Posts Tagged With: Andre Ward

The Big Re-Ward


After a flurry of fantastic fights, it would be easy to miss the context of the upcoming rematch between two of the sports biggest icons, Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward.  This weekend will cap off a series of exciting matches that have changed the rankings in almost every major division since the beginning of May.  Not long ago we saw Terence Crawford somewhat cruelly dismantle Felix Diaz.  Both fighters showed that they have long, successful careers ahead, but at distinctly different levels of the sport.  Being so dominant against an opponent of that level, Crawford eliminated any remaining doubt that he is now at the elite level for welterweight.

More recently, Errol Spence Jr. and Kell Brook squared off in an unlikely matchup between top prospects that neither fighter was obligated to take.  Brook had previously acquitted himself well against moving up in weight to face Golovkin, but understandably came away with his first loss.  Against Spence, I thought he was winning the majority of the rounds with superior speed, accuracy and ring generalship.  Spence seemed stronger and better at putting combinations together, but also frustrated at Brook’s speed and use of angles.  While I’m sure Golovkin-Brook was incredibly lucrative for Brook and a once-in-a-lifetime chance for exposure, the legacy of the fight could end up being a career-altering injury.  Early in the fight against Spence, Brook started to swell from glancing blows.  In the later rounds, Brook began throwing less, and when he did throw, he looked gun-shy.  By round 11, both eyes were swollen with one suddenly almost completely shut.  He took a knee about a minute into the round without taking much punishment.  At that point, he could probably tell he wasn’t going to be competitive.  Hopefully, Brook will take enough time to truly make a full recovery, so he doesn’t end up with problems in every fight the way the Plastered Bastard did.  Certainly, he has a lot more to lose than Antonio Margarito ever did.

Since then, Brandon Rios has come out of retirement, Regis Prograis has put up another dominant win, and then, out of the blue, Mayweather-McGregor was officially announced (I’ll have to get to that another time).

With the dust still settling from all this upheaval, there’s hardly been time to get ready for the second (and, if possible, even more tantalizing) showdown between Ward and Kovalev.  Historically, the technical fighter getting a rematch after a close fight with a brawler could only mean good things for him: think Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II, Ali-Frazier II.  In this case, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions.  Kovalev can make a stand here and solidify his position at the top of the sport, while Ward has been comfortably reclining in the luxury of stardom for years.  The motivational factor can’t be dismissed.  Even more significant might be that Ward was inactive during much of that time, negotiating a messy split with former Top Rank exec Dan Goosen.  Of course, the inactivity didn’t stop Ward from putting on an epic performance in the first fight, and that could mean a bigger discrepancy between his abilities and Kovalev’s in the rematch.  Part of the reason the inactivity didn’t affect the fight against Kovalev is that Ward had been consistently taking fights again for over a year at that point, and had fought twice already in 2016.  I still call attention to his “inactivity” and comfort because these fights were against a series of off-brand tomato cans.  The first, timid return came against Paul Smith, 35-5, who had just lost two consecutive fights to Arthur Abraham leading up to their contest.  The next two opponents weren’t much more impressive, so, in short, Ward hasn’t fought anyone like Kovalev since the Super Six tournament (except, of course, Kovalev).

If Ward’s inactivity doesn’t catch up with him, and he hasn’t underestimated Kovalev as much as he makes it seem, it could be a one-sided affair.  One of those classic matchups between a great fighter and a legendary one.  Roy Jones Jr. is probably more familiar with the concept than any other single fighter, having humiliated greats and legends alike in his early, more athletic years.  Ward has been quoted saying that he didn’t have “enough fun” in the first fight.  In taking on the larger Chad Dawson five years ago, Ward certainly did look like he was having fun, scoring one of the most dominant and yet exciting knockouts I’ve ever seen.  He may have worked out Kovalev’s habits enough to play puppet master the way he did with Chad Dawson, but don’t expect Kovalev to wilt under the pressure.  If Ward pushes himself harder than he has the capacity for, Kovalev will seize the opportunity.  Ward can take his punches all night as long as he can move effectively to take the impact off, but if he tires, is unable to clinch, and starts taking real punishment, Kovalev could pull the upset.

Key to both fighters will be the jab, with even more urgency for Kovalev, who had great success with it in the first fight.  Next most important for both will be movement.  If Kovalev can improve his footwork, or if Ward falters with his own, Ward’s advantage will be significantly diminished.  Finally, the winner of the fight will be the one who was most active, either by taking punches while giving them or by throwing during every lull in the action.

We can get up our hopes for an epic conclusion or a worthy precursor to the final chapter.  Some fans feel Kovalev fought well enough to win the first time, but even if he didn’t, with 12 rounds of experience, maybe he really can beat Ward convincingly.  In that case, Kovalev would take the belts, have two unforgettable performances on his resume and he would have begun what would probably one of the great boxing trilogies.  Then again, with practice, maybe Ward can shut him out the way he has with other would-be conquerors (like Froch), solidifying his legacy and elevating him to supreme status.  Whoever wins receives possibly the greatest reward in the sport: an undeniable reign.

