2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward proved oddsmakers correct last night by scoring a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision over former middleweight title challenger Edison Miranda at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Ward, now 19-0 (12), dominated the fight with his superior speed and athleticism.
Miranda, who appeared to be through as a serious contender after suffering grisly knockouts at the hands of Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham, took the fight to Ward from the opening bell in an attempt to steamroll his less experienced opponent. His strategy failed. It took only three rounds for his pressure tactics to flag and for Ward to fluster him with his quickness and versatility. From time to time Miranda, now 32-4 (28), would score with a clubbing right, but Ward was so often a moving target that these blows were diminished by shifts of a fraction of an inch here or there. Only once, in the second round, did Ward appear to be shaken. He fought through the cobwebs and subsequently took control of the bout.
Referee John Schorle, usually an able third man, allowed Miranda to do as he pleased for most of the fight. Within a minute of the first round, in fact, Miranda scored with a headbutt that left Ward bleeding from a cut above the left eye. Ward retained his composure after appeals to Schorle went unheeded. Over twelve rounds Miranda got to display his full arsenal of low blows, forearms, rabbit punches, and butts. Hooks, jabs, and quality punches, however, were far less in evidence. Nor did Miranda, as is his habit, back up any of his dreary pre-fight boasts.
By the fourth round, Ward was in command, potshoting from the outside and bewildering Miranda by switching styles as often as three minutes per round would allow. Ward alternated between leading, counterpunching, brawling, backpedaling defensively, switching to southpaw, and mauling on the inside. Ward surprisingly had the edge in the trenches, and Miranda emerged from several clinches looking dispirited. Twice Miranda seemed on the verge of being stopped, but Ward could not apply the coup de grâce. At this point, with Miranda having been bounced off the canvas several times in his career, it is safe to say that Ward is not a puncher. He caught Miranda flush with several rattling combinations and hooks, from both southpaw and orthodox stances, but could not capsize a fighter whose resistance has frequently been in doubt. Final scores in a fight that was often ragged were 116-112, 119-109, and 119-109.
Still, it was not an impressive performance for the Oakland native. At times Ward appeared skittish and his jab was sorely underutilized; other times, his balance appeared to be poor. In addition, his habit of extending his left while retreating will certainly be exploited by better fighters than Miranda. A win is a win, perhaps, but a comfortable decision was not what Ward had hoped for, although nearly 8,000 fans in attendance did not seem disappointed. On the other hand, Ward defeated his first dangerous opponent, went twelve hard rounds, proved his chin is not entirely made of papier-mâché, and fought through the adversity of a cut without faltering.
It appears that Andre Ward is still a work-in-progress and that his win over a rudimentary banger like Miranda is a step in the right direction. “I want any champion with a belt,” Ward said after the bout. Champions without belts, it seems, should also take note.