BURBANK, CALIF. – The final press conference for the kickoff of the Semifinals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic turned tense on Wednesday at Arnie Morton’s The Steakhouse in Burbank, Calif., just three days before tournament favorite Andre Ward defends his WBA super middleweight title against former world champion Arthur Abraham, LIVE on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Photos by Tom Casino.
In a detailed and lengthy speech, Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, told Abraham that his trainer and promoters are displaying a lack of confidence in him to win on Saturday by demanding neutral judges and officials for the Semifinal showdown. Abraham’s promoter responded that they were trying to protect their fighter and claimed that the referee in the Ward-Mikkel Kessler Group Stage 1 bout did not fairly officiate the match.
The Ward-Abraham winner advances to the tournament Final against the winner of the Carl Froch-Glen Johnson Semifinals showdown. The tournament champion earns the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup and global recognition as the world’s No. 1 168-pound fighter.
The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, Ward (23-0, 13 KOs), of Oakland, Calif., has emerged as the tournament favorite after impressive triumphs in Group Stage bouts over Kessler and Allan Green, as well as Sakio Bika.
Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) entered the Super Six as a favorite alongside Kessler. But after emerging from Group Stage 1 as the points leader with a knockout over Jermain Taylor, he is now trying to bounce back from consecutive tournament losses to Andre Dirrell and Froch in Group Stages 2 and 3, respectively.
In a non-televised undercard fight, heavyweight world contender and popular Southern California slugger Chris Arreola will try to stay on track for another opportunity of a world championship when he takes on Nagy Aguilera.
The event is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions, Antonio Leonard Productions and Sauerland Event and sponsored by Corona.
What the participants had to say on Wednesday:
“I’m born and raised here in America and I don’t talk that much. I think everyone in this room understands that. There’s not much else to say. I’ve prepared the way I’m supposed to prepare, the way a champion is supposed to prepare.
“I respect Arthur Abraham, it’s going to be a tough fight. I want to be a great fighter, but I’m not there yet. These are the kind of fights that you have to take and you have to win to be a great fighter.
“I won’t hear the crowd, I won’t hear anybody on Saturday night. I’m locked in. I’m here to defend my belt and to keep my belt right here in America.”
“My first goal is to win and I know winning in this sport takes care of a lot of problems.
“Sugar Ray Leonard came from a totally different time. Fighting on the network that he fought on, having Howard Cosell, it was just a totally different ballgame. Oscar De La Hoya had the Hispanic community and different things like that, so you have to look at those situations because I’m in a different time. It might be a little bit harder to get the exposure and the just due.”
“At the end of the day, the way my father raised me was to put my nose down to the grindstone and keep working and allow God to open those doors in due season. So I’ve never begged for it and I’ve never demanded it. I just have to understand that I have to keep working and it will come. “
“I appreciate everyone who attends the fights, but it comes down to going home and kissing my wife and kids, keeping my title and moving on with my career. But with that being said, I think I take the risks I’m supposed to take. I think I do what I’m supposed to, but if you get enough people saying one thing, people start to believe it. I think my fight with Kessler was a very entertaining fight but it’s not me taking punishment so people think it’s not entertaining. From a little boy, I was never taught to get the best bout trophy, I was always taught to get the best fighter of the night. That’s the way it is because whoever I am when my career is said and done, nobody’s going home with me.”
“My coach has always taught me from day one, he’s always wanted me to be a master and masters are able to fight into their late 30s and early 40s like Bernard Hopkins and Glen Johnson. I’m just going to continue to naturally evolve and I hope everyone enjoys my fights. But, ultimately, it’s about winning in this sport. “
“I don’t have to speak much. We just want to perform in the ring and we don’t have to do much talking. We’re here to win in the ring.
“Of course my trainer and my promoter respect me. There’s no question of that. In Europe, we don’t talk very much. I’m here to win.
“I have a lot of respect for Andre Ward. He’s a technically sound boxer. But that talk doesn’t matter when we get in the ring on Saturday. I’m here to win and I’m here to destroy him.
