Saturday, December 17, 2011
Updated: December 18, 2:48 PM ET
Andre Ward outfoxes Carl Froch
By Dan Rafael
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- For 15 years, Andre Ward has been nothing but a winner. Still is.
Ward hasn't lost since 1996, when he was only 12. His decorated amateur career ended atop the podium with a gold medal draped around his neck at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
As a professional, he has done more of the same, culminating with a brilliant masterpiece against Carl Froch on Saturday night before a crowd of 5,626 at Boardwalk Hall.
Ward dominated Froch -- despite the narrow margins on two of the judges' scorecards -- to win a unanimous decision as he unified two super middleweight titles, claimed the vacant Ring magazine championship and was the last man standing in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Simply, he stamped himself as the best super middleweight in the world after rolling through the groundbreaking tournament, which began 26 months ago with six elite super middleweights and encountered all kinds of ups and downs.
But Ward was the constant in the event, and he didn't just skate by in the final. He utterly dominated an excellent fighter in England's Froch.
Although judges Craig Metcalfe of Canada and American John Stewart scored it 115-113 for Ward, British judge John Keane was on the spot with a 118-110 card for Ward. ESPN.com also had it for Ward, 119-109.
"I can't believe it, I can't believe it -- it's not so unbelievable that we never thought we were going to win, but now that it's happened, it is unbelievable," said Ward, who was presented with the Super Six Cup in the ring after his victory. "We told you this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to fight on the inside and on the outside, and we pulled it off tonight. We were able to beat him to the punch, and that's what won us the fight."
Boy, did Ward beat Froch to the punch. He couldn't miss with his left hook and landed numerous clean right hands. Froch was simply no match for Ward's speed and accurate punching.
"I was surprised how slow Froch was," Ward said. "I gave him the benefit of the doubt in training, but we were just able to beat him to the punch. You don't get points for leaving your chin open. I know he said a couple of times that I couldn't punch. I know I hurt him a few times tonight; I could see it."
According to CompuBox statistics, Ward landed 243 of 573 blows (42 percent), while Froch was limited to landing 156 of 683 punches (23 percent).
Froch, a big talker with an ego to match, was humble in defeat.
"Fair credit to Andre Ward," Froch said. "He's very good defensively. I lost the fight, fair and square. It was quite hard to hit him. The name of the game is to not get hit, and he did that well."
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) landed many left hooks cleanly to Froch's head, although he said he wasn't at 100 percent for the fight.
"I felt good," Ward said. "It was a tough fight, a strong fight and he's a good fighter. I hurt my hand in training, and I couldn't say anything about it. I hit him on top of the head in the sixth round and hurt it, but we fought through it."
It would be scary to see if Ward's hand was healthy.
Ward, 27, of Oakland, Calif., rolled through the grueling tournament, which began in October 2009, to reach the final. In his opening fight, he pulled an upset by dominating Mikkel Kessler -- the favorite to win the tournament when it began -- en route to an 11th-round technical decision that won him a title.
Then Ward routed Allan Green, one of two replacement fighters in the tournament, and Sakio Bika (in a fight that took place outside the tournament when Andre Dirrell dropped out and wasn't replaced) before another lopsided decision win, against Arthur Abraham in the semifinals.
Lopsided decisions are what Ward is all about.
"I had a supernatural run through the Olympics," he said, "and me coming through the tournament as the young pup was supernatural as well."
Froch's road to the final was far more difficult. The 34-year-old is a physical and scrappy fighter with a great chin, which all came in handy as he made his run in the modified round-robin tournament.
He eked out a split decision at home in Nottingham, England, against Dirrell and then lost a very hard fight by decision to Kessler in Denmark. But Froch bounced back to take a lopsided win against Abraham to regain the belt Kessler vacated when he dropped out of the tournament because of an eye injury. In the semifinals, Froch won a majority decision against Glen Johnson, a replacement fighter, in a tough fight.
But against Ward, Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) couldn't do much of anything.
"It was a bad night for me, obviously," Froch said. "I couldn't get anything going, and that obviously has a lot to do with Andre Ward's defensive skills. He is very tricky in close. We tried to put our shots together, especially at the end. But he ducks and he slips and he slides. He's very good at that. I tried desperately to get shots off. I was trying to hit him too hard. I never found myself in the zone.
"He's very good at keeping himself out of harm's way. Either he's up close smothering you, or he's outside out of range. I do think I could beat Andre Ward on a good night, but to beat him, I need to be working on lots of technical things."
With the tournament victory in hand, Ward said he is looking forward to a nice rest, but there is still some business he could attend to. Titleholder Lucian Bute, who was ringside hoping to land a fight with the winner, was not invited to join the tournament -- although he later signed a contract with Showtime. That is the biggest fight in the division.
Ward could, of course, pursue that fight or look to something else. Whatever he does, he is an elite, pound-for-pound-caliber champion. A winner through and through.
And here is what makes it mind boggling to think about:
"Believe it or not," Ward said, "we can still get better."
|Carl Froch couldn't handle the speed and defense of Andre Ward, who won their Super Six final Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J.|
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.