Andre Ward: Greatest Super Middleweight Ever?
by Kirk Jackson
When most boxing fans and experts think of the greatest super middleweights of all time, names like Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Joe Calzaghe, James Toney and Roy Jones usually pop up.
You can add or take away a name or two from that list, but that’s general a listing of the usual suspects. With the overall competitiveness and talent swarming over that division in recent years, combined with the emergence and dominance of Andre “Son of God” Ward in the past couple of years as well, experts and fans may have to add Ward to the list of super middleweight greats.
While Ward is a ways from being recognized as the clear-cut best super middleweight of all time, he certainly has potential to go down as one of the greatest fighters in recent years.
Much has been made over the past couple of years in comparing Carl Froch to Joe Calzaghe, probably because of their history of animosity towards each other over the years.
Calzaghe arguably may have the better career and may be a better overall fighter compared to Froch, but to many fans of the sport Froch is beloved because of his brashness, action packed style of fighting and willingness to fight the best; some critics argue Calzaghe did the opposite of that.
But because of the success of both fighters, perhaps a comparison between Calzaghe and Ward is more suiting. Both currently undefeated, viewed as the best fighter in their division and possibly the best in the sport at some time or another.
Calzaghe did have two fights in the light heavyweight division and Ward probably looks to fight there at some point in the near future, let’s start with a comparison between the two in regards to their super middleweight accomplishments:
In 44 fights at super middle weight, Calzaghe has 44 victories, 32 by knock-outs, reigned as the unified WBO, WBC, WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine champion and had 21 title defenses. During his 10 year tenure as champion, he defeated the likes of Sakio Bika, Robin Reid, Omar Sheika, Jeff Lacy, Branko Sobot, Mikkel Kessler and Chris Eubank.
It’s easy to nit-pick at someone’s resume. Many can argue Calzaghe ruled in a weak era of super middleweights, or that he didn’t go out of his way to face the best competition out there. Facing guys like Roy Jones while he was in his prime, or James Toney, Glen Johnson, or even a younger Bernard Hopkins. Whatever the case may be, for whatever reason, those fights never manifested.
It hurts Calzaghe’s resume but nonetheless his record and list of accomplishments is impressive.
Ward’s feats thus far are impressive as well. 2004 Olympic gold medalist, current unified WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine super middleweight champion, Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine fighter of the year for 2011, winner of the super middleweight “Super Six” tournament, top 5 on the pound for pound list, arguably the best fighter currently in the world, 5 title defenses and recently defeated the best light heavyweight in the world, albeit in the super middleweight division.
Ward has defeated the likes of Sakio Bika, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Allan Green, Chad Dawson and Calzaghe’s verbal nemesis, Carl Froch.
Calzaghe has the edge, mainly because of the longevity in which he sustained greatness. Both Calzaghe and Ward spent a majority of their careers fighting in their own backyard and even share some common opponents.
Ward does benefit and get major credit for participating in a tournament which essentially forced the best fighters of the division to face each other, at least that was the intent. Calzaghe never really had that opportunity, but who’s to say he would participate if given the chance?
Both fighters have great styles and attributes any champion would love to have. While active, Calzaghe had very unorthodox style of fighting. The unpredictable southpaw overwhelmed opponents with his high punch output, snake-like movement and reflexes, and displayed the ability to take a punch and the intelligence to make adjustments.
Although knocked down in many fights, like against Jones, Hopkins, Byron Mitchell and Kabary Salem, Calzaghe showed the gusto to gather himself and not only get back up, but ultimately win the fight as well.
Ward is a hybrid fighter. He can pretty much do everything. Has good hand speed, great lateral movement and foot speed, great head movement, knows how to fight on the inside and the outside, can throw any kind of punch at any given time, out-thinks his opponents: he does it all. Right now, the only person that can match his skill level is Floyd Mayweather.
This would make for an intriguing match-up if both fighters faced each other in their respective primes. The champion from Wales expressed his opinion about Ward at www.joecalzaghe.com, after he watched his fight against Froch last year.
“He [Ward] looked to spoil a lot . . . I think the way Ward fights would of suited me to be honest. I would have had too much speed and power for him. So, yes, I would of beaten him.” said Calzaghe.
I wonder if his opinion has differed since Ward’s recent domination of Dawson this past weekend. I would hope so, because I can definitely envision Ward beating Calzaghe in a highly competitive fight, but it can just as easily go the other way around.
The trainer of Ward, Virgil Hunter, recently called out the retired champion, but a fight between Calzaghe and Ward is highly unlikely.
“Joe Calzaghe made the comment that he would have beaten Andre Ward after Andre defeated Carl Froch in the Super Six,” said Hunter.
“We’ve given Joe the proper respect and acknowledged his legacy for his accomplishments, but if you are going to be minimizing Andre on where he is as a fighter – to make that comment when you are in retirement and sitting somewhere safely in England – if you are going to make that comment, then as a fighter you should come out of retirement and back that comment up.”
Either way, with Joe Calzaghe firmly planted on top of the mountain of all-time super middleweight greats, he may have to make room for the young champion, steadily on the rise with unlimited potential and a long career on the horizon: Andre Ward.