King Arthur’s Fire: Abraham vs Ward


by Hans Olson

“This isn’t real. You know what it is? It’s St. Elmo’s Fire; Electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them… there was no fire. There wasn’t even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when times got tough, just like you’re making up all of this. We’re all going through this. It’s our time at the edge.”

When Rob Lowe’s character Billy said those words to Jules at the end of the 1985 film “St. Elmo’s Fire,” it made me think of this weekend’s fight…

Sometimes things aren’t as they appear.

Perception is everything in boxing…however skewed a particular perception may be.

This Saturday night, the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA will play host to a terrific match-up in between the undefeated Andre Ward and punching powerhouse Arthur Abraham.

That’s right, I said terrific.

Many observers perceive it as anything but that.

The general consensus is that Abraham (having lost 2 out of his last 3 fights) has virtually zero shot of defeating Andre Ward, a fighter who has emerged as the class of the tournament alongside Carl Froch. Indeed, Arthur Abraham is quite the underdog; Ward currently lists as a -750 betting favorite.

The perception is that Arthur is too one-dimensional, not active enough, and tailor made for someone of Ward’s boxing acumen.

“He’s damaged goods!”

“He relies too much on his power!”

“He can’t win outside of Germany!…”

All fair points, but points that can be argued.

Arthur Abraham has an opportunity to prove everybody wrong. It’s a falsehood of perception that Arthur can’t re-ignite his past successes based on two losses. It’s not real.

Damaged Goods?

Let’s go back to Arthur’s first career loss, the disqualification against Andre Dirrell. As I wrote here ( http://www.boxinginsider.com/columns/andre-dirrell-time-to-shine/ ) before the fight, I expected it to be a much closer fight than most predicted. At that time, Arthur was viewed as an unstoppable force; his one-punch knockout ability setting him apart from the rest of the field.

At that moment, Arthur was the tournament favorite.

Dirrell turned out to be all wrong stylistically for the powerful German. Although Arthur suffered his first career knockdown and was eventually disqualified, the fight didn’t necessarily damage him. If anything, he walked away with feelings of robbery, that Dirrell cheated him out of a late surge. I don’t question Andre Dirrell or his injury, but for Arthur, questioning may help him better deal with that first loss.

Another contributing factor seemed to be the numerous delays before the fight itself. Fighters train on a very specific timetable; peaking at the right time is of utmost importance. The fight was originally scheduled on March 6, 2010 at the Agua Caliente resort in Rancho Mirage, CA. A back injury Dirrell suffered in sparring delayed the fight, clearly throwing a wrench in Arthur’s preparation. 3 weeks later, the fight happened in Detroit. It was a different climate, a different time-zone, on a different date. Arthur didn’t look himself. Andre fought the fight of his life. And oh yeah, there was that nasty disqualification thing. The unfortunate part for Arthur was that, had he not had the lapse in judgment, he may have knocked-out Dirrell legitimately in the final rounds. We’ll never know.

The Froch fight also had many problems. The fight was delayed numerous times, originally scheduled to have taken place on October 2, 2010 at Chapiteau de l’Espace Fontvieille in Monaco. This was after a wild negotiation raged between Froch’s then promoter Mick Hennessy and Abraham’s promoter Sauerland Event. England, Germany, and even Spain were locations discussed for the fight before finally settling on Monaco.

Or so Abraham thought.

Froch injured his back, and the fight was pushed back to November 27 in Helsinki, Finland. Another different climate, another different time-zone, on another different date. Froch would go on to shut-out Arthur over 12 rounds. It was a fantastic win for the pride of Nottingham, but again, Arthur didn’t seem himself. It may very well be that Arthur is a fighter greatly affected by these types of delays. So far, the date of May 14 hasn’t moved since the fight with Andre Ward was announced months ago. That’s good news for Abraham. If Arthur has been able to have a consistent training camp, we may see the Arthur Abraham that we’ve seen prior to his last two Super Six bouts. He may have been thoroughly out-boxed against Dirrell and Froch, but he wasn’t knocked out. Arthur Abraham is anything but damaged goods.

Tailor Made or Taylor Made?

Another argument is that Arthur is made to order for a fighter of Andre Ward’s boxing ability…but consider this:

Andre Ward can be hurt in the ring.

Look no further than his seventh pro fight against Darnell Boone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm9iybFs4mk ). Obviously, that fight happened over 5 years ago. Since then, the Oakland native has shown a good enough chin, but the ‘whispers-about-the-whiskers’ are still out there. What happens if one of the hardest punchers in the division connects cleanly with “S.O.G.”? Few can handle the power of Abraham, and if Arthur is able to land the same kind of shot that put Jermain Taylor to sleep, Andre Ward is in trouble. He will have to start faster though. Arthur likes to stalk his prey and find openings, but he may wait all night against Ward who is a crafty ring general. Still, opportunities may be there. Andre likes to switch between orthodox and southpaw stances throughout a fight. If Arthur can time a straight right in one of those moments, it could be lights out.

Rip it Up and Start Again

Both Ward and Abraham enter this contest having taken fights outside of the tournament, but for very different reasons. Ward was originally slated to face fellow American Andre Dirrell in Group Stage 3, but Dirrell pulled out of the fight citing injuries sustained as a result of the illegal blow landed on him in his fight with Abraham. Wanting to stay active, Ward took a fight against the rugged Sakio Bika, which he won over 12 grueling (though dominating) rounds.

After losing back to back fights, Abraham needed a confidence booster. A non-tournament bout was set with Stjepan Bozic on February 12 of this year. Unfortunately, Bozic injured his hand early in the fight, forcing a technical stoppage to the action. Although Abraham was barely able to warm-up; just getting back into the win column may have greatly helped his moral. Remaining active and having had an extra training camp should prove to pay dividends in this bout with Ward.

2010 is over, and 2011 could be a year of redemption for Arthur Abraham.

The Super Six tournament has been great on many levels. Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor, Allan Green, and Glen Johnson have all seen their careers drastically altered; some for the better, some for the worse. Regardless of how Saturday’s bout plays out, the tournament will undoubtedly be attached to each of their legacies. The Super Six has been a rollercoaster for Arthur Abraham, but so also has it been for each of the other combatants. Each has fought through adversity in a multitude of ways, and if nothing else, this World Boxing Classic has shown what a grueling challenge it is for the best of the best to fight each other…fight in, and fight out.

For Arthur Abraham, his fire and determination may be what see him through; but make no mistake…this has been a “time at the edge” for everyone involved.

Arthur Abraham and Andre Ward fight continue on the precipice of that edge Saturday night.

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