“I’m very happy to be part of this tournament. This tournament started well for me and it will end well.
“I had to make some adjustments to my style for moving from middleweight to super middleweight and then we had to make some more after the losses. We have made the necessary adjustments.”
DAN GOOSSEN, Ward’s Promoter:
“I really do believe in the concept of this tournament and think it’s terrific. We’ve had some challenges getting to this point but I really feel it’s the best thing for this sport because you have the best fighters fighting the best on a continual basis. Because of that, there is no need to sit there and think anything other than that it’s great for our sport.”
WILFRIED SAUERLAND, Abraham’s promoter):
“We liked the idea of the tournament when we first heard about it. There have been some issues but it’s still a good idea because it brings together the best in the division. And it’s still not finished.
“There has been a lot of uproar about us asking for a new referee but that was in the contract – a contract is a contract.
“Virgil, we asked for a neutral referee because the referee in the Ward-Kessler fight gave a very bad performance.
“Dan complained that Andre had to travel 500 miles for this fight. Arthur has travelled over 40,000 miles for this tournament.”
“Dan is a good host and we have a good understanding. We look after him in Germany and he looks after us here.”
VIRGIL HUNTER, Ward’s Trainer:
“I’ve been appalled as some of the things that have happened to this point. If Andre wasn’t perceived as a threat, I don’t believe we would have ever heard complaints about the referees like we have. Andre Ward still to this point has not gotten the recognition that he deserves.
“Arthur, this is to you: By complaining about the officials, your promoters are saying they have lost confidence in you. Don’t let anyone speak to you about the officials. Your promoters have lost confidence in you. It’s as simple as that.”
JAMES PRINCE, Ward’s Manager:
“We have respect for Arthur Abraham and his accomplishments in boxing, but come Saturday it’s going to get real hot in the ring. You were a great fighter at 160 pounds but I feel like your advisors have tricked you into placing you into a different weight division where you don’t belong. I want to extend my warmest hospitality and welcome you to the States, but that’s where it ends.”
ULLI WEGNER, Abraham’s trainer:
“I’m really looking forward to seeing an exciting fight on Saturday night.
“I know it will be a very difficult fight for us and I’m hoping that the better man will win.
“I hope that we have a fair fight and we put on a good fight for the fans.
“Now we’re done with the talking and we’re ready to get inside the ring.”
CHRIS DeBLASIO, SHOWTIME Director of Communications
“The Super Six World Boxing Classic has been dramatic and competitive as much as it’s been contentious and compelling both inside and outside the ring since this tournament was announced in July of 2009. The results of which have made the Fight Camp 360 program: Inside the Super Six World Boxing Classic can’t-miss television for sports fans. The SHOWTIME sports documentary series has revealed the business of boxing, the personalities in this tournament and of course the tournament fight themselves like no other show has ever done on television before and we’re very proud of that.”
“I cannot overlook Nagy Aguilera. This man is a tough fighter. I’m in this shape for him, to fight him. Not to look at two or three fights from now. My main motivation right now is him. Every fighter I’ve ever boxed I’ve respected and now I’m respecting boxing, the sport I love.
“I would love to see this type of tournament for the heavyweights. I don’t think it would ever happen but it would be a great thing.
“I’m a Ward guy, always have been. I try to emulate him. Not only his fighting but his training and that he works so hard. I think he’s the best American fighter right now. And I’m No. 2, but I think Ward by far is the best.”
“It’s a difficult opponent for me, especially coming off of a loss. But this time I’m focused and I’m training hard.
“Arreola said that boxing is his wife. Well, boxing is my life. I had a lot of problems in my fight against Antonio (Tarver) and now I’m just focused and ready to win.
“My training went well. We’ve been preparing for eight weeks.”
Tickets are available for as low as $25, with VIP floor seats priced at $200. Other tickets in the 8,000-seat outdoor stadium at The Home Depot Center are available at $50 and $100. Fans can purchase tickets at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.Ticketmaster.com as well as The Home Depot Center Box Office (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets by calling 1-877-234-8425.