison Miranda.
“The guys that cause you to be great, it’s because they can do multiple and different things and they’re not stuck in one style. They’re not one-demensional. What I’ve noticed is that guys that are one-demensional, they may last for a little while, but eventually, somebody’s going to figure them out.”
In the tournament, however, Ward has more or less viciously brutalized his opposition, out-pointing former four-time beltholder Mikkel Kessler, once-beaten contender Allan Green and former middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham. Prior to facing Abraham, Ward waged war with RING-rated Sakio Bika over 12 rounds in a non-tournament bout.
“If you can only brawl, you’re going to find a good boxer one day who is going to pick you apart. If you can only box, you may find someone who is physically stronger than you. It’s been based on the competition, and the different levels and the different styles that I’ve had to fight in the tournament,” said Ward.
“It’s just caused me to evolve and to show different aspects of my game. You have to understand that some of the things that these fans are now seeing, these are things that we’ve toiled in the gym with for years, and all of a sudden, the’ve shown up when you need them.”
Froch, of Nottingham, entered the tournament having battled his way to victories over Jean Pascal, who he outpointed for the vacant WBC title, and Jermain Taylor, who he beat by come-from-behind, 12th-round knockout, in his first defense. At the time, most fans viewed him as a rugged brawler.
“I think that that was a correct assessment of myself. I was definitely known for being more of brawler from the Pascal fight. That was more-or-less a bit of a war for 12 rounds. Later on in the fight, I got behind my jab and I boxed and that made it a lot easier for me,” said Froch.
“And, obviously, with Taylor, I needed the big finish, which I got. I showed that I could come back and beat him. Not a lot of people could do what I did. I got him in the last few seconds. Those last few rounds were just pure heart and guts.”
In the tournament, Froch mixed it up when he out-pointed previously undefeated prospect Andre Dirrell, lost a close and thrilling 12 rounder to Kessler in the Dane’s home country, and boxed beautifully over the course of one-sided decisions over Abraham and former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson in an entertaining defense of his WBC crown.
“You don’t want to be one-dimensional in the ring. You want to be able to use your technical abilities and your skills, and I showed them against Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson at times in my last couple of fights. In terms of demonstrating my style and showcasing my skills, I’m just doing what fighters do,” said Froch.
“This will be my fifth fight in this tournament, so regardless of whether or not I would have been in this tournament, I was just defending my title. But you’re always learning as a professional fighter. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned a lot about my style.”
ERIK MORALES-DANNY GARCIA, JAMES KIRKLAND-CARLOS MOLINA PRESS CONFERENCE
A press conference will be held on Friday at at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas, site of a Jan. 28, HBO-televised double-header featuring WBC 140-pound beltholder Erik Morales (52-7, 36 KOs) and Danny Garcia (22-0, 14 KOs), and THE RING’s No. 5-rated junior middleweight Carlos Molina (19-4-2, 6 KOs) opposite RING No. 6-rated counterpart James Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs) represents a risk for all involved.
Morales, THE RING No. 7-rated junior welterweight, has won four belts over as many different weight classes, the first Mexican to do so. The 23-year-old Garcia, who is rated No. 9 by THE RING, is coming off a unanimous decision over former titleholder Kendall Holt in October.
The 35-year-old veteran is coming off September’s 10th-round TKO over the previously unbeaten 21-year-old proispect, Pablo Cesar Cano (22-1-1, 17 KOs), of Mexico City, to become the first Mexican fighter to win a crown in a fourth weight class.
Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs), THE RING’s No. 6-rated junior middleweight, is coming off an HBO-televised sixth-round knockout of Alfredo Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs), in Cancun, Mexico, on Nov. 5.
Molina has an unbeaten streak of 11-0-1 with two knockouts that includes having sandwiched a victory over two-time welterweight beltwinner Kermit Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs) in July and a draw with then-unbeaten southpaw Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) in March around a seventh-round stoppage of Allen Conyers in April.
LOOK OUT FOR ANDY RUIZ JR.
Boxing commentator Rich Marotta is high on California-based heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr., who will pursue his third straight knockout opposite Chicago’s Theron Johnson (5-6, one KO) on Saturday night at the WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Ok.
“We have had him on about three or four times before. He’s out of Mexicali, but moved to the U.S and speaks perfect English,” said Marotta, a respected, former long-time host of the Los Angeles-based radio show, Neutral Corner, who now calls fights for Top Rank Live on Fox Sports Net.
“He was working for a while with Freddie Roach, and now Miguel Diaz is handling him. His first few fights he weighed in the 290′s, then fought a few times in the 270′s. But his last couple were in the low 250′s. I think he has a chance to really make his presence felt.”
The 6-foot-2 Ruiz, of Imperial, Calif., is 12-0 with eight knockouts, and will face Johnson on the undercard of a main event featuring junior featherweight Robert Marroquin (20-1, 14 KOs), of Dallas, against Miami’s Carlos Valcarcel (12-3-4, 5 KOs).
“He is developing very well. He has good power,” said Marotta. “But the thing that sets him apart from guys at that weight and that body type is his tremendous hand speed. His flurries are really terrific.”
Photo by Rich Hundley, Showtime
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwire Images