Group Stage II of the World Boxing Classic comes to a close tomorrow night when Andre Ward and Allan Green face off over 12 rounds at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. If Ward wins he will break a second place logjam and take over as leader of the Super Six, surpassing Arthur Abraham, currently the frontrunner with three points. The World Boxing Classic tournament structure awards three points for a knockout, two points for a decision win, and one point for a draw.
By far the most intriguing matchup of the Super Six to date, Ward-Green also has the kind of strategic drama that a round robin tournament promises. Green, as a replacement for Jermain Taylor, is looking to put his first points up on the board. It goes without saying that Green needs to come up big tomorrow in order to be more than just a spoiler in Group Stage III.
Green, 29-1 (20), is a talented fighter with a serious mean streak, but he is best known these days for overloading websites with terms of ensmearment, the least offensive of which is “bitch.” He has barked long and hard for many years and only now, at 30, does he get a second chance at a T-bone. His first try, in 2007, ended in a decision loss to Edison Miranda. Green dropped Miranda with a hard left in the 8th round of a dull match, but went on to be floored twice himself en route to a points defeat. After the fight, Green revealed that he was suffering from colonic inertia and underwent surgery to remove most of his colon. He also did himself no favors by agreeing to a catchweight of 162 pounds, not the smartest thing to do for a fighter who turned pro as a light heavyweight.
At this point in his career, Green has been held back by injuries, iffy management, and erratic performances in the ring. But tomorrow night he has a chance to make all of his past disappointments disappear in a nanosecond.
Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a solid left hook, thrown either as a counter or as part of a combination, but his power may be a bit overstated. His knockout of Jaidon Codrington was frightening, but Codrington puts the “chin” in “chinny” and was even seen staggering around a New York City ring against the likes of hapless Carl Cockerham. Likewise, Carlos De Leon Jr. and Jerson Ravelo have proven themselves to be firmly entrenched in the “Handle With Care” category. De Leon and Ravelo have been knocked out a combined total of six times between them. In addition, Green has been taken the distance by much smaller fighters, including Tarvis Simms and Emmett Linton. Carl Daniels, a junior middleweight during the heyday of the Montana Freemen—-and a fighter who should have his license revoked for medical reasons–nearly went the full route with Green despite being in the midst of a 1-14 stretch. Still, Green does hit hard enough to be considered the puncher going into the fight.
Green may have the edge in power, but Ward has the edge in skill and smarts. Indeed, Ward, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, has a keen intelligence between the ropes and has shown the ability to stick to a gameplan from start to finish. He also shows poise in the ring, something Green has lacked on occasion. From time to time Green has shown his discomfort in the ring with a strange tic: looking down at his feet to make sure that his stance is correct. This usually happens when Green, 30, is frustrated during a fight, and you can bet Ward will be ready to push Green should this “tell” reveal itself again.
Green also has a habit of drifting off in fights and it has almost cost him plenty in the past. Take the case of Donny McCrary. Little more than a circuit fighter, McCrary dropped Green hard in the third round of their 2006 fight and had him on Dream Street for what seemed like an eternity. Green survived and came back to obliterate McCrary in the sixth round, but the fact remains that McCrary is below even clubfighter status and Green barely escaped with a win because he had slipped into autopilot. Similarly, at times against Rubin Williams and Tarvis Simms, Green just did not appear to be all there. He let Simms, woefully out of shape, push him up against the ropes late in the fight and Simms took advantage by slapping away with comic brio.
If Green loses his focus against Ward, 21-0 (13), he will be waist deep in the muck. On the other hand, Green seems almost in Travis Bickle mode over the last few years, sneering at anything and everything, brutally frank about his contempt for the behind the scenes shenanigans of boxing, angry at the slow pace of career. He came out to wreak havoc against Deleon Jr. and if that purposeful Green answers the bell against Ward tomorrow night, it could lead to a surprise.
For Ward, whose pasting of Mikkel Kessler last November might have raised expectations a little too high, especially among those who specialize in raised expectations, the gameplan is simple: stay out of the way of the left hook, drop rights over the top, and keep Green off-balance with some shifty moves. Besides switching stances, Ward, 26, likes to control fights by holding and mauling, making sure that his opponent fails to find a rhythm. In fact, Ward, Oakland, California, will often leap in with the sole intention of spoiling. Against a quick fighter like Green this might be a mistake. Once in close, however, Ward will be relatively safe since Green is one of six fighters in the Super Six who cannot fight a lick on the inside.
Apart from an occasional left hook combination to the body and head, Green is basically a textbook fighter: jab, straight right, close with the hook. When he doubles up his jab he can be effective, but he tends to bring back a single jab a little slower and lower than he should. When he puts his combinations together, Green is as dangerous a super middleweight as there is on the market today. He also he has a real killer instinct once an opponent is hurt.
Although Ward is a fine boxer with fast hands and slick moves, he does have some flaws that Green–unlike Kessler–should be able to exploit. Ward likes to mix up his jabs, alternating between body and head, but when he shoots the jab to the gut he appears to be wide open for a straight right. He still squares up on offense when fighting as a southpaw, and, from the orthodox stance, Ward has a habit of leaning to the right in close.
With that said, look for Ward to be a little more careful than he was against Kessler, knowing that one shot from Green might drop him flat on his back. Green is not the perfect style matchup for Ward that the European bracket of the Super Six represents, but Ward is still the better boxer of the two. The only question here is whether he can tiptoe around Green long enough to avoid being hurt and possibly stopped by one big punch or flurry. Probably, possibly, maybe not.
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