By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — The Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight would’ve drawn crowds twice the size of the one expected Saturday night if it took place in Ward’s adopted hometown of Oakland, Calif., or somewhere in England.
But the need for a neutral site, combined with a seven-week postponement that left the fight rescheduled for a week before Christmas, has left organizers of Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic” final hoping for a crowd between 6,000 and 7,000 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Boardwalk Hall officials will only open the 12,000-seat arena’s lower bowl for the card Saturday, unless more than 7,000 tickets are sold.
“The way I look at it is whatever happened to push it back, it was,” said Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter. “And we’re just moving forward. I’d like to get 6-7,000 people in there. It’s going to be a loud, good crowd, no matter what.”
Nevertheless, Goossen acknowledged that he’s disappointed. The jovial promoter knew the fight would’ve drawn a larger crowd to Boardwalk Hall had it occurred on Oct. 29, its original date. The cut Ward sustained over his right eye during a Sept. 22 sparring session caused a postponement until Saturday, not exactly an ideal date in Atlantic City, which typically isn’t busy this close to Christmas.
“I really did think we would’ve sold it out [on Oct. 29], bottom and top,” Goossen said. “It was going that well. I don’t want to reflect on what we lost. I know what we returned in tickets, but it is what it is and we dealt with it. But I believe, going into Oct. 29, it was going to be a sellout or close to it.”
Goossen and Froch have said they know of many people who canceled plans to attend the fight once it was moved to Saturday night.
“We lost a lot of people from California,” Goossen said, “we lost a lot from England and whoever else out here on the East Coast because of the date. It is what it is. No excuses. I still wanted to sell it out for Saturday. It’s not going to be.”
A crowd of 2,286 attended Froch’s “Super Six” semifinal victory over Glen Johnson on June 4 in Atlantic City. That fight was held in Boardwalk Hall’s smaller venue, the Adrian Phillips Ballroom. Ward’s “Super Six” semifinal defeat of Arthur Abraham on May 14 drew a crowd of 5,311 to Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) said he expects roughly a thousand of his fans from England to attend the biggest fight of his nine-year pro career. Those aren’t exactly Ricky Hatton numbers, but it’s a respectable contingent considering Froch was a late-bloomer as a ticket-seller even in his home country.
“I’ve had a great response from the British fans,” Froch said. “I’ve got hundreds, close to thousands, actually, of people flying over [from] Nottingham, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, where I train. It’s taken me by surprise, actually, because it’s so close to Christmas. Economically, it’s difficult for many of the people. And, you know, [they booked the trip] twice for most of them, because of the cancelation of the original date on the 29th of October. So I want to say a big thank you to all my fans, a big shout out to them. And I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed with what you see on Saturday night.”
Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) expects Froch’s fans to be loud, but the former American Olympian isn’t overly concerned with Froch enjoying an advantage at a neutral site.
“I’m looking forward to hearing the U.K. fans,” Ward said. “That’s part of boxing. If you look at the Arthur Abraham fight, you know, it was raucous crowd. We were able to stay focused, we were able to block that out and still do what we’ve got to do. I’m going to be in a zone in this fight. There won’t be anybody that I’ll be focused on or that I’m going to hear, other than me and Froch.”
While Ward would’ve loved to fight Froch in Oakland, near his native Hayward, Calif., he’s happy that the most important people in his life will sit ringside Saturday night to support him.
“I am a bit curious to see what the crowd is like,” Ward said. “I know I have a lot of people coming. The main thing I’m concerned about is just my family being there. You know, my wife, my kids, my aunts, my uncles. They’re core people. As long as they’re there, we could be in another country and I’m good.”
Tickets to the card Saturday cost $50-$300, and can be purchased by calling 800-736-1420 or by visiting ticketmaster.com.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.