Saturday, 17 December 2011 10:17

Froch vs Ward: Down the Stretch

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The two-year long Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament will come to an end tonight in Atlantic City, NJ.

The competition, deemed a success by many, has produced two relatively new stars who have grown immensely as fighters since its start – Andre Ward and Carl Froch.

It's rare for elite fighters to consistently face other elite fighters back-to-back several times but that's exactly what Ward and Froch will have done.

"The competition, that's what does it. I mean, you can fight C-level guys and look great, and you can fight B-level guys, and old veterans and look great and you can do what you want to do. But when you fight A-level guys, you know, it causes you to step your game up," said Ward.  (Source: RingTV)

Both gladiators exude tremendous confidence with each looking to prove he is without peer in the division. The prestigious Showtime Super Six tournament Cup is at stake as well as the WBC and WBA belts and the lofty distinction of The Ring's Super Middleweight Champion.

The lanky, 6'1" Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KO) possesses good offensive and defensive skills. His conditioning is usually excellent and his power is good but not great. Using his 74" inch reach, he jabs effectively, exhibits smooth footwork and has an unshakable belief that he is the best super middleweight in the world.

Froch is not as awkward as some believe and does a fine job of slipping and countering. His resume includes victories over the slick former Ring Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal, the highly-skilled Andre Dirrell and the hard-punching Arthur Abraham. His only lose came via a close decision to the experienced Mikkel Kessler in Kessler's homeland, Denmark.

Carl Froch's Most Significant Fights

  • Glen Johnson (51-14-2) - Won, Majority Decision, 2011
  • Arthur Abraham (31-1) - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2010
  • Mikkel Kessler (41-2) - Lost, Unanimous Decision, 2010
  • Andre Dirrell (18-0) - Won, Split Decision, 2009
  • Jermaine Taylor (28-2-1) – Won, TKO 12, 2009
  • Jean Pascal (19-0) - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2008
  • Robin Reid (39-5-1) – Won, RTD 5, 2007

Andre Ward will be the favorite tonight because he has been nothing less than dominant in the tournament, winning nearly every round in his last four bouts.

The 6'0" ultra-talented Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KO) was a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and is viewed by many as having the best combination of skills and athleticism in the division. With his vast offensive arsenal, good defensive techniques, ability to fight in the clinch and lightning hand-speed, he would be a threat to anyone from middleweight to light heavyweight. His resume also includes decisive wins over Arthur Abraham and Mikkel Kessler.

Andre Ward's Most Significant Fights

  • Arthur Abraham (32-2) - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2011
  • Mikkel Kessler (41-2) - Lost, Unanimous Decision, 2010
  • Sakio Bika (28-4-2) - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2010
  • Allan Green 29-1-0 - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2010
  • Mikkel Kessler (42-1-0) - Won, TD 11, 2009
  • Edison Miranda (32-3) - Won, Unanimous Decision, 2009

This bout will pit Ward's timing, speed, and infighting ability with Carl Froch's grit, craftiness and size and reach.

"People say he (Ward) sticks to his boxing, but believe me, he can fight," said Froch's trainer, Robert McCracken.  (Source: BadLeftHook)

Froch's Keys to Victory
If Froch delivers the fight of his life and turns Ward into the aggressor, the Brit will have a better chance of winning. But he must stay poised, fight at a measured pace and keep Ward at a safe distance. When on the outside, Froch will need to effectively find openings and use his size and three inch reach advantage to launch dangerous combinations after stepping to create angles to generate those openings. And regardless of how successful Froch will be at executing, he must resist the temptation to become an all-out, crowd-pleasing brawler and use his good footwork to his advantage by fight shrewdlying from the outside and at many angles.

Although Froch has improved his game a lot since 2009 but for all of his stylistic and technical enhancements he cannot ignore one indisputable truth – He's not the fastest gunslinger in the division nor is he even close. Speed kills and Ward has it in abundance and is the more physically-gifted athlete. As a result, Froch won't be fast enough off the counter to touch Ward since Andre utilizes excellent head movement so he must stay at a range where he can hit Ward without being hit by return fire. It would be to Froch's advantage to out-think Ward and try to effectively time him coming in. Moreover, as Amir Khan suggested, Froch must rough-up Ward a bit to counter Ward's speed and disrupt his rhythm.

Lastly, Froch must target the bad cut Ward suffered while training last September. Rest-assured, the cut has not had enough time to heal 100%. If Froch re-opens it, he could take Ward out of his game plan and, perhaps, force an eventual stoppage.

Ward's Keys to Victory
For starters, Ward's corner must be well-prepared in the event of a crisis and protect the only decisive weakness he has against Froch – The nasty cut he suffered in training which was responsible for the fight's postponement. If Froch re-opens it early, Ward could be in a world of trouble. Ward, on the otherhand, must not let his concern about the possibility of Froch re-opening the cut alter his game plan.

While it won't be easy for Ward to adjust to Froch's size, reach and footwork from the outside, this is a good match-up for him because his strengths better compliment Froch's weaknesses than vice versa.

Despite being at a three inch reach disadvantage, Ward must use his speed to double and triple his jab to penetrate Froch's defense. Against Mikkel Kessler and Allen Green, Ward was able to employ double and triple jabs to get inside where he used his speed and overall in-fighting ability to pile up points. Once one the inside, it'll be all Andre Ward. He's an exceptional in-fighter and Froch will have no answer for Ward on the inside.

Ward can fight effectively on the inside and outside and is potent as both a boxer and brawler. He must not allow the gritty Froch to rattle him with his bravado and rough-house tactics, if the Nottingham native chooses to employ them. The Oaklander must use his superior speed and exercise technical discipline to frustrate Froch and force him to revert to being a one-dimensional brawler who abandons his technique and simply looks to starch his opponent with one or two punches.

Possessing the mindset of a brawler but the skills, speed, and ability of a polished boxer, Ward is a boxer-puncher who may not only be the superior technical fighter, but may have an advantage in the 'brawling' department as well and will be difficult for Froch to hurt as a result.

Expect a close fight for the first four rounds. Look for Ward to start pulling away during the middle rounds and dominate down the stretch.

Ward by Unanimous Decision

Related Story: Froch vs Ward: Head to Head
Related Story: Ward vs Froch: For All the Marbles

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, United States Date: Saturday 17 December Time: 9PM ET, 2355 GMT Coverage: Live television coverage on Showtime (USA) Sky Sports 1 (UK), live audio coverage on BBC radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website 

Frank Zhong

Frank Zhong has two years of collegiate boxing experience from UNC Chapel Hill, where he co-founded the National Collegiate Boxing Associatoin (NCBA) competing team for the Tar Heels. Ever since leaving official competition, he has continued to study and train in the sport. He enjoys reading biographies and history texts on boxing and breaking down techniques in film.

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{youtube}YJ6UMEyiRmE{/youtube} Andre Ward v Carl Froch Super6 promo/highlights