ENDGAME: Andre Ward-Carl Froch Preview


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The Super Six has been a dizzying ride that has many boxing fans and media sea sick. Three of the original participants – Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, and Mikkel Kessler – ended up falling off the ship at various points of the voyage. Along with half of the fighters dropping out of the tournament, there were postponements in the majority of the bouts to go along with your typical clashes between promoters. Cries bellowed from the hull for the ship to be anchored to call it a day.

Still, the knowledge gained from contenders – or perceived contenders – battling each other makes the journey worth traveling. At the beginning of the tourney in October 2009, Arthur Abraham and Mikkel Kessler were considered favorites to take home the trophy. Abraham had been feasting on middling middleweights during a three-year title reign before entering the Super Six. Finally forced to face bigger fighters with quick hands, he has suffered three losses during the tourney, two of them lopsided. Kessler was handled by Andre Ward in perhaps the most surprising bout of the tournament, before narrowly beating Carl Froch during the best fight of the Super Six and then bowing out due to an eye injury. Indeed, at one time, the most ambitious description of the two last men standing, Ward and Froch, would have been “dark horse.”

And yet here we are. In a saga so long that it’s easy to not only forget who were the underdogs and favorites, but who were even in the damn thing to begin with, Ward and Froch look to create a memorable conclusion Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Ward, 24-0 with 13 knockouts, was a four-year reclamation project after getting rattled near the beginning of his career by the likes of Kenny Kost and Darnell Boone. Since being unleashed, he has handled four perceived punchers in Edison Miranda, Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green and Sakio Bika without much of an issue, showcasing a slippery defense along with an improved chin. Notably, he’s developed an inside-game that’s an eye sore for boxing fans, but an enigma for opponents to deal with. He presses his head against his adversary’s chest and chin to agitate and create space. Ward, Oakland, California, grapples with one hand while shooting short uppercuts with the other. And he’ll bull an opponent into the ropes to do just enough damage to impress the judges. While his shoulder-to-shoulder combat lacks clean punching and makes for frustrating viewing, it’s clearly an effective weapon.

Unlike Ward, Froch, 28-1 with 20 KOs, had the reputation for more will than skill going into the tournament, but has demonstrated an unorthodox, tricky outside game. The 6’1 Nottinghamshire, UK, native flashes a busy up-jab that serves to handcuff his opponents, accompanied with an astute sense of timing. He shut out Abraham by stuffing a left hand in the German’s mouth every time he parted his guard to throw a punch, so if anticipation is a talent, Froch remains skilled enough to be a handful for anyone.

Froch’s defensive deficiencies are obvious, however. Leaving his hands hanging down by his waist is a default strategy that isn’t ideal for quick-handed fighters. He struggled against Andre Dirrell – a harder punching but far more skittish version of Ward – getting flagellated by left hands fired from a southpaw stance throughout the second half of the bout. While attacking, Froch leaves himself square with his chin hanging in space, dangling a inspiring target for a counter-puncher like Ward.

As it stands, Ward, a nearly 4-to-1 favorite in Vegas, appears to have most of the advantages. He has quicker feet and quicker hands, with the aforementioned ugly but effective inside game. But questions remain how he’ll handle the steady jab of Froch. The gritty Brit has displayed a granular toughness to go along with a pronounced sense of timing and enough boxing acumen to upset the apple cart. That Ward beat Kessler and Kessler beat Froch may be irrelevant, representing the type of transitive property that can’t be applied to the hurt game. And while memories of Darnell Boone’s staggering uppercut still linger six years after it landed because Carl Froch won’t let us forget, the 34-year-old, with a punch output to match his imperious attitude, provides a different challenge than Kessler, Green, Bika, or Abraham, and should be viewed as more than an inconvenient obstacle.

Any extended boxing project will have its warts, and the super middleweight tournament is no exception. What remains, however, are two pugilists originally considered to be longshots who have proven themselves otherwise, facing each other in search of a definitive ending. More fortitude than forecasted vs. more expertise than assumed, Ward’s talent and seasoning should win the way, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion. And the Super Six was far from a worthless exercise.

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Tags: ANDRE DIRRELL Andre Ward ARTHUR ABRAHAM CARL FROCH Super Middleweights Super Six

  • HitDog

    No prediction, but if the line goes to 5-1, I’d consider laying coin on Froch. (And it takes that much more because this fight is happening stateside; in the UK, this might be almost even money, so little does anyone expect a KO.)

  • HitDog

    No prediction, but if the line goes to 5-1, I’d consider laying coin on Froch. (And it takes that much more because this fight is happening stateside; in the UK, this might be almost even money, so little does anyone expect a KO.)

  • dennis wise

    Definitely agree on the tournament. For all its mistakes and disappointments, it was well worth it. What are the chances that even a third of these fights happen without it? One of the mistakes made was probably setting the expectations way to high. We might have hoped it would have had a great impact on the sport, but it was that wasn’t very realistic and it shouldn’t have been part of its marketing.

    But it did force these guys to fight each other when they otherwise would have feasted on mostly lower level fighters instead.

