OAKLAND, Calif. (Nov. 18, 2009) — World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight champion Mikkel “Viking Warrior” Kessler of Denmark and undefeated Andre “S.O.G” Ward of Oakland participated in the final press conference Wednesday for their Super Six World Boxing Classic Group Stage 1 showdown this Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
The presser, which emanated from the Frank Ogawa Plaza at downtown Oakland City Hall, included a performance from the cheerleaders and band of Ward’s alma mater, Hayward High School, and a presentation by Hayward High Vice Principal Andrea Hayes, who gave Ward a Hayward High T-Shirt and an “honorary diploma’’ for his outstanding work in and out of the ring “on behalf of the students and staff at Hayward.’’
Kessler will enter the ring for the 12-round match in three days with a record of 42-1 with 32 knockouts. Ward is 20-0 with 13 knockouts.
This is the first Super Six fight in America. The Europeans held serve in the opening Group Stage 1 fights Oct. 17 on SHOWTIME, Arthur Abraham knocking out Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch outpointing Andre Dirrell in Germany and England, respectively.
Tickets for this Saturday’s event, priced at $300, $150, $65 and $35, are available at the Oracle Arena Box office Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and fight day starting at 10 a.m., online at Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com), by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000, or through Ticketmaster outlets at the following outlets: select Macy’s stores and select Ritmo Latino stores. All information can be obtained at www.ticketmaster.com.
The event is promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions and Sauerland Event in association with Antonio Leonard Productions. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. PT. The first non-televised fight is at 5 o’clock.
What the fighters and their promoters had to say Wednesday:
“I’ve been here before so I am loving it in California. I have thoroughly enjoyed my entire stay here, living in a nice house and training in Sacramento.
“I want to thank everyone involved in making this fight possible and for the nice words from their camp. But now I am ready to fight. I didn’t come all the way from Denmark to lose and I am fully prepared and 150 percent ready. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been.
“I have had only one defeat and that was to Joe Calzaghe and it still eats at me today. Even thinking about that fight makes me even more motivated. That’s why I am looking at this fight as a second chance to prove that I am the best.
“I hurt my hand and had only two weeks to spar for Calzaghe, but there will be no mistakes or excuses after this one. I may be 30 but I have a lot of fight left. Saturday night can’t come soon enough.’’
”It’s about time. I approach all my fights the same. Every fight I had as an amateur, I took seriously. But obviously the stakes are much higher. I have prepared for a fight like this since I was nine years old.
“To see this kind of turnout today and the tremendous support I am getting only confirms what I know, and that Saturday will be a special night for me and the city of Oakland. There was a lot of buzz before my last fight here (in May on SHOWTIME), but there is a lot more excitement going around for this one.
“To have my alma mater come out today is extremely invigorating and I thank them very much. I go to the school and talk on occasion but I plan to go more often from now on.
“The feeling I get looking in the kids’ eyes, the feeling I get from them maybe thinking that, “hey, if he can make it, I can make it, too’’ is inspiring. It is more than just about boxing; it is about life and doing the right things to inspire kids, or fire them up, to make oneself want to be successful.
“If I can make a few change, it has been worthwhile. But it is also a two-way street. I thank God every day. That is who I am.
“No one expected me to win the Olympics. No one expected to me to get this far as a pro. But, now, if I win, it is because I’m supposed to, and if I ever lose, it’s a huge thing.
“I’m thrilled for everybody Saturday night and really anxious for the fight to be here.’’
PROMOTER DAN GOOSSEN OF GOOSSEN TUTOR PROMOTIONS
“It’s extraordinary to have promoters working together like we are in the Super Six. The real caveat is that this is what every sport needs.
‘In my opinion, this Saturday the two best super middleweights are going to face off against each other. I applaud Mikkel Kessler for coming to Andre’s hometown to defend his title.
‘It’s been a long road with Andre Ward to get here. (But) it’s the perfect time for Andre Ward. Every great fighter learns to hone their craft. On Saturday, Virgil Hunter is going to take recognition in being the top trainer who helped Andre hone in on his skills.
“Andre was homegrown when he went to the Olympics in 2004. He sacrificed. He has got his opportunity Saturday night. He is a respectable family guy, down to earth and a perfect fit for a respectable politician. He embodies all of those elements. Andre is going to make it fashionable to be a classy young man.
“Saturday night we will see Andre Ward bring the title not only home to Oakland but to American soil.’’
PROMOTER WILFRIED SAUERLAND OF SAUERLAND EVENT
“I am pretty sure the fight will not last as long as the press conference. It is a pleasure to be here and we will see a great fight Saturday. Ward is unbeaten and very strong, but his previous accomplishments, including the Olympic gold medal, will not help him against Mikkel Kessler. I have promoted five Olympic gold medal winners but that does not mean that you become a world champion, so Andre can try in his second world title fight to leave the ring as the winner. He is a strong fighter but he has never been in the ring with someone of Mikkel´s class.
“I have had two meetings with Dan Goossen and it is 2-0 for us at the time being so we are looking to make it 3-0 on Saturday.
“One thing I want to point out. We will not accept Dan´s choice of judges. He has done a great job to get his fighter three fights at home, but now he has appointed three judges from California. Needless to say, we will not accept his friends and colleagues judging this fight, so he better starts moving because it takes a while to bring in new judges.
“The WBA has written a strong letter to the Californian commission that the choice of judges is unacceptable but the Californian commission has been somewhat hard to reach. The WBA has been trying to contact them, sending faxes and everything. If this issue is not sorted, we can have a Super Six fight, but Mikkel´s world title will not be on the line.”
PROMOTER KALLE SAUERLAND OF SAUERLAND EVENT
“It’s great to be in Oakland. We’re very happy to be here. We expect a great fight and a great crowd. We hope the fans will be fair … hostile, but fair. But Mikkel has fought in front of 55,000 fans on the road so he’ll be ready. We have a lot of respect for Ward, who is a tough opponent, but Mikkel will beat him. He’s had the best preparation of his life and Ward will find out what that means on Saturday.”
“We are thrilled to have Mikkel on board at Team Sauerland. We have lost against him twice with our German fighters, Markus Beyer and Danilo Haussler, so let me tell you, I’m really pleased to be in Mikkel´s corner. I would not want to be anywhere else. The Viking Warrior will put on a great show on Saturday.”
GOOSSEN’S COMMENT ON JUDGES
“Our company (Goossen Tutor Promotions) has nothing to do with picking officials. Whoever the WBA and the commission appoint is what we go with…The only man I want to see walking out of the ring is the real champion without any sort of interference.”
WARD’S TRAINER VIRGIL HUNTER
“I have been working with Andre Ward since before his 2004 Olympic gold medal victory. My position is a little different from the Olympics.
“We have a formidable task in front us. Kessler’s a real champion; all accolades he gets, he deserves.
“Years ago, I got a call from a friend to turn on (TV). He said that the fighter that was on (Kessler) is going to turn boxing around. I did turn the television on and I was fascinated. I put Mikkel Kessler in my mental rolodex and my mind processed and unfolded and I began to develop a real respect for him.
“I knew this day would come (when Ward would come to face him) so I began following him and watching his fight against Calzaghe in Wales and I noticed two things: I kept waiting for him to make adjustments and he didn’t and I also noticed that he never stopped fighting.
“Pressure, more pressure, is what I kept hearing. I was disappointed last week when I heard a former publicist say Mikkel Kessler went to Wales with a bad back and broken hand. I wanted to hear that the best man won. I just want to say I don’t want to hear excuses that something broke or that something was out of place.
“We know what’s ahead of us. We know we got a real champ in our way and we know that things will never be the same after Saturday night.”