By Jake Donovan
The prediction isn’t exactly on the level of Joe Namath guaranteeing victory for his New York Jets over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but Andre Ward’s head trainer Virgil Hunter has a prediction of his own for next weekend’s Super Six finals showdown with Carl Froch.
“I believe Andre Ward is going to stop Carl Froch,” insists Hunter, who has served as Ward’s trainer ever since he stepped into a boxing gym 18 years ago. “I’m not afraid to stand by it, and not afraid to live with it if he doesn’t.”
The prediction has turned quite a few heads in the boxing industry. Ward (24-0, 13KO) has accomplished a lot during his storied amateur career - complete with a Gold medal in the 2004 Olympics – and through his first seven years as a pro.
One thing that doesn’t occur quite often is a win that doesn’t go to the scorecards. Six of his past seven victories have come via decision, with the lone exception over that stretch a third round stoppage of journeyman Shelby Pudwill prior to the start of the Super Six tournament two years ago.
All four of his victories during the course of the Super Six have been lopsided points wins, losing no more than seven out of 46 completed rounds of action. No knockdowns have occurred over a stretch that includes wins over Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, and Arthur Abraham during tournament play and Sakio Bika in a ‘non-Super Six sanctioned’ contest.
Froch has never been stopped as a pro and has only been down once, dropped early in his fight with Jermain Taylor in which he rallied back to win by knockout in the 12th and final round. The Brit is vaunted for his iron chin and scrappy style that has enabled him to meet Ward in the finals.
Hunter – a renowned trainer who commands industry-wide respect – still sees enough chinks in the armor to stand behind his months long insistence of not leaving things in the hands of the judges.
“We have to be honest when we talk about the ability to stop someone,” Hunter explains. “Andre Ward fought Mikkel Kessler with 19 fights. He fought Edison Miranda with 17 fights. Lucian Bute fought Miranda in his 7th title defense. Carl Froch didn’t even turn pro until he was 25 years old, which is how old Andre was won he won his championship.
“If we matched Andre with B-level and C-level fighters, he would have a lot more knockouts.”
The point being, power is relative and that you shouldn’t read too much into a fighter’s knockout to win ratio. Glen Johnson was regarded as an average puncher when he knocked out Roy Jones in the midst of a Fighter of the Year campaign in 2004. An aged and light hitting Pernell Whitaker figured out a way to erase a rare deficit on the cards in scoring a bailout knockout over Diosbelys Hurtado late in their Jan. ’97 fight.
The opposite often also proves to be true. Hunter points out as much in his own assessment of Froch.
“I’m not taking anything away from him. He’s a heck of a fighter and he’s a good puncher. But we have to speak the truth. Nobody has been in danger of being hurt by Carl Froch since that Jermain Taylor fight. I think those things bother Carl, and that’s why I’m looking for a tough fight. There are a lot of things he has to overcome in his mind.”
There’s a point to be made in the suggestion. Froch has fought six times at the championship level. All but one has gone to the scorecards, with the knockout over Taylor coming with just 14 seconds left in the fight. His first title reign began with a points win over Jean Pascal in an all-out war, once upon a time the only way Froch knew how to fight.
He has since evolved as a fighter, boxing more but remaining a scrappy brawler when necessary. Such was evidenced in wins over Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham and his semi-finals win over Glen Johnson this past June, as well as the lone defeat of his career when he dropped a decision to Mikkel Kessler last March.
Somewhere in those fights, Hunter has seen enough to believe Ward will find a way to turn out the lights on Froch’s night, but will hardly view the years-long journey to this point as a letdown if his prophecy doesn’t come to fruition.
“I’ve known Andre since he was nine years old. He knows how I am. If he doesn’t stop Carl Froch, it won’t disappoint me at all. A fight is a heck of a thing.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].