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Andre Ward: A Career Appreciation

Frank Lotierzo

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Andre Ward

What a year 2017 has been for boxing. We’ve seen a plethora of fantastic fights where the best have been fighting the best. On the downside, Floyd Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley retired. This morning (Sept. 21, 2017) Andre Ward announced that he too was hanging up his gloves.

Ward, who hasn’t lost a fight since he was 13 years old, reached the highest level as an amateur, winning a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics fighting as a light heavyweight. He concludes his pro career as one of three fighters who recently retired undefeated, joining Floyd Mayweather and Tyson Fury. Andre departs boxing with a career record 32-0 (16). He won world titles at super middleweight and light heavyweight. On the day of his departure, Ward was the reigning WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion and was considered by many the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing.

There are many things that stand out about Ward as a fighter, starting with his versatility and toughness. En route to winning the Super Six tournament, designed to crown the best super middleweight in the world, Ward defeated fighters with varying styles and skill sets. He nullified Mikkel Kessler’s reach and neutralized his jab. He out-maneuvered and out-muscled a strong and heavy handed fighter in Arthur Abraham and in the finale he beat Carl Froch at every turn. He forced Froch to box when Froch wanted to fight and when Froch became desperate and needed to fight with urgency, Ward boxed smart and avoided getting caught with anything meaningful.

After beating Froch, Ward induced WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, who was coming off a decision over Bernard Hopkins, to come down in weight. After two close rounds, Ward dropped Dawson in the third with a right to the body and a short left hook. In the fourth Ward put Dawson down again. Showing great resiliency, Dawson survived the round but Ward never let up and when a tired and beaten Dawson went down again in the 10th, the fight was stopped.

Due to injuries and contract disputes with his promoter, Ward was inactive for 19 months. In January of 2015 he announced that he would be fighting under the Roc Nation banner.

In his first bout with Roc Nation, he TKO’d Paul Smith in the ninth round fighting at a catch- weight of 172. Ward fought twice more at 175, beating previously undefeated Sullivan Barrera and the once-beaten Alexander Brand before back-to-back fights with WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev, the opponent he will most likely be most remembered for. At the time of their first meeting Kovalev, a terrific boxer-puncher, was undefeated (30-0-1, with 26 KOs). He was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and clearly the elite fighter in the light heavyweight division.

Ward-Kovalev I was closely contested and went the distance. Ward was dropped by a big right hand in the second round, but once again Andre summoned great reserve, getting up and fighting off a charging Kovalev. He battled back and won the third round and eventually stabilized the tempo of the fight. He fought his best, counter-punching and going to Kovalev’s body from rounds six through 12. In what came as a surprise to many, Ward was awarded the decision, winning by scores of 114-113 on all three cards. The controversy over the decision made the rematch a natural. Seven months later, Ward and Kovalev fought again with Ward now in the role of the defending champ.

The bout was evenly contested in the beginning with little to choose between them, but as the bout progressed, Ward started to fight a little more aggressively, beating Kovalev to the punch. In the eighth round he hurt Kovalev with a big right hook and then backed him into the ropes where he landed three hooks to Sergey’s body that appeared to be at least borderline low. As Kovalev was doubled over against the ropes, the referee stepped in and declared Ward the winner. Kovalev complained that he had been fouled and that the bout shouldn’t have been stopped, but in the eyes of many ringsiders it was a moot point as Ward had seized control of the fight.

It’s plausible that a couple of Ward’s body shots did land a little south. Along with being a masterful technician, Andre wasn’t above stretching the rules and fighting rough. He was terrific at holding and hitting and made great use of his forearms and elbows on the inside, although he was seldom called on it.

Because he wasn’t flashy in or out of the ring, Andre Ward flew under the radar and was never a superstar. But he certainly had superstar skills. He was a quiet guy with integrity and failed to boast or do things against his character and good nature in order to bring attention to himself in the way that Floyd Mayweather did. And that cost him financially. (As a friend pointed out to me, Mayweather made more money in his last bout fighting a guy making his pro boxing debut than Ward made in his entire career.) So be it, but as a fighter Andre was Mayweather’s equal and maybe even more. And the reason for that is that Ward cleaned out two weight divisions fighting the most feared guy in both. And unlike Mayweather, he could not be accused of avoiding other elite fighters or waiting for the opportune time to fight them when their skills had declined.

