By: Ronald Cameron
2011 has been the Year of Controversy in boxing. There have been questionable decisions, terrible referees, and questionable fouls and as of now we don’t have a definitive answer as to who should be the 2011 Fighter of the Year. But maybe we will have more of an idea after this weekend’s Super Middleweight/Super 6 Finals showdown between champions Andre “S.O.G. Ward (24-0 with 13 KO’s) and Carl “The Cobra” Froch (28-1 with 20 KO’s). Before I get into their battle, let’s first go back in time and go over how they got to this point.
Carl “The Cobra” Froch
Biggest wins: Jean Pascal (W UD), Jermaine Taylor (KO 12), Arthur Abraham (W UD)
Mike Tyson—“Confidence breeds success and success breeds confidence!”
If there is one trait that explains Carl Froch, confident is one of the first things that comes to mind when I describe the British native, but don’t let his boldness throw you off because this man can fight. There’s a difference between being a “boxer” and a fighter and while Froch is an underrated boxer with decent technical skills, he’s is more effective when he stands in front of you in the center of the ring and slugs it out with you. Froch has an excellent chin and he has decent power, especially in his right hand. He’s unorthodox, yet he has good balance and has rarely been seriously hurt. Froch started boxing at the age of 9 and he won 2 ABA (Amateur Boxing Association of England) Middleweight titles and he won a bronze medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championship in 2001. He turned pro in 2002 and for the next 6 years he fought all of his fights in United Kingdom against C- level opponents, yet he improved as a fighter and he got the job done.
Now I have to be honest—I didn’t know too much about Carl Froch leading up to the Super 6 tournament. The first time I saw him in action was when he fought then-undefeated contender Jean Pascal back in 2008 for the vacant WBC Super Middleweight title. To my surprise, Froch totally dominated Pascal by keeping him on the outside and out-working him with accurate combinations. Froch won the vacant title that night and he punched his ticket into the Super 6 tournament due to his big win.
In his first Super 6 tournament bout, he faced former Middleweight Champion Jermaine “Bad Intentions” Taylor. Even thought Taylor had previously lost to Kelly Pavlik twice, few gave the cocky Britain much of a chance against Taylor. After suffering the first knockdown of his career in the third round, Froch weathered the storm and came on late in the fight when he was behind on the scorecards. After winning rounds 9-11, Froch was still behind in the fight and he needed a knockout to retain his title. Like so many great champions have before him, Froch went out in the last round and went for broke and it paid off for him as he caught Taylor in the ropes and he landed a monstrous right hand that staggered Taylor and he followed it up with some good power shots that sent Taylor crashing to the canvas. Even though Taylor suffered the knockdown, all he had to do was finish the round and he would have still won the fight (Shades of Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor) but he had nothing left. Froch closed the show with more power shots and the referee stepped in and stopped the fight with only 14 seconds remaining in the fight. If anyone had any doubts about Carl’s toughness or his heart, he answered many of them by knocking out Taylor.
After winning a controversial split decision over Andre Dirrell in his next fight, he was then matched with one of tournament’s odds-on favorites, Mikkel Kessler in Kessler’s backyard in Denmark. In what was one of the best fights in 2010, Kessler and Froch went to war for 12 rounds and while Froch fought a great fight, Kessler was just a tad bit more active and more effective with his punches and Kessler won a close, unanimous decision over Froch. This was a slight setback for Froch, but he took it in stride and moved onto his next opponent in the tournament—“King” Arthur Abraham. Much like before his fight with Taylor, Froch came into this fight as an underdog but on this night, Carl Froch fought the best fight of his life. Froch dominated when they fought outside with his jab and right hands, when they fought in close Froch landed several effective uppercuts and good body shots. Froch won an easy unanimous decision over Abraham, winning every round on 2 of 3 judge’s scorecards.
In his semi-finals matchup that took place earlier this year, he faced the wily veteran Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson, who is no stranger to defying the odds and scoring upsets. After fighting on even terms for the first 6 rounds, Froch took over and dominated the fight and went on to win a comfortable decision over Johnson. If you look at the quality of opposition, Carl Froch has fought nothing but tough opponents since 2008, so he is battle-tested. That cannot be ignored when discussing this weekend’s battle, but I will get into that later when I talk about the keys to the fight.
Andre (S.O.G. = Son of God) Ward
Biggest wins: Edison Miranda (W UD 12) Mikkel Kessler (W UD 12) Arthur Abraham (W UD 12)
Evander Holyfield—“I walk by faith and not by sight!”
There have been many athletes who have been very vocal about their religious faith. Muhammad Ali was willing to go to jail for 5 years because of what his religion meant to him in regards to refusing to enter the military. NFL stars such as Kurt Warner and Tim Tebow have been applauded and criticized for talking about their faith after games and now we have Andre Ward who calls himself “The S.O.G.” which is short for “Son Of God.” I have NO problem with anyone who talks about their faith. Who am I to judge them for it? There are many sports fans who clamor for “role models” who live clean lives and while I believe parents should be role models and not athletes, if you are looking for a role model who happens to be a boxer, why not a guy like Andre Ward?
