Ward Whips Kessler & Wins Technical Decision
By Paul Strauss - Andre S.O.G Ward dominated Mikkel Kessler from start to finish at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA, on Saturday. Now Showtime's Super Six is two for Europe and one for the USA. Ward could arguably feel he deserves two points for the win and one point for stopping Kessler, but Referee Jack Reiss' ruling that the cut (one of many) that ended the fight was caused by an unintentional head-butt prevented that from happening. Instead of being a technical knockout (TKO), the fight went to the judges' scorecards for a technical decision. Two judges scored the fight 98-92, and the third had it 97-93. For now Ward is content win the upset victory over the tournament favorite Kessler, and capturing of the World Boxing Association (WBA) Super Middleweight Title belt.
Article posted on 22.11.2009
According to Showtime Announcers Al Bernstein, Gus Johnson and Antonio Tarver, there were five unintentional head-butts over the course of the fight; although Tarver expressed an opinion that the fight was dominated by Ward and so one-sided that he deserved the extra point for a stoppage, which would have placed him in a tie with Arthur “King” Abraham for a lead in the Super Six Tournament. However, Al Bernstein quickly pointed out that the referee was very specific as to which cut of several to Kessler's face was what he deemed responsible for the stoppage. It was the cut above the right eye, which was caused by a butt that occurred in the eighth round..
In the post-fight interview, as usual Jim Gray was salivating over Mikkel Kessler's provocative comments in which he expressed the opinion that Andre Ward intentionally head-butted him. He added that Ward repeatedly held and hit him, and would jump back inside to hit him after clinches. Those comments will fuel some discussion about the fight, and an attempt will be made to diminish the dominance Ward enjoyed in beating the daylights out of Kessler, but they should fall short.
The fact is Ward won just about every round with superior speed, technique, and volume punching. He quickly established a good jab in the fight, and followed it with a variety of punches coming from different angles, including a good left uppercut used on the inside. Every time Kessler would appear to be getting something started in the way of attack, Ward would again take the play away from him with a flurry of punches.
From beginning to end, Ward kept Kessler off balance and for the most part unable to get many combinations started, especially his famed one-two. In fact, it is doubtful Kessler landed one good right hand to the head all night. He did manage to get some good right hand shots in to Ward's body, but Andre weathered them just fine.
On those few occasions when Mikkel would fire off more than one punch, his punches would either miss or be blocked, with the exception of a couple of left hooks. If he was fortunate to land one, he would immediately get several shots in return, and control of fight would remain with Ward. Later in the fight, Kessler's attempts to counter with a left hook became very wild, and appeared to be thrown out of shear desperation. By that time his corner was telling him he needed a knockout to win.
Kessler attempted to explain his poor showing by saying he was prevented from getting into any kind of rhythm because of Ward's dirty tactics. When Jim Gray employed his usual provocative tactics by returning to Ward for a response, Ward simply said he is not a dirty fighter and never has been one.
If you saw the fight, you would have to agree that there were two aggressive fighters in the ring, and many times they came at each other hard to land their shots. Often times Ward would be fight out of the southpaw stance, or square up, which meant heads would meet. Ward's style is to continually change angles and positions, so that he can land punches from different angles, and present an elusive target for possible counter punches. That means his head is sometimes lower than his opponent's head. If the other fighter comes in "face first" then he is going to run into the top of Ward's head, as did Kessler on Sat. Also, head clashes undoubtedly occurred because of the speed of Ward's attack. Kessler simply wasn't prepared for the assault, and would be out of position.
Concerning Kessler's charge that the referee was from the USA and therefore biased is hard to support. It appeared that Referee Reiss did allow the two fighters the opportunity to fight out of the clinches, which all referees are supposed to do, rather than inserting themselves continually into the action. When you fight out of a clinch that means you continue to fight as you separate, and Kessler was not prepared for that maneuver. Also, Kessler's gloved hands were behind Ward's back just as much as Ward's were behind Kessler’s back. As a result, Referee Reiss could also be heard warning Kessler to quit holding.
One important point is that Ward was always trying to fight on the inside, and as previously mentioned, that is when he was able to land some punishing uppercuts. Kessler wanted more space to land his longer punches, but Ward wasn't about to let him have that space. That's usually considered part of in-fighting and is not a dirty tactic.
Now Kessler has to regroup, get all of his cuts and bruises attended to and get ready for another rough customer by the name of Carl Froch. Ward appeared relatively unmarked, and will be enjoying his time off. There was some post-fight speculation about the status of Jermain Taylor, and whether he was going to continue to remain a part of the Super Six Tournament after his brutal last second knockout at the hands of King Arthur. But, the consensus seemed to be that he was in training, and would be eager to try and regain a title belt. It is going to be a hard task for anyone to try and get it out of the hands of Ward.
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