  • dennis wise

    Definitely agree on the tournament. For all its mistakes and disappointments, it was well worth it. What are the chances that even a third of these fights happen without it? One of the mistakes made was probably setting the expectations way to high. We might have hoped it would have had a great impact on the sport, but it was that wasn’t very realistic and it shouldn’t have been part of its marketing.

    But it did force these guys to fight each other when they otherwise would have feasted on mostly lower level fighters instead.

  • rufus.t.firefly

    I enjoyed the tournament. The selection of fighters was a bit arbitrary but match ups were made that may have been impossible without this format.

    On the fight I agree Ward is the favorite, even though I am rooting for Froch. Maybe because I don’t share North American sensibilities, but to my ears calling yourself son of god is just bad taste. And it is even worse if you call yourself that and during the fight you billy goat your opponent into submission. That my friends is downright sanctimonious.

  • rufus.t.firefly

    I enjoyed the tournament. The selection of fighters was a bit arbitrary but match ups were made that may have been impossible without this format.

    On the fight I agree Ward is the favorite, even though I am rooting for Froch. Maybe because I don’t share North American sensibilities, but to my ears calling yourself son of god is just bad taste. And it is even worse if you call yourself that and during the fight you billy goat your opponent into submission. That my friends is downright sanctimonious.

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hey Michael, nice breakdown and I agree, despite all the hiccups, the tournament has been worthwhile. I’m expecting a lot of mauling and grappling on the inside tonight, as Ward has the speed to get in close, and that’s where he’s going to have the advantage. Not sure how Froch will cope with that kind of fight, but it will be interesting to find out.

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    MN,

    nice one, again. I don’t see how Froch wins this fight, hope I’m wrong. A skilled, athletic spoiler who gives “boxing head” is a tough combo to beat. Perhaps Froch’s jab and intangibles will be enough? If not, at least he gets to go home with that screaming banshee of his.

    We’ll have a billy goat who is the second coming, a Cobra, a screaming banshee ringside and Smoger! A boxing match, or the resurrection of the Grand Guignol?

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hey Michael, nice breakdown and I agree, despite all the hiccups, the tournament has been worthwhile. I’m expecting a lot of mauling and grappling on the inside tonight, as Ward has the speed to get in close, and that’s where he’s going to have the advantage. Not sure how Froch will cope with that kind of fight, but it will be interesting to find out.

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    MN,

    nice one, again. I don’t see how Froch wins this fight, hope I’m wrong. A skilled, athletic spoiler who gives “boxing head” is a tough combo to beat. Perhaps Froch’s jab and intangibles will be enough? If not, at least he gets to go home with that screaming banshee of his.

    We’ll have a billy goat who is the second coming, a Cobra, a screaming banshee ringside and Smoger! A boxing match, or the resurrection of the Grand Guignol?

  • FunkyBadger

    If only for Ward-Kessler, Abraham-Taylor, Froch-Kessler, Dirrell-Abraham, Froch-Abraham, Froch-Johnson then the Super Six has been worth it from my point of view.

    I suspect Ward will have too much tonight, but I hope Carl makes him prove it. Another close bout between top fighters would be a fitting end for the tournament whichever way it goes.

    C’MON CARL!!!!!

  • thenonpareil

    I smell “controversy” already, but I just hope it’s a good, competitive bout. Ward has a lot of talent, but his love of spoiling makes his fights hard to watch and undercuts all this talk about the “Next American Superstar,” which is a load of nonsense…practically a fictional narrative. Superstars draw more than 450,000 live viewers (as Ward did on Showtime versus Allan Green), don’t have their fights nearly canceled because of a lack of ticket sales in their own hometowns, don’t repeatedly head-butt opponents, and don’t go into the ring intent on stinking it out. We’ve reached a new era in boxing when all that is considered superstar material. Seventy-five years ago, when boxing was boxing, Ward would have found it difficult to find work because of his negative style; today, he’s Sports Illustrated’s darling.

    I’m with JPF, I don’t see how Ward loses, except for the fact that Froch has a fair punch and is superbly conditioned. I see Ward being cute on the outside and pulling out the wrestling maneuvers whenever Froch looks like he might get something going. For the sake of all who want a clean fight with some action and not some sort of maulathon: BRING IN JOE COOPER!

  • FunkyBadger

    If only for Ward-Kessler, Abraham-Taylor, Froch-Kessler, Dirrell-Abraham, Froch-Abraham, Froch-Johnson then the Super Six has been worth it from my point of view.

    I suspect Ward will have too much tonight, but I hope Carl makes him prove it. Another close bout between top fighters would be a fitting end for the tournament whichever way it goes.

    C’MON CARL!!!!!

  • FunkyBadger

    @thenonpareil Smashed it.