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Sure Thing


Three fights set for this Saturday feature prime talent facing less-than-desirable opposition. They all have reasons for taking these stepping-stone fights at this point in their career, with varying degrees of notoriety.

The most high-profile of the three will be Andre Ward making his return after having fought only twice in over three years.  Fans will get to see if the technician’s power translates to the new weight class (he took the light heavy title at a catchweight).  He’ll get to smooth out any wrinkles in his game created by inactivity and try to make us believe his talent can overcome Sergey Kovalev’s raw power.  In reality, Kovalev will be an entirely new level of challenge for Ward, but as convincing his performance was against Dawson, it’s hard to doubt his superiority.

The next most widely relevant fight between Kell Brook and Kevin Bizier will be another stepping stone in the journey for Brook, albeit one that he considers special.  Bizier is supposed to be the gateway to the big names that most fighters with Brook’s record are already signing fights against, even though Bizier isn’t as much of a presence in the sport as some previous Brook opponents.  Khan avoided the fight with Brook for good reason.  After he loses to Alvarez, assuming Brook wins this weekend, Khan should be willing to get in line for another loss given the financial benefits.

Finally, New Orleans native Regis Prograis makes another bid for attention, likely sporting his entertaining werewolf mask to the ring to put his formidable talent on display.  Look for an early knockout here, this kid is on his way.

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Crawford, Spence Rising


A week from tomorrow Terence Crawford will take on Hank Lundy in the only significant match of the month.  Crawford will get another chance to put his talent on display, and poor Lundy is stuck being a stepping stone for yet another rising fighter.  Hammerin’ Hank has been an ESPN mainstay for years, and only provides action-packed fights, but does so competently.  He’s lost 5 fights at lightweight against 25 wins, but his record is deceptive;  he’s fought upper-level competition more consistently most fighters with 25 wins.  In what might be descending order, the opponents who have managed wins over Lundy include John Molina Jr., Mauricio Herrera, Raymundo Beltran, Victor Postol and Thomas Dulorme.

Next weekend Hammerin’ Hank proves once again that he’s willing to take on anyone.  There could be no better opponent to prove his conviction; Terence Crawford  has shown himself to be one of the most talented fighters in the sport, building his repertoire slowly and finally being forced to put it on full display when he beat the odds against Yuriorkis Gamboa.  Since then Crawford has worked the laundry list of former bests, including a couple of the the same men who came away victorious from fights with Lundy: Thomas Dulorme, Raymundo Beltran.  We can expect Hank to put on a good show and survive Crawford’s precise power better than most, and even offer substantial resistance at times, but he won’t have the speed, defense, or accuracy to be competitive throughout.  You count on Crawford’s power and precision becoming a problem by the third round, with Lundy looking worse for the wear by 8 or 9.  Crawford’s not a devastating puncher, so he’ll most likely take a unanimous decision.

On the horizon we have a showdown at light heavyweight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev granted they win their next fights respectively.  The match would showcase two of the best athletes in the sport with Kovalev being given a chance to prove he’s  more than just the best of the moment.

On April 16th we’ll get another tantalizing fight with the American Olympian Errol Spence Jr. taking on welterweight gatekeeper Chris Algieri.  Spence will have a tough task ahead of him as Algieri has proven himself to have a sturdy chin and formidable heart, as well as impressive skills.  The fight will go a long way in giving Spence the experience he’ll need to begin his reign at the top, where he should be.

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Father Time No Longer in his Prime


Tonight on HBO a 48 year-old Bernard Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for a light-heavyweight title and the historic stature of besting his own record for oldest fighter to win a championship belt.  The previous fight in which he earned such an honor was against Jean Pascal, who many predicted was going to be the young gun to finally undo Hopkins as a competitor.  In Hopkins’ most recent fight, however, a rematch against Chad Dawson, Hopkins age did seem to be catching up with him as he was systematically dismantled and nearly shut out by the younger fighter.  The point was made even finer when Dawson attempted to defend his title against the smaller American Olympian Andre Ward, who knocked Dawson down three times in a one-sided display of dominance.  Tonight I expect to see a good fight, with Cloud displaying some superior athleticism and speed, but having difficulty with Hopkins’ head movement and punching accuracy.  I also expect Hopkins age will have caught up with him even more than it had in his fight against Dawson, despite his insistence that he’s recommitted himself in the gym.  I have to believe that, especially after the shoving to should-injury fiasco from the first Dawson fight, Hopkins was as dedicated to his training as ever in the rematch.  There’s always the chance, though, that Cloud, who has been quoted as saying he feels “invincible,” has greatly underestimated Hopkins’ abilities.  The old man may not be what he once was, but as I see it, Hopkins’ source of strength has always been stylistic as opposed to athletic.  That’s why he performed so impressively against fighters like Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, who rely on volume and power from angles to pressure opponents into submission.  Hopkins is usually able to prevent fighters from using angles against him because he’s such a master of them himself.  Cloud has stated that volume is a good bet for strategy against the aging Hopkins but usually that’s a dead-end as well because of the Executioner’s counter-punching ability.  In an interview from the latest issue of Ring magazine, Hopkins compared his upcoming fight to Danny Garcia’s dethroning of Erik Morales, saying that only a loss like that can convince a fighter to retire.  As one who’s never been stopped in a long and successful career, Hopkins may yet continue without tasting a defeat demoralizing enough to convince him to leave the sport he loves so much.  Fans can only hope he recognizes the right moment when it arrives.

