Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ward tops Froch to unify super middleweight title

By John McMullen

Atlantic City, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - Rising American star Andre Ward unified the WBA and WBC super middleweight crowns on Saturday, topping British scrapper Carl Froch by unanimous decision in the finals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic at Boardwalk Hall.

Andre Ward with all his gold
Ward, who won Olympic Gold in Athens back in 2004, was the last man standing in a tourney that began just over two years ago when six of the world's top super middleweights got together at Madison Square Garden to announce the first ever Super Six Classic.

The idea was the brainchild of former SHOWTIME sports chief Ken Hershman and it was designed to determine the best 168-pounder inside the ring, a novel approach in the world of boxing where the best fighters often dodge each other for easier paydays.

Since the concept was born there have been many hiccups. Eight fighters have fought in the Super Six" two have retired and since made comebacks and Hershman left SHOWTIME for rival HBO. Meanwhile, Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell all withdrew as a result of injuries, postponements
or disqualification.

Ward and Froch exchange punches
Despite all the problems, however, the tournament ended up where it should have with perhaps the two best super middleweights in Ward and Froch.

Billed as WBA vs. WBC, U.S. vs. Britain and boxer vs. puncher, skill won out as Ward dominated Froch en rote to winning all three scorecards although the two foreign judges from England and Canada had it inexplicably close at  115-113. The other judge had it 118-110. The Phanatic Magazine also had it 118-110 for Ward at ringside.

"It's supernatural. These are all great fighters. That's why you don't hear me talking badly about them before the fight. I know what I'm getting into. I just want to be a little bit better on the night of the fight."

Both fighters were cautious early with no real leather being thrown until the second round. Ward scored the most with two thunderous left hooks late in the frame that revved up the crowd and stopped Froch is his tracks.

Ward was especially effective with his counters and Froch continued to have trouble with the Oakland native's quickness in Rounds 3 and 4.

"He's very good defensively," Froch said of Ward. "I couldn't get my shots off. I never found myself in the range. Ward was either too close and smothering me or too far away."

Froch only knows one way to fight, however, and that's to keep coming forward. The Nottingham product continued to show his mettle but also kept getting tagged with crisp Ward punches. By the fifth round it was clear Froch had little chance to outpoint Ward.

Ward's early dominance buoyed his confidence and the young fighter felt more comfortable taking chances. Theoretically that opened up more opportunities for Froch and sure enough, the Brit has his best showing in the sixth, scoring with a few solid rights.

Ward backed off a bit and the counters were still there as Froch's defense continued to dissipate. Frustration began to set in for Froch at the end of the eighth round when he fired a late punch after the bell. Referee Steve Smoger didn't dock Froch although he certainly could have with little controversy.

"Right away, I was actually surprised how slow Froch was," said Ward. "We were just able to beat him to the punch and that's what won us the fight."

A USA chant greeted Ward in the ninth and the enthusiasm from the Brits in attendance began to wane.

To his credit Froch withstood the beating and lasted the full 12 rounds but Ward clearly outclassed him at every turn.

"I couldn't get anything going. He's very slippery. It was very frustrating for me. It was a bad night," Froch said

Saturday's finale was the fourth fight of the tournament for Ward (25-0,  17 KOs), who captured the WBA super middleweight title from Kessler in November 2009. Meanwhile, it was the fifth fight for Froch (28-2), who lost the WBC version to Kessler in April 2010 before regaining it by beating Arthur Abraham
in November 2010.

In other action highly-touted British welterweight prospect Kell Brook made his U.S. debut by staying undefeated with a fifth round TKO over Luis Galarza. Book (26-0, 18 KOs) was far too skilled for the Puerto Rican Galarza (18-3) and began to impose his will with a dominating third round.

Referee Alan Huggins, who had  a rough night, waived off things prematurely at 1:38 of Round 5 but it wasn't like Galarza had any chance of coming back. At the time of the stoppage Brook had connected on 44 percent of his punches to just 15 for Galarza and had a 64-19 advantage in power punches landed.

The undercard, unlike most boxing events, was filled with accomplished fighters. Tongan heavyweight Bowie Tupou (22-1, 16 KOs) spiced up a rather lackluster opener late in the seventh round when he sent Donnell Holmes to one knee with a solid short right.

Holmes (33-2-2, 29 KOs), a North Carolina native who sported a Clubber Lang mohawk and had trunks that read Mr. T, stayed away from any further damage and even scored with a nice left hook in the 10th but fell short all three scorecards, 95-94, 96-93, 95-94.

Tupou came into the fight in better shape and proved to be the busier fighter which may have swayed the judges. The Phanatic Magazine scored it 96-93 for Tupou from ringside.

"I felt great out there tonight," Tupou said. "Donnell has a lot more experience that I do, you know. I was definitely the underdog going in there tonight, so I'm really happy with my performance and I can't wait to get back in the ring."

Veteran light heavyweight Edison Miranda, who has fought stars like Ward and Kelly Pavlik, proved to be too much for Kariz Kariuki, topping the Kenyan by TKO at 2:15 of Round 5.

Miranda (35-6, 30 KOs) first hurt Kariuki (24-10-2) in Round 2 and started target practice in the third, landing whatever he wanted in an incredibly efficient manner. To his credit Kariuki weathered the storm for a bit before being blitzed in the fifth by Miranda, who was already scheduled for a rematch with former Cuban amateur star Yordanis Despaigne in February 2012.

Huggins wasn't exactly stellar in this bout. He nearly got Kariuki killed in the fifth when he restarted the bout without the Kenyan's knowledge and allowed Miranda to get a running start from across the ring before delivering a right. Huggins also waived the fight off while Kariuki was fighting back although he was clearly glassy eyed.

Despaigne (9-2), who beat Miranda in his last fight via disqualification, was also in action but didn't live up to his end of the bargain, losing a six-round unanimous decision to Houston native Cornelius White (18-1).

White was cut over the left eye early in the fight from a headbutt but managed to go the distance with little trouble, although both Despaigne's and White's trunks were significantly blood-stained by the final bell. The final scorecards read 60-53, 59-55 and 59-55 for White.

"I got cut over the eye in the early rounds by a headbutt but I took it," White said. "I took it like a man and I kept coming. It wasn't a distraction because I was determined to win no matter what. We had eight weeks of great training and there wasn't anything that we weren't prepared for."

Finally in a heavyweight swing bout between local fighters, Cateret's John Lennox (8-1, 4 KOs) knocked out Trenton's Jeremiah Witherspoon at 50 seconds of Round 3.


*Philly native Bernard Hopkins was on hand to take in the main event.

*The crowd was about 6,000. certainly disappointing for a fight of this magnitude.

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