  • thenonpareil

    I smell “controversy” already, but I just hope it’s a good, competitive bout. Ward has a lot of talent, but his love of spoiling makes his fights hard to watch and undercuts all this talk about the “Next American Superstar,” which is a load of nonsense…practically a fictional narrative. Superstars draw more than 450,000 live viewers (as Ward did on Showtime versus Allan Green), don’t have their fights nearly canceled because of a lack of ticket sales in their own hometowns, don’t repeatedly head-butt opponents, and don’t go into the ring intent on stinking it out. We’ve reached a new era in boxing when all that is considered superstar material. Seventy-five years ago, when boxing was boxing, Ward would have found it difficult to find work because of his negative style; today, he’s Sports Illustrated’s darling.

    I’m with JPF, I don’t see how Ward loses, except for the fact that Froch has a fair punch and is superbly conditioned. I see Ward being cute on the outside and pulling out the wrestling maneuvers whenever Froch looks like he might get something going. For the sake of all who want a clean fight with some action and not some sort of maulathon: BRING IN JOE COOPER!

  • FunkyBadger

    @thenonpareil Smashed it.

  • Michael Nelson

    @HitDog Hitdog

    I’m a little surprised at the 4-1 odds myself, so 5-1 would be tempting. This should at the very least be competitive… and probably ugly, possibly hard to score. But I do think Ward has most of the advantages.

  • Michael Nelson

    @dennis wise Yeah, I think the original concerns over the length of the tourney were definitely confirmed. A lot of things are going to go astray over the course of two years. But beyond that, hey, it was fun seeing what these guys were made of. Once upon a time a lot of people (myself included) thought Allan Green was in danger of being a good fighter.

  • Michael Nelson

    @rufus.t.firefly Hey rufus,

    Agreed that Ward’s style isn’t befitting of his nickname, or any other nickname that isn’t synonymous with repulsive. While I recognize it’s effectiveness, I’m not a fan at all.

  • Michael Nelson

    @Andrew Fruman Thanks Andrew. I’m sure Froch will respond with his own heavy dose of rabbit punches, tackles, and arm bars. How quick Smoger is to pull the trigger on point deductions will be key.

  • Michael Nelson

    @JohnPaulFutbol Hey JPF,

    Thanks for reminding me to keep the mute button under my thumb. Froch will try to outmaul a mauler when Ward gets inside and it won’t be pretty, so Grand Guignol might be the most apt description. I think his best chance is to muck things up and make it hard to score. Or sell out for the KO.

  • Michael Nelson

    @FunkyBadger FunkyBadger,

    I’m rooting for a competitive fight too. Although Ward handled Kessler, that fight was mucked up by the two dozen butts, so I’m not sure we have a good idea on how he deals with a consistent jab. I favor him, but I’d be a little surprised if he’s dominant.

  • Michael Nelson

    @HitDog Hitdog

    I’m a little surprised at the 4-1 odds myself, so 5-1 would be tempting. This should at the very least be competitive… and probably ugly, possibly hard to score. But I do think Ward has most of the advantages.

  • Michael Nelson

    @dennis wise Yeah, I think the original concerns over the length of the tourney were definitely confirmed. A lot of things are going to go astray over the course of two years. But beyond that, hey, it was fun seeing what these guys were made of. Once upon a time a lot of people (myself included) thought Allan Green was in danger of being a good fighter.

  • Michael Nelson

    @thenonpareil Hey Carlos,

    Agreed. Joe Cooper should be on call like Winston Wolfe to clean up the mess we’re about to see. I thought Ward was slightly less negative against Arthur Abraham than he was in previous fights, but that’s probably because he was fighting Arthur Abraham. For the most part, his style is about as memorable as the ’05 Detroit Pistons. If only it was ugly enough to force the enforcement of the rules.

  • Michael Nelson

    @rufus.t.firefly Hey rufus,

    Agreed that Ward’s style isn’t befitting of his nickname, or any other nickname that isn’t synonymous with repulsive. While I recognize it’s effectiveness, I’m not a fan at all.

  • Michael Nelson

    @Andrew Fruman Thanks Andrew. I’m sure Froch will respond with his own heavy dose of rabbit punches, tackles, and arm bars. How quick Smoger is to pull the trigger on point deductions will be key.

  • Michael Nelson

    @JohnPaulFutbol Hey JPF,

    Thanks for reminding me to keep the mute button under my thumb. Froch will try to outmaul a mauler when Ward gets inside and it won’t be pretty, so Grand Guignol might be the most apt description. I think his best chance is to muck things up and make it hard to score. Or sell out for the KO.

  • Michael Nelson

    @FunkyBadger FunkyBadger,

    I’m rooting for a competitive fight too. Although Ward handled Kessler, that fight was mucked up by the two dozen butts, so I’m not sure we have a good idea on how he deals with a consistent jab. I favor him, but I’d be a little surprised if he’s dominant.

  • Michael Nelson

    @thenonpareil Hey Carlos,

    Agreed. Joe Cooper should be on call like Winston Wolfe to clean up the mess we’re about to see. I thought Ward was slightly less negative against Arthur Abraham than he was in previous fights, but that’s probably because he was fighting Arthur Abraham. For the most part, his style is about as memorable as the ’05 Detroit Pistons. If only it was ugly enough to force the enforcement of the rules.