In last night’s edition of Friday Night Fights on ESPN, veteran Victor Cayo was upset by the younger, stronger Emmanuel Taylor in an exciting fight.  Taylor fought well in the early rounds only be to be knocked down by a single devastating counter shot that led to a change in the momentum of the fight.  For a few rounds after the knockdown Cayo regained his composure and began taking control of the distance in the fight.  His defense was far too open, though, and after several staggering shots and impressive combinations by Taylor spread throughout the fight, Cayo was finally floored.  He seemed unsteady when he returned to his fight and after only a single follow-up shot from Taylor, referee Randy Neumann stopped the fight.  The opening bout between the less-than-chiseled heavyweights Abdulsalomov and Bisbal was also interesting, with both fighters winging big shots from the beginning of the fight.  Bisbal was landing the more accurate shots early, but Abdulsalomov, who came in 16-0 with 16 knockouts, finally got a big shot in that put Bisbal down and improved to 17-0.

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Arreola, Pavlik Fight for Relevance


(Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

The first truly exciting boxing card of 2013 has been set.  On January 26th HBO’s World Championship Boxing will feature a thrilling main event as Kelly Pavlik challenges pound-for-pound contender Andre Ward for his Super Middleweight championship.  Ward most recently devastated the formidable light heavyweight Chad Dawson to cement his place in the pound-for-pound rankings.  Pavlik has been successful since his return to the ring after taking time off and suffering losses to Sergio Martinez and Bernard Hopkins, but his opposition has been of lower quality than his previous opponents, and he’s never faced a fighter like Ward.  Clearly, Ward’s power translates well up through 175 pounds, and his speed, agility and accuracy are unmatched in both divisions.  Pavlik has never fared well against slick, speedy fighters with good accuracy.  His losses to both Martinez and Hopkins were due to just those factors when it looked as if his power might be too much for Martinez in the early rounds.  Against Ward, Pavlik will have to face a combination of technical strengths and tools like none he has ever competed with in the past.  I was still skeptical about Andre Ward’s versatility even after I saw him thoroughly dominate Carl Froch (who is on a rebound of his own) in Atlantic City for the SuperSix Middleweight Championship.  Ward’s performance against Dawson, however, left no room for speculation.  I don’t see anyone in either division being able to compete with his level of skill any time soon, as much as I would like to see Pavlik do well.  At least Pavlik will be getting a highly-publicized fight and Ward will be getting top competition against whom he can further demonstrate his talents.

The undercard will be no disappointment either.  The hopes for the American Heavyweights once rested with Cris Arreola, who has fought his way back to the top since his loss to Vitali Klitschko, gradually increasing his competition and looking very comfortable against mid-level opposition. His next opponent will be Bermane Stiverne who has only lost once and therefore , due to lack of legitimate competition, warrants a shot at the mandatory challenger spot to face Vitali Klitschko, who defeated Arreola by TKO in the 10th round in a September 2009 matchup.  While Arreola’s prospects in a rematch are dismal, boxing fans would certainly rather see another competitive fight between the two behemoths than mismatching a “mandatory” challenger we’ve never heard of and will never hear of again. Good night of boxing all in all, check my Fight Predictions Page for my thoughts on the outcome.

