Andre Ward outfoxes Carl Froch
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."
By Dan Rafael
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
Ward wins unanimous decision over Froch in AC
Andre Ward had his hands more full on stage than he ever did in the ring against Carl Froch.
"I wanted to put my shots together, but he moves around, and slips and slides. He's very good at that," Froch said. "And that's why it was a bad night for me."
Ward dominated the six-man, 168-pound tournament, backed by premium network Showtime. And he did so — on this night, at least — despite injuring his left hand in camp, and then again after striking the top of Froch's head in the sixth round.
"Give credit to Andre. I never found myself in the zone where I could get my shots off and do what I wanted," Froch said. "That's something I'm going to have to work on in the gym."
One judge scored it 118-110 and two others had it 115-113 for Ward.
"We wanted to fight inside and outside, and we pulled it off," Ward said. "I was actually surprised at how slow Froch was. He was as slow as he was on tape."
Ward and Froch were slated to meet Oct. 29 before Ward was injured in training and the fight was rescheduled. Ward needed stitches for a cut above his right eye.
Ward still hasn't lost a bout since he was an amateur. He entered the Super Six tourney as an underdog to the more experienced Arthur Abraham, Froch and Mikkel Kessler.
His masterful performance in Atlantic City proved himself as the best of them all.
Ward smothered Froch when they were close, then ducked and slipped and kept his distance from Froch for most of the bout. Ward said he was surprised at how slow Froch was during the 12-round fight.
Ward landed 243 of 573 of his punches (42 percent) while Froch was a miserable 23 percent (156 of 683). Froch, who lost and regained his WBC belt during the unique tournament, averaged only 56 punches per round after averaging 69 in his previous four Super Six fights.
"I never found myself in the zone where I could get my shots off and do what I want," Froch said. "That's something I'm going to have to work on in the gym."
Froch, 34, went 4-1 in the previous rounds of the tournament. He opened with a 12-round decision over Andre Dirrell on Oct. 17, 2009, then rebounded from the first loss of his career — a 12-round decision to Kessler on April, 24, 2010 — with decision victories over Abraham and Glen Johnson, respectively.
"I'm at the end of a wonderful run of fights," Froch said. "I've been beat before and I've come back stronger."
Froch wants his next fight in England.
Ward simply wants some rest.
The 26-month tournament took a bit of a hit in prestige and dragged on as various boxers dropped out because of injuries. And other contenders, such as IBF champion Lucian Bute, opted not to participate.
Froch's loss is yet another blow to British boxing, which has suffered since former champions Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton retired.
Heavyweight David Haye lost support with a listless performance against champion Wladimir Klitschko last July, and middleweight prospect Darren Barker has yet to record a signature victory.
But no matter to Ward. He proved himself as one of the elite, posting an 11th-round TKO over Kessler, then winning decisions over Allan Green and Abraham. He also beat Sakio Bika over that span.
Ward dominated with the sharp left hook in the first few rounds to set the tone for the rest of the lopsided bout and add the tournament trophy to go with his Olympic gold and his collection of alphabet belts.
"Believe it or not," Ward said, "you guys haven't seen the best of Andre Ward."
By DAN GELSTON
FROCH: "SLIPPERY EEL" WARD WAS TOO GOOD
Carl Froch had to admit the better man won after being left "bitterly disappointed" by a lacklustre points defeat against Andre Ward.
Englishman Froch came up short against Ward as the classy, unbeaten American won the Super Six tournament final in Atlantic City and added his opponent's WBC belt to his own WBA super-middleweight title.
Ward, now boasting a record of 25-0 with 13KOs, revealed he had a hand injury from training which he aggravated in the sixth round but it did not stop him producing a typically slick and awkward performance which left Froch to describe him as "a slippery eel".
"I'm bitterly disappointed," said Froch, who lost the unanimous decision to scores of 115-113 twice and 118-110 at the Boardwalk Hall.
"Obviously I've lost my title and I've lost the chance to win another title and the Super Six cup.
"I'm at the end of a wonderful run of fights. I've had six or seven fights on the spin all at the top level and you can't win them all at this level. Elite level fighters do get beaten.
"I don't want to put myself up there with Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali and some of those top level fighters but they all got beaten and they all came back.
"I've been beaten before and I've come back stronger. I was in against a very, very tricky, very slick and awkward very good fighter.
"I take nothing away from Andre Ward - he's very good at not getting hit, and keeping out of harm's way. He's like a slippery eel in there sometimes. That's what boxing is about. It's about not getting hit.
"He kept himself in the safe zone. I was unable to unleash my power punches consecutively which I felt if I could have, I would have got to him.
"But that is credit to Andre Ward for doing what he did in there. He fought the better fight on the night and I've got no excuses at all."
Froch, now 28-2 (20KO wins) would like another crack at his conqueror.
"I'll speak to my promoter and have a look at what options are out there," he said.
"I honestly feel I could beat Andre Ward on a good night. I'd have to work on some technical things.
"But there are other fights out there."
Nice guy Ward, for his part, was typically gracious in victory.
"I'm thankful," he said. "This is not the end, this is really the beginning. We're going to get better and believe it or not, you haven't seen the end of Andre Ward.
"I'm still growing, I'm still a young fighter and I've still got a long way to go.
"I've had some negative press but I need that because it keeps me hungry, humble and keeps me focused.
"I take my hat off to Carl Froch. I've got nothing bad to say about him.
"I'm now looking forward to the next chapter of this journey."
Froch had been a significant underdog heading into the bout and a quiet start saw him tentatively test the water.
Ward was quicker with the jab, though, and the same left hand produced regular hooks which were decent if not damaging.
After an even first round Ward assumed control, though Froch managed a good left-right to the body in the closing moments of the second.
Froch was struggling to make inroads and it was actually Ward showing more snap in his punches.
The Nottingham man roared forward on the rare occasion the opportunity presented itself but Ward seemed to be building a wide lead.
Froch won perhaps his first round of the night in the ninth as he threw more jabs from his hip and finally started following them up with straight rights.
He was finally injecting some spite into his punches even if Ward was still boxing well using the jab and left hook.
Froch fired off a powerful right in the 11th and was belatedly making a real fight of it but at that stage it looked too little, too late.
It was time for Froch to lay it all on the line in the 12th but he needed a knockout.Ward tried to keep Froch at arm's length and, while the Englishman scored with an uppercut, Ward had the crowd on their feet as he coasted to the win via a unanimous decision with scores of 115-113 by two judges and 118-110 by the third, British judge John Keane.
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