By Lem Satterfield
LAS VEGAS -- WBA king Andre Ward wants to knock out former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham in Saturday night's semifinal of Showtime's World Super Middleweight Classic, earn the overall crown against the winner of a match featuring WBC belt-holder Carl Froch and Glen Johnson, and then pursue a lucrative clash with unbeaten southpaw IBF counter part Lucien Bute.
"After this tournament, if they say that Lucien Bute is the best, then so be it," said the 27-year-old Ward (23-0, 13 knockouts) of Oakland, Calif., who will meet the 31-year-old Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) of Germany at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. "Lucien Bute after the tournament's over. That's the only guy that I can think of off of the top of my head."
Abraham ended a two-bout losing streak by stopping 36-year-old Stjepan Bozic (24-5, 15 KOs) in the second round in February.
Abraham had scored two straight knockouts before losing by 11th-round disqualification in March of 2010 for hitting Andre Dirrell after he had slipped to the canvas. In his subsequent bout in November, Abraham was thoroughly out-boxed by England's 33-year-old Froch (27-1, 20 KOs).
"The way that I see Abraham is two-fold: He's hungry and wants to redeem himself, but he's also got to acknowledge what happened in his last fight, which I think was more of a mental beating than a physical beating against Carl Froch. My job is to take Arthur Abraham right back to remembering what happened against Carl Froch and to keep him there," said Ward, during a press conference at the MGM Grand on May 7.
"I need to let him know that having had a tuneup fight [against Bozic,] that's not going to help him. That's my job. I'm not reading into too much, at the end of the day. It's just about continuing to do what I've been doing," said Ward. "Everybody's hungry and everybody wants to win. I respect Arthur Abraham, and that's the reason that I've prepared the way that I have. But it's the semifinals of a huge tournament, there's a great reward for the man who is the last man standing, and I'm going to be the last man standing."
Froch will face the 42-year-old, Jamaican-born, ex-world champion Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs) of Miami in the other Super Six semifinal on June 4 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
"Carl Froch said that he wants to bring the trophy back to Great Britain. The only problem with that is that I think that the trophy should stay here in the United States, so we have a problem. I think that a fight between myself and Carl Froch would be great, with me being from America and him coming from Great Britain," said Ward.
"I think that a fight between us would be a perfect fit for a venue like this. But we can't just wish it, we've got to make it happen," said Ward. "I've got to take care of business next weekend, and he's got to take care of business in his fight. And if we both do that, then it's all good. Then, we could have the final that everybody's talking about."
Ward's trainer, Virgil Hunter, said that Abraham "is going to see the Ward that I've been waiting for for a long time," and, "a really vicious fighter," adding "I'll be disappointed if Andre doesn't stop him."
If a knockout of Abraham comes to fruition, it would be part of a steady progression for Ward, who has continually risen to the occasion as the stakes have grown higher.
In what was his biggest challenge in May of 2009, Ward decisioned veteran contender Edison Miranda despite being cut and bleeding early in their fight. In the November, 2009, first round of the Super Six Tournament, Ward earned an 11th-round technical decision that dethroned Denmark's Mikkel Kessler as WBA king.
Ward then won every round of a June of 2010, unanimous decision over Allan Green, who suffered only his second loss in 31 fights. That was followed by his victory over Sko Bika, a physical bout during which Ward remained undeterred despite suffering cuts over both eyes and taking elbows to the face.
"People ask me, 'Now that you're the favorite, are getting distracted?' Well, I look at it like this, I wasn't the favorite from Day One. I know what I felt like when this tournament first started. These guys, you know, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, in the beginning, they were the favorites," said Ward.
"The way that we were treated, the way that Arthur was walking around, and the way that Mikkel walked around. Me and Andre Dirrell were looked at as two, young guys who had talent, but who were just supposed to spice things up and not make any noise," said Ward. "I saw all of that, and I've never forgotten that. So regardless of what the points say, regardless of what people say, that's where I'm at. Once a favorite, always a favorite. Once an underdog, always an underdog. That's my philosophy."