Andre Ward: All Terrain Fighter

By Ted Spoon on November 20, 2013
Andre Ward: All Terrain Fighter
Andre Ward doesn't just wait for the opportunities but makes them. (Naoki Fukuda)

Ward may have fared better against the rougher, older generation. I can picture him tangling with the likes of Gene Fullmer, Jake LaMotta and Dick Tiger…

I doubt there will be a single thrilling contest. We may even end up with another boxer hanging them up without tasting defeat. 

At its worst boxing is characterized by prolonged absences, awful decisions and failed superfights, but though our right to bitch is an important privilege it has opened the flood gates to waves of, shall we say questionable opinion.

If Andre Ward bores you I’d suggest setting up your own milling federation in the back garden.

On November 16th, after 14 months out of serious competition, Ward dissected a very game Edwin Rodriguez. Nobody could question the decision but quite a bit of flak came regarding the rough n’ tumble nature of the bout. With no blatant fouls committed, and both men happy to lock horns, I can only insist that most of tomorrow’s ‘foul-ridden’ headlines were unjustified. Furthermore, referee Jack Reiss (while doing a good job) was guilty of milking his authority. “Relax” should not be part of a referee’s jargon. I can still hear Larry Merchant from ringside.

“What do you mean calm it down?!…The referee’s telling two fighters who want to fight to calm it down?!... YOU calm down! 

In that fourth round scuffle he was not hit. Fortunately the lecture ended after two points apiece were taken away. It was a minor grievance. My focus quickly shifted back to the professor from Oakland. Poised, elbows tucked, hands favorably high; I’m quite big on posture and Ward cuts a sleek figure. He moves back, then close, listening to his instincts, but there is no light tread. His knees are bent to launch him forward, and that is the foundation for a neck-cranking jab. 

I recall the great Barney Ross writing about how a fighter should “burn the punch in,” to get every last drop out it; a certain twist at the end that Sam Langford and Jack Dempsey emphasized. Andre certainly can’t punch like those cats, but his stellar technique makes boxing’s most basic punch a hurtful one; similar to Erik Morales who lost his pop but never that ability to make you grimace.

Andre’s left hand was often a jab, sometimes a hook, and at others it was in between, utterly confusing. Many of history’s great boxer’s will have a bilingual left hand. Going way back Jim Corbett was said to have used a blow in between a jab and a hook which John L. Sullivan could not read to save his life. Those in the furthest rows of the Citizens Business Bank Arena could not have spotted it but Ward was changing the angle of that left to perfection.

The right hand was thrown in drips n’ drabs, understandable for a man who’s test-driving his new shoulder, but when it made a cameo, be it a body hook or a cross, it landed squarely. When used in conjunction with his left there were some lovely combinations, none more so than those that appeared in the first minute of the sixth round. Edwin had no idea what was coming his way as Ward layered his attack in a way that can’t be traced.

Preparing each volley was some very educated movement. Ward doesn’t just wait for the opportunities but makes them, marching into your space, getting you to react, and then draws you back to ring center or “deep waters” as he likes to put it. Rodriguez was perhaps running out of ideas at this point, and his weight troubles didn’t aid his cause, but what advice would you have given him?

Ronnie Shields would have been equally useful singing the national anthem at his disarmed pupil. 

The left hook was often blocked, but Ward is happy if he’s hitting the target. It all plays its part in keeping the opponent undecided, increasing the margin for error. That big hook which got through the tenth was a beaut. Edwin’s resolve was equally impressive; I can only vouch that he is one tough hombre. That shot would have splatted many contenders.   

It was measured for the last two rounds, no clowning, no cruising. Edwin didn’t win a single round (unless you’re a family member).

It was a technical whitewash by a fighter who can beat you from the inside out. Andre is a self-confessed admixture of various fighters. He gives credit where it’s due; the jab to body is Floyd’s, and watching Larry Holmes inquire for the first two rounds has rubbed off on him, but every quirk is lost when weaved with such intuition. What impresses me the most is it’s very rare to see a super boxer who can really fight, like a politician who comes off as a cool dude.   

Floyd Mayweather has that miraculous dimension about him, removing the target in a wink, but I feel Ward may have fared better against the rougher, older generation. Happy to bull his way in, and splendid at defending against rabbit punches, I can picture Ward tangling with the likes of Gene Fullmer, Jake LaMotta and Dick Tiger. We need not get in a huff about who would have won, but I’m beginning to see what Andre meant when he described himself as an “all-terrain fighter.”

