By: Matthew Becher
Tonight, live from the Oracle Arena in downtown Oakland, the former lineal Super-Middleweight champion Andre Ward (27-0 14KO) returns from a 19 month layoff, against England’s Paul Smith (35-5 20KO). In a fight that was contracted at a 172lb catch weight. But at Fridays weigh in, Smith came in at 176.4 and had to pay Ward $25k for the extra weight and agree to not exceed 181lb on the morning of the fight. Smith again came in overweight at 184lb. He paid an additional $15k and the fight would continue. This was the first test in the return of Ward.
The under card is a Jr. Featherweight eight round clash between two unbeaten fighters, Antonio Nieves (12-0 6KO) vs. Stephon Young (13-0-1 5KO) both looking to capitalize by impressing a large crowd of fans on a television network that is in 92 million American homes.
Roc Nation brings out the celebrities from both the sports and entertainment world (Colin Kapernick, Steph Curry, Michael B. Jordan, Miguel Cotto to name a few). Between fights the artist/performer Nippsy Hustle performed in the center of the ring as TV/Radio personality Sway MC’d the event.
Antonio Nieves (12-0 6KO) vs. Stephon Young (13-0-1 5KO): Jr. Featherweight
The fight was supposed to be speed (Young) vs. Power (Nieves), but it turned out that wasn’t the truth. Both fighters showed flashes of both. In the first a quick counter right by Nieves hurt Young with about 20 secs left in the round. Young was clearly hurt, but able to hold and run to survive.
The third round showed both fighters not afraid to exchange leather, with Nieves being the busier fighter, throwing twice as many punches as Young, until Young counters with a straight left that staggered Nieves with a minute left in the round. Nieves recovered and was able to land body shots of his own.
Many of the rounds could have went either way, it was very close. The 6th and 7th rounds had Young throwing more punches then previous rounds and his first time going past the 7th round in his career.
The eighth round was important since the rounds were very close and could have gone either way. Nieves was cut over his left eye and Young became the more aggressive fighter, taking the round.
The fight was very close and could have went either way. It was left in the hands of the judges and ruled a draw.
77-75 Nieves, 78-74 Young, 76-76 (Draw)
Andre Ward (27-0 14KO) vs. Paul Smith (35-5 20KO): 172lb catch weight
Ward came out establishing his jab early in this fight. It was quick, hard and landed often. He eventually added a right hand as a follow up and that was pretty much the entire night for Paul Smith.
Smith was content covering up for the majority of the fight. His being overweight as a way of using a heavier body to out power Ward around the ring, played no role.
Smith only landed 10 total punches through three rounds. While Ward showed no ring rust and was able to showcase every aspect of his arsenal. He was never in trouble, he rarely was touched and pretty much just did what he wanted.
Smith seemed fine with just covering up and not fighting. Ward was looking for the knockout by the 7th round. Ward opened a cut over Smiths left eye in the eighth and then landed a combination that had Smith bleeding from his nose and then mouth. In the 9th Smith’s corner had seen enough and they threw in the towel.
Andre Ward is officially back.
Ward TKO 9 (Towel Thrown by corner) 1:46
Post fight quotes:
“We’ve been out 18 months and great teamwork won this fight. It took some time to get the ring rust off. I started with the jab. I wanted to come out big bang and get a first round KO but I have a great coach and he told me to take my time and the knockout will come.
He’s a tough guy. You could see he was much bigger than me tonight, he probably was about 190 tonight. That and he is very durable. That’s what you get when you get Paul Smith.
I know what he was trying to do. He was trying to lure me in then hit me with the big right hand. He his me with a couple of good shots but he didn’t hurt me.
His legs were getting wobbly. I could see the big cut on his face and I think I broke his nose. I know my job is to finish guys off. But he’s got a family and a life and he needs to live another day so It was good they stopped the fight.
I give myself a B
(holding kid) I’m a competitor and I love to get my hand raised but I love this. I love to be with my family.
If I go up in weight I can fight Kovalev. I could fight Stevenson but there would be politics involved in that. I will go home and talk to Virgil and ask him what he saw and what we have to fix then we will go from there.
I could get down to fight at 168. I weighed 170 in camp and I could have lost another two. If I did that I could fight Froch or any other super middleweight.
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