This Bay Area native grew up in Hayward, California and as a young kid, he played football. He started boxing in 1994 and he had a very successful amateur career winning several AAU titles as well as the 2004 Light Heavyweight Olympic Gold Medal. Ward turned pro later that year, and he was brought along slowly against unknown opponents, yet he was very impressive in most of his fights. Ward is technically sound, who can out-box you with movement and combinations and he can also pin his head against his opponents chest and brawl with you on the inside. And if need be, he can fight rough. Ward is also a very good body puncher and I love the way he throws energy-sapping left jabs to his opponent’s chest in the same manner as pound for pound kingpin, Floyd Mayweather does. He has decent power and when he does score knockouts, it’s usually from an accumulation of punches.
After compiling an 18-0 record, it was time to see if Ward can excel against tough competition, so he was matched against the hard-hitting Edison Miranda in the summer of 2009. Ward passed this test with flying colors as he out-boxed and out-worked the veteran and he went on to win a comfortable decision over Miranda. With this win, Ward received his opportunity to enter the Super Middleweight Super 6 tournament and later that year, he was matched against Mikkel Kessler in Ward’s stomping ground in Oakland, CA. There were many boxing fans who didn’t believe that Ward was ready for such a huge challenge because Kessler was one of the favorites going into the tournament and because Ward hadn’t been in many big fights up to that point, but on this night it looked like Kessler was the one who fought as if the moment was too big for him. Ward dominated Kessler, throwing crisp combinations, good body shots and at times and he man-handled Kessler against the ropes with uppercuts and hooks. Kessler suffered a cut over his right eye (due to a head-butt) early in the fight and never recovered after that and in the 11th round, the referee stopped the action and the fight doctor took a look at Kessler and decided that the fight could not continue. The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges had Ward winning comfortably. This was a huge win for Ward who proved to the boxing world that he could beat top level opponents.
After impressive wins over Allan Green and Sakio Beka, Ward was then matched against Arthur Abraham in the Super 6 semi-finals. Ward took command of this fight early as he landed several effective body shots, right hands over the top and some good counter shots as Abraham threw many wild shots that missed. Ward dismantled Abraham and he won a workman-like decision over the former Middleweight king. The stage is now set for the Super 6 Finals match-up this weekend between Ward and Froch, so now let’s get into the keys of this fight.
Keys To Victory
- Be first with your jab: It’s important for Froch to be aggressive against Ward and use his left jab early and often. If he allows Ward to out-work him, he will be in for a long night.
- Throw short uppercuts: It’s a shot that Ward is open to be hit with, especially when he fights in close. Froch has to be accurate with the punch and can’t throw it wildly because he will be open for counter-shots if he doesn’t land.
- Keep the fight in the center of the ring: I believe this is Carl’s best chance to win because he’s taller, he has a better jab and he needs room to land his best punch which is the right cross.
- Throw body shots early and often: And I’m not just talking about left and right hooks to the body, I’m also referring to those jabs to the chest that sap his opponents energy. This will help slow Froch down late in the fight.
- Counter-punch when the fight is fought in the center of the ring: Ward is a very good counter-puncher and Froch can be wild with his right hand and catch him with a shot that he doesn’t see. If Ward wants to hurt Froch in this fight, it might be the best way to do so.
- Be physical with Froch when you fight near the ropes: Both of these guys are not afraid to mix it up and fight rough if need be, but when they fight in close, Ward should try to pin Froch near the ropes and now allow him to have room to load up his punches.
RC’s Prediction: Usually I try not to give a prediction in my preview articles, but since this is the last major fight of the year, I’ll make a rare exception. When I compare fighters, whether it’s before a major fight or when I’m writing a “Top 5” boxing list article, quality of opposition is the number one attribute to me. When you compare these two champions, while Ward is the more skillful fighter between the two, Carl Froch has fought better quality of opponents. Will this bode well for him against Ward this weekend? I also mentioned that Ward is the more skillful fighter between the two. Will Ward take advantage of his edge in skill against Froch? Also, I asked the question earlier whether or not the winner of this fight should be considered as the 2011 Fighter of the Year. I believe it depends on how they win. If either guy wins this fight by KO, then I can see the winner being strongly considered.
As for the fight, I see this one as being a very physical, entertaining battle but in this case, superior skills will overcome experience. After 8 hard-fought rounds, the fight will be dead even, but Ward will take command of the fight with counter right hands and he will out-work Froch when they fight near the ropes. Froch will have his moments, but he will come up short as Ward wins a well deserved unanimous decision over Froch, thus becoming the Super Middleweight/ Super 6 Champion. Will this be enough to crown Ward the 2011 Fighter of the Year? I’m not so sure, because after this weekend, he will be in the discussion. Nevertheless, whether I’m right or wrong about my prediction, this fight should be a good one. Referee Steve Smoger is one of the best in the business, so I expect him to let these two settle this in the ring within the rules. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.
Andre Ward vs. Mikkel Kessler—Full fight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txpkSkPHuK4
Andre Ward vs. Arthur Abraham—Full fight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqigfNWlWA8&feature=related
Carl Froch vs. Jermaine Taylor—Full fight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq4gv6jjoaE
Carl Froch vs. Arthur Abraham—Full fight http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzP3jLZG1-M