By W. White: Last Saturday night, as I observed Super Middleweight champion Andre Ward (28-0, 14KO’s) disassemble Britton Paul Smith (35-6, 20 KO’s) from press row, I had questions. What was the purpose them fighting at a 172lb catch weight? Did Paul Smith purposely coming overweight to give him some sort of advantage? Is this a fight the general boxing public really wanted to see? How would Andre Ward perform given his 19 month absence from the ring? Who could possibly be next after this fight? As the fight progressed and I observed Ward tactfully picking his spots with his jab and sneaking in straight rights through Smith’s guard, I realized it was only a matter of time.
Ward kept Smith in the middle of the ring circling, probing, and striking routinely as Smith surprisingly continued to move forward. By the middle rounds, Smith’s face was flush and beginning to swell. It would seem as if this was just an over-hyped sparring match for Ward to continue to pick a part his opponent and shake of any ring dust. I say dust because there was an apparent lack of rust as Ward seemed sharp, movement wise, defensively and in overall ring generalship.
It was clear to see the determination Ward displayed in the squared circle by the way he began to sit down on his punches and look to dispatch the heavier Smith with combinations to the head and body . At 1:46 of the ninth round that call came in and the towel was thrown in from Smith’s corner saving the fighter from further abuse. The outcome was predicted and probable, expected yet no one was quite sure how it would be accomplished.
Some boxing pundits seem to think that Ward’s style is not exciting or explosive as some of his peers. Many also seem to think the same thing of Floyd Mayweather Jr. (48-0, 26 KO’s) and his boxing style which isn’t necessarily always pleasing to the general public. However the one thing the number one pound for pound and the number two pound-for-pound fighters in the world have in common is that they’re both undefeated, they both train with absolute dedication and come in the ring to execute a job with computer precision.
When you observe both fighters they are masters at the craft they employ to defeat their opponents. Mayweather possesses a special defensive skill that allows him to virtually slip punches as if he were ghost disappearing from view while delivering scoring counter punches. Andre Ward employs a style which allows him to slip punches and also deliver effective counter punches while being more aggressive and attacking his opponent.
Both fighters fight well off the ropes and seek to keep their prey in the middle of the ring where their skills are the most lethal and effective. I compare the two fighters because not only are they both undefeated they both take the same approach to training and professionalism inside the ring. Both expose their opponents with their defense, which lets them adapt to whomever they face. The pure difference between Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather is simply that Mayweather has become a master entertainer and self-promoter and Andre Ward prefers to allow his skill to speak for him. In Hip Hop people often compared Jay Z to Nas with the difference between both hip-hop purist legends being similar to Mayweather and Ward’s differences.
One side would argue NAS often avoids the limelight sometimes to his own detriment, focusing purely upon his craft as with Ward. Where Jay Z and Mayweather embrace the spotlight shining more light upon themselves and their acute business acumen while using that same mastery of craft to back it up. They are all true professionals in their own ways and means yet their approaches are different. Despite this difference their craft is never neglected and always worked on and perfected which makes them the leaders of their respective vocations. If you are all social media talk, internet famous or otherwise yet your skills are lacking the bright lights of fame will shine through exposing you like an Xray.
This is what we saw clearly in the Broner fight, as Broner put the cart before the horse, the talk before the skill, the Gram before the art. While we salute all men brave enough to risk they’re health, wealth and careers by stepping in the ring there is still another side. Let us not forget why greats become famous in the first place. It starts with a dedication to mastering your talent and strengths and the ability to display such skills consistently.
With Broner it can be as simple as a revisiting of the fundamentals of the sweet science as his emulation of his mentor Floyd Mayweather’s entertainment prowess seems to be firmly under his belt. However, I digress and return to speaking with Ward at the post fight conference. He indicated as far as the catch-weight was concerned that he could have lost two extra pounds and went down to 168 during camp. I’m led to believe that on the short notice this fight occurred a catch-weight seem the most plausible idea to allow Paul Smith to take this fight.
Ward mentioned during the post-fight conference that he wasn’t sure whether it was a tactic to come in overweight not just for Smith but also future opponents as a means to give them an added advantage. These are things that stuck with me and I felt I need to answers to. When Paul Smith entered the post conference I received some of those answers. I asked Smith whether his corner had a concrete plan for the defeating Andre Ward to which they clearly did not. Smith was also asked about being overweight and his general professionalism.
Smith replied that he was sincerely sorry and that the travel across the pond from England caused some of the problems he experienced making weight. He sincerely expressed his regret for not making the catch weight and thanked Andre Ward and his camp for assisting him in whatever way that they may have with the $60,000 fine assess for not making weight. He went on to state that there was no malicious intent by coming in heavier than the agreed-upon 172 pounds and that he had indeed misjudged the power that came from Ward.
At times fights have to be made that we don’t always want to see however when your perceived as a dangerous fighter you don’t always get the fights that you necessarily want. What’s next I asked Andre Ward and he replied “I’m available” so there’s not really quite much that needs to be said at this point. The number 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world has returned to the boxing world at a great time and is ready and available for any who would step in the ring. With Ward’s new partnership with Roc Nation sports hopefully we’ll get to see some of the exciting fights that we know should be on the horizon. Until then those that study the sweet science appreciate it for what it is and those who seek entertainment and thrills can hopefully find balance. I like to thank two piece and a biscuit for your pugilistic inspiration.