By Lem Satterfield
LAS VEGAS -- WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward will be the first man to stop former middleweight titlist, Arthur Abraham, on May 14 when they meet in the semifinals of Showtime's World Super Middleweight Classic at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Ward's trainer, Virgil Hunter, told BoxingScene.com.
"This particular Andre Ward that Arthur is going to see is the Ward that I've been waiting for for a long time. I knew that he could win it on energy and I knew that he could win it on youth, but Andre's really beginning to put things together," said Hunter.
"I think that you're going to see a really vicious fighter, because Andre can give you a beating, and I think that a lot of fighters have stopped fighting against us in the third or fourth round because they don't want that beating," said Hunter. "But I think that you're going to see Andre Ward go to the next level, and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't stop him."
The 27-year-old Ward (23-0, 13 knockouts) will be making the third defense of his crown when he meets the 31-year-old Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) of Germany, who ended a two-bout losing streak by stopping 36-year-old Stjepan Bozic (24-5, 15 KOs) in the second round.
Abraham had scored two straight knockouts before losing by 11th-round disqualification for hitting Andre Dirrell after he had slipped to the canvas their March, 2010 clash, and being outclassed during November's one-sided unanimous decision loss to England's Carl Froch (27-1, 20 KOs).
The 33-year-old Froch will face 42-year-old ex-world champion, Glen Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs) in the other Super Six semifinal on June 4 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
"We don't look at Arthur Abraham as wounded, we just think that Arthur Abraham underestimated Carl Froch," said Hunter. "You wouldn't pet a wounded dog that bites, would you? So Andre is not going to pet a wounded dog."
The knockout would be part of a steady progression for Ward, who has progressively brutalized his past five opponents, even as the quality of opposition has increased.
Ward decisioned a seasoned Edison Miranda despite being cut and bleeding early in their clash in May of 2009, then stopped journeyman Shelby Pudwell in the third round, dropping him once in their September, 2009 fight.
In the November, 2009, first round of the Super Six Tournament, Ward dethroned Denmark's Mikkel Kessler as WBA king thanks to an 11th-round, unanimous technical decision that ended a bout that was stopped as a result of cuts suffered by Kessler due to accidental head butts.
In June of 2010, Ward pitched a shutout over Allan Green, who suffered only his second loss in 31 fights. That was followed by his victory over Bika, a physical bout during which Ward remained undeterred despite suffering cuts over both eyes and taking elbows to the face.
"I don't think that I've gotten my just due. But I don't take it personally, I just use it as motivation and I use it as fuel. When I beat Miranda, they said that he was washed up, and they said, 'What's going to happen when Miranda hits him?'", said Ward.
"Well I probably got hit a lot more in that fight than I wanted to," said Ward. "But I showed everybody that I could bite down and fight back and do what I had to do, but there was still an excuse there."
Ward said that he felt the same disrespect heading into the Kessler bout.
"When I beat Mikkel Kessler, a lot of people said that he was finished after he lost to Joe Calzaghe. Once again, the credit still wasn't there because he wasn't the same guy before the fight that he wasn't after," said Ward.
"When I fought Allan Green, another guy who was called the most feared man in the division and somebody that nobody else wanted to fight," said Ward. "I felt like we did well in that fight, but the credit still wasn't there. He was weight-drained and he wasn't prepared, and so on and so on."
Ward said that he still was trying to earn that respect against Bika.
"When I beat Bika, he was another guy who was feared in the division and that nobody wanted to fight because he was dangerous," said Ward. "I fought his fight in that fight. But we won ugly and we did what we had to do."
Hunter and Ward believe that next week could be a defintive fight for the former Olympic gold medalist.
"That's why I train with a chip on my shoulder because there's more to prove. I appreciate that everybody says that I'm the favorite. I appreciate cracking the top 10 [pound-for-pound,] which is something that I've wanted to do, and someday, I hope to be at the top of the list," said Ward.
"But there is still work to be done. When I fight Arthur Abraham next week, I know what Arthur Abraham brings to the table. He's very determined and he believes in himself," said Ward. "But you have to understand that so do I. I feel that there is still a lot to prove and I take being the WBA champion of the world very seriously. I'm prepared to put on a tremendous performance next week."