As the years go by, not only will Andre Ward be inducted into the IBHOF, but his legacy will escalate. He had all the goods a fighter could want. He was a smart and versatile technician and he was much more durable and tough than he got credit for being. He had more than adequate speed and power and — something that’s often overlooked — he had an unbreakable will. It was impossible to shake his confidence or convince him that he couldn’t figure you out and beat you. Some considered his style boring, but I’d say efficient is more appropriate.

At the least Ward has to be considered one of the three or four greatest super middleweights in the history of the division. And he is without a doubt one of the greats to have fought over the last 25 years, right alongside Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao.

He now says that his body is succumbing to the rigors of training and that the desire is no longer there. And because he took boxing so seriously, I believe he is serious and will never make a comeback. Andre Ward’s name will now be added to the short list of fighters who retired from boxing with their health, wealth and respect. Along with that, he leaves on top as champion when there’s still something left in the tank as a fighter if he wanted to call on it. 

For a closer look at Andre Ward the man, check out this piece by that Thomas Hauser that ran here last November.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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Daniel Jacobs Edges Past Gabe Rosado on a Matchroom card in Florida

David A. Avila

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Former world champion Daniel Jacobs needed the last round to win by split decision against upset-minded Gabe Rosado and keep his place in line on Friday for lucrative super middleweight matchups.

But when the ring announcer erroneously announced the winner was from Philadelphia, confusion reigned for a moment until Jacobs was correctly called the winner.

Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) jumped out ahead against Philly fighter Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) and held on for the win in front of no fans at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. For a second, many thought Rosado had won.

Both were careful during the first three rounds measuring each other’s distance and looking for openings to counter. There were very few.

It was the kind of fight expected by those who know boxing: two veterans with immense experience against top-flight world champions. Mistakes were few.

Jacobs, a former middleweight world champion, had fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in close but losing efforts.

Rosado had battled Golovkin too, six years ago in a bloody affair that ended in a loss. He had also lost to other champions like Peter Quillin and Jermell Charlo. But none were able to knock him out.

Both were aware of each other’s reputation. Bitter words had been exchanged for years and now they finally got their chance to prove their mettle and they did.

Though Jacobs was recognized as a knockout puncher, Rosado’s resilience was just as well known. Both neutralized each other for most of the fight with their feints and jabs to the body. Neither was willing to leave openings for each other.

Jacobs scored big with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round. While Rosado wowed viewers with a sizzling right cross in the 11th round.

It was 1950s style, boxing with intelligence. Each found it difficult to land combinations, let alone find openings to score knockout blows. Instead, they had to be satisfied with scoring enough to convince three judges the actual winner.

Neither was able to pull out ahead with any conviction.

After 12 rounds one judge saw Rosado the winner 115-113 while two others saw Jacobs the winner 115-113 to give him the win by split decision.

“It felt just a little weird. It felt like a sparring match,” said Jacobs about fighting without fans in the audience. “This wasn’t a valiant effort.”

Rosado was certain he was the true winner.

“I thought I won the fight. I surprised him,” said Rosado who trained with Freddie Roach for this fight. “I’m a veteran, I know how to fight.”

Indeed, he does.

Jacobs now stands poised to fight one of many super middleweight champions in need of a marquee name.

“I live to see another day,” he said honestly.

Other Bouts

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6 KOs) proved he was not an easy touch and knocked out former world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12 KOs) to march forward in the welterweight division while grabbing the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title.

In a fight featuring southpaw versus southpaw Yeleussinov caught Indongo with a roundhouse left the first time they exchanged and down went the former super lightweight world champion. Indongo beat the count and survived the round.

Indongo wasn’t as lucky in the second round as Yeleussinov again connected with a left and down went the fighter from Namibia again. He would not get up at 1:24 of round two giving the knockout win for Yeleussinov.

A battle between undefeated heavyweights saw Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3 KOs) use roundhouse rights to stagger the heavier Sahret Delgado (8-1) to win by knockout in the third round. Majidov actually helped Delgado get to his stool after knocking him out on his feet at 47 seconds of the third round.

Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1) defeated Mason Menard (36-5) by majority decision after a 10- round lightweight fight that saw a lot of clinching and leaning.

Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy (10-0) out-fought Detroit’s Brandon Maddox (7-4-1) to win by unanimous decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Ababiy hurt Maddox with body shots but found Maddox more resilient than expected.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE.

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

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