By Kirk Jackson
He accomplished what he sought out to do many years ago. The hard work, dedication, physical and mental toughness came into manifestation this past weekend with the conclusion of the super middleweight Super Six Tournament.
With his victory in the tournament, and display of skills and thorough dominance throughout the past few years, Andre Ward not only solidified himself as the best super middleweight in the world, but also established himself as a pound for pound elite fighter.
Most of the boxing experts did not pick Ward to win the tournament during it’s initial inception. Although many were aware of his talents and latent potential, many did not pick him to win based on his lack of professional experience, opting to go with Arthur Abraham or Mikkel Kessler to win the tournament .
I however, predicted either Ward or Andre Dirrell would emerge as the victor of this prestigious tournament, mainly based on their speed, talent and overall skill level compared to the other participants in the tournament.
High hopes of Ward’s potential was first realized during the Olympic Games in 2004, where he was the only and last American Olympic gold medalist.
Glimpses of his greatness were again realized during his coming of age bout against the multiple, super middleweight titlist and defending champion Kessler, in the tournament’s opening round.
Although Kessler was the strong favorite heading into the tournament, he was clearly outclassed and dominated by the younger, faster, more skillful Ward, en route to a eleventh round technical decision.
After Kessler, Ward easily defeated Sakio Bika, Allan Green, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch this past weekend.
There were doubts about Ward coming out of the Olympics despite his performance, but some experts could see the elite level pedigree lying dormant within Ward. It was just a matter of progressing as a professional, realizing his potential and seeing how he would fare against formidable opposition.
Ward has encountered plenty of obstacles in his professional career. Changing of promoters, his initial lack of exposure, delays to big name fights, nagging injuries, and so on and so forth, but when facing adversity, Ward has handled everything in such a positive manner.
Never complaining, just taking every obstacle in stride and handling his business.
Which such strong resolve, he has passed every single test outside as well as inside the ring with flying colors. Whatever doubts that stood previously in front of Ward should be erased.
He has all of the tools that make a great fighter, especially from a physical standpoint, but most importantly from a mental aspect and he has a solid foundation.
Ward appears to have a great head on his shoulders, saying and doing all the right things inside and outside the ring. He is the equivalent to Tim Tebow, just more skillful in his particular profession.
As far as physical abilities, speed, reflexes and so forth, outside of Andre Dirrell and Chad Dawson he is the most athletic fighter in the super middle weight and light heavyweight divisions.
To go along with his athletic ability, he has the mental toughness and will power to withstand adversity. He has been knocked down before, but rose up from the canvas to win. He has been stunned against some of the heavy hitters in his division, and continued to march on to victory.
Ward has showcased his versatility and ability to adapt and out think his opponents.
Possessing great hand speed, foot speed and overall great lateral movement, Ward has the ability to fight and flourish on the outside. To go along with those physical gifts, Ward is also accurate and throws precision punches, not wasting energy when he attacks. Ward also has the ability to fight effectively from a southpaw stance if he wants to switch it up on his opponents.
Ward does extremely well in the trenches, even against guys who are supposed to be bigger and stronger, guys such as Arthur Abraham and most recently Carl Froch.
And he does all of this without receiving a lot of damage, which will prolong his career.
Simply put, he has the total package. He should be heralded as one of the elite pound for pound fighters in the world.
Ward is a great all around fighter and as far as skills goes, he belongs in the company of Floyd Mayweather and Nonito Donaire. I believe those are the three most well rounded fighters in the sport as of now.
What looms in the future for the king of the super middle weight division?
A potential match against the best fighter that did not enter the Super Six tournament, Lucian Bute, potentially awaits Ward in what can be one of the great fights of 2012. Ward may also have an obligation to face his WBC super middleweight mandatory Anthony Dirrell, the brother of his friend and fellow fighter Andre Dirrell.
Ward can also go against some of the fighters he did not get a chance to face in the tournament, such as Glen Johnson, Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell,
If any of these fights were to ever take place, I believe Ward would beat every fighter just mentioned. Relying on his pin point accuracy and speed advantages, Ward can successfully outbox Johnson from the outside.
Although I believe the Dirrell fight would be highly competitive, and the most interesting of the potential fights, I believe Ward would emerge victorious from battle. Dirrell has the advantages of speed, reach and is equally skillful or even more so in some aspects.
Both fighters possess great lateral movement, and the ability to slip punches and counter punch as well. What separates the two is Dirrell is slightly better than Ward fighting from the outside, but Ward is by far the superior fighter inside the trenches. Ward also has the mental toughness Dirrell lacks.
And Jermain Taylor has fallen from the ranks of the elite in recent years and is finished fighting at high level and would not stand a chance against Ward.
The only person left for him is Bute as mentioned earlier, and that will be a great match up between the two undefeated fighters whenever they decide to fight. Ward should be favored, as he has done everything to merit the acclaim he is being awarded with.
Right now, Ward is the face of Showtime boxing, and will be their main headliner for years to come. He may not be the financial draw like Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, or a Manny Pacquiao of recent years, but he certainly is up there in overall fighting skills.
Ward is the heir to the throne, whenever Money May, Sergio Martinez and Juan Manuel Marquez decide to hang them up for good.
Fans of the Bay Area have two great local products to look forward to for years to come. Andre S.O.G. Ward certainly placed the stamp on his greatness with his performance this past weekend.