By Jake Donovan
Undefeated super middleweight titlist Andre Ward cruised to the Super Six World Boxing Classic championship round after taking a wide unanimous decision win over Arthur Abraham on Saturday evening at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Ward, making the third defense of the alphabet title he acquired in Stage One of the tournament, weighed in at the divisional limit of 168 lb. Abraham came in at 167 lb, one pound under the limit.
Neither fighter veered very far from the script in the opening round. Ward fought exclusively behind the jab, which was more than enough, as Abraham spent most of the frame fighting behind a peek-a-boo defense. The former middleweight threw the occasional counter right hand, but was so wild that he would shoot and stumble out of position.
Action picked up in the second. Ward mixed up his attack, throwing more right hands behind the jab and also switching between conventional and southpaw stance. Abraham began to work the body after a few left hook attempts caught nothing but air. The body attack was effect, though a bit overzealous as referee Luis Pabon had to issue a warning for holding and hitting.
Ward was tentative at the start of the third, pawing with his jab rather than throwing it with conviction. Abraham picked up on it and went on the attack, scoring with right hands that had Ward suddenly fighting in reverse and offering little in return.
Both fighters returned to opening round form in the fourth, Ward jabbing and Abraham covering up. Ward was more aggressive than at any other point in the fight to that point, splitting Abraham’s guard with his jab and following up with right hands to the body.
The round proved to be a pivotal point in the fight, as Ward took over and never looked back.
Abraham spent most of the fifth round saving up looking for one punch to land. Ward took advantage to a degree, but also found himself on the business end of a lecture from the referee for hitting on the break, after Abraham rushed in head first to smother the defending titlist’s punches.
Despite not letting his hands go very often, Abraham showed signs of fatigue midway through the bout. His lack of energy could not have come at a worst time, as Ward was picking up steam with each passing round.
After being dominated in the sixth and seventh rounds, Abraham resorted to roughhousing in the eighth, desperate to swing momentum back in his favor. The only success he enjoyed was momentarily slowing down Ward, who was still in command but not as effective as he was forced to contend with fending off clinches and headbutts.
Two-way exchanges found its way back to the fight in the ninth, thanks to Abraham finally letting his hands go. It wasn’t enough to close the gap on the cards, but did prompt Ward to pick up the pace after getting clipped with a right hand and left hook. The success was short-lived as Ward was back in control before round’s end.
The steady jab offered by Ward throughout the evening was returning major dividends late in the fight. Abraham’s right eye was rapidly swelling and only getting worse as Ward was still causing damage while spending most of the frame in the southpaw stance.
More mauling than brawling took place in the championship rounds, though referee Luis Pabon did a stellar job of keeping the action moving along. Abraham showed signs of life in the final round, scoring with a pair of left hooks. However, Ward was right there to return the favor, immediately returning fire rather than move backwards and protect his lead.
The strong showing in the end capped what was perhaps Ward’s finest hour as a prize fighter.
Scores of 120-108, 118-110 and 118-111 back up such claims, even if the victor himself doesn’t believe it to be true.
“I don’t think so,” said Ward (now 24-0, 13KO) when asked on the subject of his best performances to date. The 2004 U.S. Olympic Gold medalist believes the best is yet to come.
Until that day comes for him, Ward can take comfort in serving as the last remaining member of the Super Six to have to lose a fight – within or outside the parameters of the tournament.
The Oakland native enjoyed a breakthrough performance with a dominant win over Mikkel Kessler in Stage One of the tournament 18 months ago, and has remained a strong favorite to win it all.
Once upon a time, Abraham’s name was mentioned when the subject of tournament favorite was mentioned. His Stage One last round knockout of Jermain Taylor gave the series the type of jumpstart that went a long way to matching the hype and anticipation.
It turned out to be his last great moment in the sun, as he has been dominated in each of his past three Super Six sanctioned bouts against Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch and now Ward.
“I’m sad; I’m not happy about this,” said Abraham when asked about losing his third straight Super Six contest as he falls to 32-3 (26KO). “I worked the body well, but I worked for the knockout and didn’t get it.”
While he insists that a drop back down in weight won’t happen anytime soon, one has to wonder where his career goes from here.
Meanwhile, Ward goes straight to the finals. Who he meets will depend on the outcome of the June 4 showdown between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson, a fight on which he has elected to hedge his bets and simply prepare for any outcome.
“You can never count out a veteran like Johnson. It’s a 50/50 fight if you ask me.”
Few believed that to be the case going into Saturday’s contest, something that became glaringly obvious from the fourth round onward.
The lopsided odds spoke both of Ward’s proven dominance and Abraham’s decline.
For future fights, Ward would like it to be all about him and less about his opponent when predicting the final outcome.
“I see myself shuffling, doing bolo punches and fighting on that level. I know you can’t do that every time out, but for now a W is a good thing.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .