OAKLAND, Calif. (Nov. 21, 2009) — The United States is alive and well in the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
In a scintillating performance, undefeated hometown favorite Andre Ward (21-0, 13 KOs) captured the World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight title with a dominant 11th-round technical decision over Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler (42-2, 32 KOs) in the Group Stage 1 Super Six World Boxing Classic bout for both boxers Saturday on SHOWTIME®.
An exciting, one-sided match was stopped at 1:42 of the 11th round by the ringside physician, Dr. Smith Ketchum, due to cuts around both of Kessler’s eyes. After 10 completed rounds, Ward was ahead by the scores of 98-92 on two of the scorecards and 97-93 on the other.
A raucous, pro-Ward crowd of 10,277, which included Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer Herschel Walker, Metallica drummer and Kessler fan, fellow Dane Lars Ulrich, Super Six fighter Andre Dirrell and Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts stars Scott Smith, Josh Thompson and Gilbert Melendez, turned out at the Oracle Arena for what became a virtuoso performance by Ward.
Kessler entered the scheduled 12-round fight as a co-favorites to win the tournament and a 3:1 favorite to beat Ward, but after a career-best performance, Ward has perhaps stamped himself as the one to beat.
“This was my dream come true and right now I’m dreaming,’’ said an ecstatic Ward, who won an Olympic Games gold medal for the United States in 2004. “It may take a while for all of this to sink it, but I am enjoying it all. This is a moment I’ll never forget.’’
Heading into Saturday, the tournament had been an all European affair with Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch defeating Americans Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell in Germany and England, respectively, in their Group Stage 1 fights last Oct. 17 on SHOWTIME.
But the U.S. is now on the board, thanks to Ward, who made it three consecutive hometown favorites to win in the Super Six.
Standings after one round of the six-fighter, round-robin tournament: Abraham (three points), Ward and Froch (two points apiece) and Kessler, Taylor and Dirrell (zero points). Scoring in the first three Group Stages of the tournament are as follows: Win – 2 points (with a 1-point KO/TKO bonus); Draw – 1 point; Loss – 0 points.
Upcoming Group Stage 2 matchups (dates to be announced): Abraham vs. Dirrell; Froch vs. Kessler; and Ward vs. Taylor.
At the post-fight press conference, representatives from the city of San Francisco, speaking on behalf of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom officially presented a letter of proclamation that Saturday, Nov. 21, was officially Andre Ward day.
But this was Ward’s night, too, as he effectively switched from orthodox to southpaw, consistently beat Kessler to the punch, never gave the Dane a moment to relax and bloodied the defending champion around both eyes to the delight of the fans who chanted “USA, USA’’ on several occasions.
“He never hurt me,’’ Ward said. “I was a little surprised that they stopped it when they did. I had just connected with a big right hand and would like to have seen what would have happened if the round had continued.
“I felt like it was my time. We were not intimidated by Kessler’s record. Everyone felt that we got the bad draw in the first round. We never believed that. We beat the top guy.
“This win is as much for me as it is for Virgil Hunter. He has an Olympic gold medal with me and now he has a world championship.
“There were two accidental butts. I am not a dirty fighter. Everyone knows that. I’m ready to go and take the next step.
Kessler, who’s only pro loss was to Joe Calzaghe, said, “He was the better man tonight, but I wish the fight could have gone on. I wanted to continue. The cuts were not dangerous.
“He was going in with his head all the time. He was punching in the clinch. I am not used to this and I got off my rhythm. I don’t know why he never received a warning.
“After the butt (in the eighth round) I could not see anymore. If I fight Andre Ward again, I cannot go straight forward or stay in the middle. I have to go side-to-side.’’
Regarding his next tournament fight, Kessler said, “I have to go back and see what I can improve and see if I still have it.’’
Gus Johnson (blow-by-blow), Al Bernstein and Antonio Tarver (analysts) called the action from ringside with Jim Gray and Jenn Brown serving as roving reports. The executive producer is David Dinkins, Jr., with Bob Dunphy directing.
Saturday’s bout will re-air:
Wednesday, Nov. 25, 11 p.m. ET/PT SHOWTIME 2
The fight will be available On Demand beginning Tuesday, Nov. 24.
SHOWTIME Boxing Schedule: In seven days, promising undefeated lightweight John Molina (18-0, 14 KOs) will face Martin Honorio (26-4-1, 14 KOs) in the 10-round main event on a special Saturday edition of ShoBox: The New Generation on Nov. 28 (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast). In the co-feature at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., Rico Ramos (13-0, 8 KOs) will be opposed by Alejandro Perez (14-1-1, 9 KOs) in an eight-round super bantamweight bout.
On Friday, Dec. 4, at Chumash Resort Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif., hard-hitting, unbeaten junior middleweight Tyrone Brunson (20-0-1, 19 KO) will be opposed by Carson Jones (23-7-1 14 KOs) in the ShoBox 10-round main event. In the eight-round co-feature, undefeated Mauricio Herrera (13-0, 6 KOs) faces Mike Anchondo (29-2, 19 KOs) in a super lightweight bout.
In a terrific battle of unbeatens in the Saturday, Dec. 12 main event at Aqua Caliente Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast), World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior welterweight champion Timothy “Desert Storm’’ Bradley (24-0, 11 KOs) of Palm Springs, Calif., will defend against Lamont “Havoc’’ Peterson (27-0, 13 KOs) of Washington, D.C. In the co-feature, Vic Darchinyan (32-2-1, 26 KOs) will risk his WBC and WBA 115-pound belts against Tomas Rojas (31-11-1, 22 KOs).
For information on all SHOWTIME Sports telecasts, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries from its events and complete information on the Super Six World Boxing Classic, please visit the website at http://www.sports.sho.com