Mike Coppinger

Ward’s star begins to shine with dominant victory over Froch

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Andre Ward completed an arduous two-year plus journey with a unanimous decision over Carl Froch in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament on Saturday before 5,626 at Boardwalk Hall.

Ward, who entered the Showtime-televised fight with the WBA 168-pound title, claimed Froch’s WBC belt and the vacant RING super middleweight championship with his impressive victory, won by scores of 118-110 and 115-113 twice.

Ward (25-0, 13 knockdowns), a huge underdog at the start of the tournament, continued his impressive run by initiating the action from the onset, landing his left hook at will and displaying impressive in-fighting skills.

It was a dream come true for the 27-year-old Oakland, Calif., native.

“I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it. To just pull it off is unbelievable,” said Ward. “I wanted to stay focused and we pulled it off. But we can get better.”

altThe undefeated fighter was very accurate, as he landed 42 percent of his shots, 243 total, great disparity to Froch who landed just 23 percent of his shots.

Froch’s output was low – he averaged 56 punches per round, after averaging 69 in his previous four Super Six fights, a testament to Ward’s excellent defense.

“I had a bad night at the start. I couldn’t get anything going,” said Froch, who fell to 28-2 with 20 KOs. “But that’s due to Andre Ward’s slick defense skills. He’s very slippery, very tricky. I couldn’t get my shots off. Especially towards the end I wanted to let my shots go, but he slips and slides and keeps himself out of harm’s way.”

The rounds were competitive, but it wasn’t all that close, as Ward was the ring general and set the tempo throughout the foul-filled bout.

Ward led with his head throughout the bout and Froch, who had a few egregious fouls, was warned once for a backhand and another instance for hitting after the bell.

Froch, 34,the aggressor for much of the bout, attempted to get off first with feints and head movement, but couldn’t make-up for the vast difference in hand speed. Ward continually landed the cleaner shots and fought an excellent in-and-out game.

In round two, there were some nice exchange along the ropes. Froch unleashed an excellent body combination, only to be stymied by Ward’s money punch – the left hook – which stopped him in his tracks.

However, for the most part, it was a tactical encounter. Froch tried to keep Ward on the end of his jab, intent on keeping the fight on the outside.  Ward counteredwith hooks, crouching in to gain distance.

Great ebbs and flows in the third stanza, as both fighters had their moments.

(Click here for a photo gallery of the fight)

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The 2004 Olympic gold medalist stepped up his attack in the fourth, the true aggressor for the first time in the evening. He got off first early and often and bullied Froch to the ropes. But Froch had great success, dodging shots and landing counters of his own. Froch landed some hellacious shots, but the action was controlled by Ward.

Round five marked Froch’s best of the night, as he rocked Ward just before the bell sounded, sending him to the ropes.

Froch, of Nottingham, England, was admonished in round eight for a blatant attempt at a backhand.  Then Froch landed a right cross that he threw well after the bell, again warned by referee Steve Smoger.

The fighters competed with mean intentions in round nine, fueled by the numerous fouls in the bout.

Each round down the stretch featured spirited exchanges, but Ward had stashed enough rounds in the bank, edging Froch on all three cards to earn the biggest victory of his young career.

“I knew right away my speed was killing, I was surprised how slow he was,” said Ward, a 3-1 favorite. “He put on a great fight against (Andre Dirrell), a speed fighter, but we were able to beat him to the punch, and that’s what won us the fight.

“You don’t get points for leaving your chin open. Froch said that I couldn’t punch but I know I hurt him tonight, I could see it in his eyes.”

Ward was the number one seed entering the semifinals, the result of lopsided tournament victories over Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. After the bout, the fighters were respectful and Ward told Froch “You’re going to be champion again.”

altFroch had perhaps the best string of competition entering the championship bout, facing Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Dirrell, Kessler, Abraham and Glen Johnson – one after another. But he suffered his second career defeated against Ward and made no excuses.

“I wanted to get my shots off, I’m very frustrated,” said Froch. “It was a bad night for me. I needed to sit back, relax and not try to load up. He’s very good defensively, very good close, it was very hard for me to get my hard shots off.

“Up close is not my game, he gets his head real close. He smothers you, you can’t get shots off. Or he’s far out of range and you can’t reach him. I feel I could beat Andre Ward on a good night, but I lost tonight fair and square. To beat Andre Ward I need to work on certain technical aspects of my game.”

Ward entered the bout rated No. 9 in THE RING’s pound-for-pound rankings and stands to improve following his triumph over Froch.

THE RING’s No. 3-rated super middleweight Lucian Bute, the undefeated IBF titleholder, was ringside, hoping to face the winner, a bout that would erase any doubt as to who is the world’s supreme 168-pounder.

Bigger fights await Ward, and a win over Bute would make his star shine brighter.

 

Photos by Naoki Fukuda

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