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Mitchell Exposed, Froch, Broner Rising


As expected in last night’s main event Adrien Broner was fast and accurate in his domination of Antonio DeMarco. While Broner took his first fight in a new weight class against a competent opponent, his past record and evident athleticism make him the favorite against anyone up to 140. He may well be on his way to fights with bigger names, demonstrating unstoppable skill and an educated approach. Last night DeMarco looked at least halfway decent in the early rounds. In fact, I had never seen anyone land such a good straight punch on Broner’s chin. It seemed as if Broner warmed up in the middle rounds and began slipping punches better and getting to DeMarco’s body. As DeMarco slowed, Broner began to look unreasonably fast and all but unhittable. DeMarco reverted again and again to an old habit of laying forward against his opponent’s chest, hoping to work inside, but without fail, every single time, Adrien Broner quickly became aware of the gaping hole in DeMarco’s defense and began ripping right and left uppercuts to set up combinations. At first they just glanced off DeMarco’s forehead, sometimes sending him up toward a brutal hook or straight right, but as time wore on Broner began breaking through DeMarco’s defense and targeting any spot he chose. DeMarco put on a valiant effort but his trainer mercifully stopped the fight after it became obvious that the fighter was finished.
In the undercard heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell was exposed for the offense-only cardinal flaw that so often weeds out top heavyweight competition. Veteran Jonathan Banks was able to withstand the power and range of the larger Mitchell and then quickly capitalize when Mitchell opened his defense. Banks had an easy time once Mitchell was stunned because the former football player clearly had no experience shelling up after taking a hard shot. Mitchell’s elbows were out and his hands were out in front of his face as suffered three knockdowns from the smaller Banks. After the fight Larry Merchant asked Seth Mitchell if the results of the fights shattered his dreams for heavyweight glory. Mitchell, of course, responded “not at all,” but I think the point the HBO analyst was making was that no one is going to be interested in seeing Mitchell fight Jonathan Banks again, much less a Klitschko.
Carl Froch also proved his dominance against Yusaf Mack yesterday. Mack had disadvantages in speed, power, reach and class. Froch measured Mack briefly but even scored a quick knockdown with a lazy long-reaching left in the first round before Mack was able to land a significant punch. Announcers enthusiastically speculated about the reaction of Mikkel Kessler and of Andre Ward. A fight with veteran super-middleweight Mikkel Kessler does, in fact, sound like an intriguing battle, but they were getting a little over-excited with the comments about Ward. I was there when Ward beat Froch and I think even Froch has no interest in attempting the impossible.

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Donaire Rising


In the main event last night Nonito Donaire reassured the boxing world, again, that he is everything he claims to be.  Rather than being somewhat reckless and attempting to draw his opponent in with showboating and an open defense as he did for his last fight, Donaire landed precision shots and kept himself out of harm’s way for about nine rounds.  His very competent opponent, Nishioka, was much too defense-minded, pinning his right hand to his cheekbone out of fear of Donaire’s infamous left hook.  Thoroughly dominated, Nishioka was finally knocked down twice, and when he was unable to restore his defensive posture the referee stepped in before Donaire could do any more damage.  I think boxing fans need to accept that Pacquiao has been supplanted by a greater Filipino talent.  Sure, Pacquiao is still very impressive and near his prime, but he has certainly begun his decline.  Donaire is effortlessly moving through naturally heavier fighters with substantial resumes and shows no signs of slowing.

For me the top fighters right now are (in no particular order past Mayweather):

Mayweather, Ward, Alvarez, Donaire, Pacquiao, and Martinez.

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Dawson Dethroned


Last night the 2004 American Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward finally put together all the elements of a great fighter against Chad Dawson. His profound footwork became apparent early in the fight, scoring knockdowns in two consecutive rounds with the same punch and approach both times.  He took risks and kept his punch output high for ten rounds.  He fought inside and outside, engaging Dawson when the larger man tried to back him down.  He took hard shots from the former Light Heavyweight champ and was never shaken.  His accuracy was impeccable and even through the tenth round when Dawson’s endurance was failing, Ward put together smooth combinations that finally convinced Dawson to ask Steve Smoger to stop the fight.  The pound-for-pound list is gradually growing in length and authority and you can’t help but be glad to see another American cement his rightful place on it.  As for Dawson, his limited skill set won’t get him much further, and the excuses he made after this fight and the first Hopkins fight will alienate most of what was left of his fan base.

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To Dawson’s Detriment


Ward is an unusually challenging opponent for Chad Dawson to choose willingly given Dawson’s respected status and relative security in the division.  Then again, Dawson’s reach advantage is something akin to Mayweather-Hatton, and he’s a powerful southpaw.  I saw Andre Ward win the Super Six Middleweight Championship in Atlantic City in person, but tomorrow night may be a much bigger challenge for him than Carl Froch was.  Check my Fight Prediction page and see if you agree.

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Ward’s Talent No Longer Debatable, Froch’s Mettle Malleable


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Andre Ward introduced at Boardwalk Hall December 17 2011

Last night super six finalist Andre Ward solidly defeated England’s Carl Froch.  Though Froch put forth an encouraging effort in the final round, Ward had fully dominated every previous round with no danger of being stopped. Even in the final desperate attempt to make progress in round 12 Froch’s punches were ineffective and labored.  Ward seemed to have more than adequate stamina, more than adequate defense and had no opportunity to prove his durability.  Ward emerges as the unexpected Super Six champion and settles some of the questions raised about his talent, his opposition and his future.

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