Friday, May 13, 2011

Abraham and Ward clash in Super-Six semi-finals

By JE Grant -
The brilliance of Super Six is that it has generated stiff tests of our judgments about each of the participants. Amazingly corrupt sanctioning bodies often allow the top echelon fighters to never cross paths, all the while defending “world” titles of rapidly diminishing value.

Fighters, promoters and managers of the Super Six richly deserve credit for working through the complexities of international boxing politics to push these men into a series of clashes that expose strengths and weaknesses of champions and contenders alike.  Without it, various title-holders would have continued to wade through meaningless mandatory defenses against unworthy competition.

Saturday night’s semi-finalists Arthur Abraham and Andre Ward exemplify why Super Six is to be prized.

Entering the tournament Abraham, 32-2 (26 KOs), Germany, was seen as a ruthless powerhouse who withstood a tremendous beating at the hands of Edison Miranda. 

His second round knockout of former champion Jermain Taylor in the first stage of the tournament seemed to solidify both his menacing persona and his reputation as punishing, relentless predator.

But something happened along the way to the big cup. In his meeting with Andre Dirrell, the normally in-control Abraham became unhinged by the mobile and crafty American. His inability to adapt to a high-level boxer-puncher led to him being knocked down and frustrated – which he demonstrated when he blatantly slugged a defenseless Dirrell who had fallen to the canvas. 

The ensuing disqualification loss was merely a footnote to the real story: “King” Abraham suddenly seemed one-dimensional.  He punched one shot at a time. He covered up frequently between those single punches.  He simply could not adapt.

Some thought perhaps Abraham was merely the victim of a bad night.

His next opponent, Carl Froch, though not nearly as mobile or slick as Dirrell, was awkward but also very intent on winning and adaptive.

Again, Abraham when faced with a top athlete who presented something other than a headlong rush forward, would not or could not make adjustments.

Making adjustments has not been a problem for Ward, 23-0 (13 KOs), Oakland.

Unlike the seemingly established Abraham, coming into Super Six Ward was widely still seen as very good, but barely proven upstart.

Yes he had good skills and Olympic pedigree. He had at least one notable win, ironically over the puncher Miranda in a fight which saw him put his boxing skills to good use. 

He was not fully tested and maybe not ready – and besides he drew what appeared to be the toughest opening opponent, the once-beaten and pre-tournament favorite, Mikkel Kessler.

In one fight, Ward zoomed from prospect to titlist and more importantly he dominated an able and fit Kessler. In virtually every department, from speed, to skill, to stamina he was one big step ahead of the Dane.

Ward’s complete mastery over Allan Green and Sakio Bika – both fights in which he essentially won every round – has now pushed his name out front as the favorite. Despite having scored no knockouts in Super Six, his lopsided wins presented powerful evidence of major talent.

Still, Abraham has proven he has power and is rugged. Just as Super Six has allowed Froch to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Kessler, Abraham is now afforded a similar chance.

The question remains as to whether his style and strength will expose a major flaw in a fighter who, to date, has shown no major weaknesses.

PREDICTION: Unfortunately for Abraham, the genie is out of the bottle.  Go straight at him guns blazing and he will knock you into next week.  Give him a little movement, a jab, and defensive skills and, well, he becomes ordinary. Young Andre Ward presents a nightmare for the one-trick Abraham.  No one in the tournament moves better, punches with greater variety, or exhibits better concentration throughout his bouts. Perhaps more important is his proven ability to adapt and overcome – a skill that makes him the Super Six tournament’s only special fighter. Abraham will go after Ward hard early and then the frustration will set in. Ward will pile up the rounds and before we all realize it, the fight will end after 12 rounds and he will have captured all of them.  This fight may turn out to be a one-sided yawner.

Ward wins by a clear 12 round decision


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