By Cliff Rold
What does Andre Ward do now?
While he hasn’t unified all the belts at Super Middleweight, he’s got two (WBC/WBA) and the lineal crown. The other two belts (IBF, Carl Froch; WBO, Arthur Abraham) belong to men he beat decisively in consecutive fights prior to last Saturday.
He’s already beaten to of the better fighters in the still relatively short history of the Super Middleweight division (Froch and Mikkel Kessler). Now he owns a one sided walloping of the best fighter one division north of him, and he hasn’t even moved up the scale yet.
At 25-0, based on what he’s done in the ring, he’s already in the conversation with the best who ever competed at Super Middleweight, in the conversation with Roy Jones, James Toney, and Joe Calzaghe. Barring a wild loss no one sees coming, he’s likely to stay in that conversation.
Which means now all he can do is enhance his arguments for as long as he sticks around at 168. Ward now enters the grind, the part of any divisional legacy that is marked by turning back the challengers that arise, marked by planting a flag and going all Gandalf on the field.
They shall not pass.
Chad Dawson certainly didn’t.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ward A; Dawson A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Ward B; Dawson B/Post: B+; B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Ward A; Dawson B+/Post: A; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Ward A; Dawson B+/Post: A; C+
Chad Dawson didn’t start bad on Saturday. He had a case for winning each of the first two rounds. Dawson’s problem over the years has been moments where he relaxes a bit too much. When he took too long to bite on a body shot in the third round, a left hook all but ended his night.
Dawson never really got his legs back. Ward didn’t let him. He had a wounded man and kept him wounded. He took away Dawson’s jab. He took away his right and lead left hook for most of the night. Ward outworked him inside and, when Dawson started to fire back in close, Ward stepped outside and beat him at range too.
If there is a fighter this side of Floyd Mayweather and Anselmo Moreno with a better sense of innate timing than Ward, he’s probably being ducked like crazy because we haven’t heard of him yet. Dawson never got on track because, once Ward solved him, he couldn’t react before getting socked in the mush.
It was a brilliant performance. Ward beat Kessler and Froch by wide margins. Beating Dawson even worse was a surprise. It’s worth wondering if, setting aside arguments about trophy cases and longevity, there really is a better fighter than Ward right now. Among fighters in their absolute prime, he’s close to peerless.
Dawson isn’t done yet, but after being forced to surrender one can wonder where his head will be in the future. Glen Johnson made him a bit gun shy after their first fight. That’s not going to get better. He remains the Light Heavyweight Champion, but the designation lost meaning on Saturday. It will be up to Dawson to restore it.
Ward, if he remains at Super Middleweight for any sustained period, has options. Both Dirrell brothers are out there. The winner of Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., particularly if it’s the larger Chavez, could rise. Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler would be heavy underdogs in rematches, but it would pay well.
Ward seems content to rule his class for now. All he can do is fight what emerges and keep winning and wait for the big stuff to come to him. It’s a spot Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon once had at Middleweight; a place Larry Holmes occupied at Heavyweight.
It’s not a bad place to be at all.
Report Card Picks 2012: 41-14
Lightweight: John Molina exits after his first round disaster versus Antonio DeMarco. DeMarco remains just behind Miguel Vazquez but might, just might, have Adrien Broner looming.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Tags: Andre Ward