I’d be content for a rematch with Carl Froch, for the same reason fans of art enjoy watching a master go about his work, but we couldn’t pretend it would be to see who the best is; we already know the answer to that one. The prospect of a fight with the rib-crushing Kazakh, Gennady Golovkin is sweet indeed, but built more off pretty wrapping at the moment I feel. Positive signals are coming from the 168-pound king concerning this matter, but he probably speaks on behalf of everyone when he hinted at the baby-faced killer growing a little more before taking on such responsibility.

On the other side of the coin are two prickly customers at light-heavyweight. Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev would be tough fights, no doubt about it. The real question is could Ward spin and march his man off-balance against such brutes? If he could I think both would have trouble staying afloat. In any event, whoever is next appointed to try and decode boxing’s rubric cube, it’s a win-win situation…at least for this admirer.

Shortly after win number 27, when the fighters were back in their dressing rooms and fans sighed as they squashed their way home, someone caught up with referee Jack Reiss to discuss his officiating. I generally agreed with everything he said. His methods did clean up the fight a bit, and Rodriguez does have a helluva chin. Invariably they got onto the subject every keyboard warrior was currently making a thread bout.   

“Ward hasn’t really captured the imagination…any idea why?”

“Y’know, styles make fights, and his style is of don’t get hit. Andre doesn’t go after that *talking hand gesture*…maybe he should.”

I’ll paraphrase his sentiment.

Maybe everyone needs to spot those classy moves that blind the opposition.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Tom Seering 12:00pm, 01/23/2015

    go away ward .ggg would wipe you out.the krusher would hurt you seriously.why does HBO even have this can’t punch never fights guy on their shows

  2. Ted Spoon 04:46pm, 11/21/2013

    Cheers for the kind remarks, gents! The stripper theme was a welcome surprise.

  3. El Bastardo Magnifico 12:56pm, 11/21/2013

    Pants to the knees—ha ha with all them there sort pornee home movies been doing, pants to the knees is the perfect position for a man of action!!!!

  4. Jack 12:29pm, 11/21/2013

    Pete, try and pick a joint that doesn’t have a strict dress code, because Junior wears his pants close to his knees, he may not get in!!!!!

  5. El Bastardo Magnifico 11:07am, 11/21/2013

    I am in (oops wrong expression) er, ah, hell I’ll even park the car!!!! I don’t think S.O.G. is coming along. Some of the gents up here call that a Swift Operating Guard by the by.

  6. Pete The Sneak 10:32am, 11/21/2013

    LOL…Touche’ Jack, Touche’...I’m actually waiting on my invite from Adrien Broner for his next strip club/stripper porking excursion. Once received, I’ll make sure you and Jack junior are down. As a matter of fact, I think we should take El Bastardo Magnifico with us. Word out is that he has the Ducats to ‘make it rain’ in the strip joint….Peace.

  7. Jack 10:16am, 11/21/2013

    Good article Ted and yes Ward could “Hang” with those guys you mentioned because of his style and adaptability ( don’t know who would win though ). All good comments and observations by guys with high boxing IQs. Pete, put me on the list next time you are headed out to the strip club, my son and I will join you. I especially like the porking aspect!!!!

  8. The Fight Film Collector 09:35am, 11/21/2013

    Ted, this is an elegant profile.  Excellent work.  I live in the bay area, and with Andre being a local hero, we kept an eye on him after the Olympics.  His team chose to bring him up slowly as a professional, and mostly under the radar.  It paid off.  He made a splash in the Super Six in part because he was the underdog going in.  The media makes “capturing the public’s imagination” an issue, because that’s how they make a living.  Screw them.  We see everyday what they sell.  I wish Andre the best.  I appreciate a great stylist who knows when it’s time to dig in and close the show – Robinson, Charles, Tunney, Ali, Leonard, Johnson, Gavilan, Gans, Moore, to name just a few.  None of whom had trouble capturing the public eye.

  9. Matt McGrain 09:06am, 11/21/2013

    Very interesting.  I like it when you apply your form to a more modern subject.

  10. El Bastardo Magnifico 08:36am, 11/21/2013

    ANDRE was in big trouble and KNOCKED DOWN SOLID against one of the few guys on his record that had clear proven one punch knockout out power, in Darnell Boone. That turned out to be a tough fight for him and as such I think a fight with Stevenson or Kovalev would be very very interesting—Andre has the boxing skills but not the power—would he be able to keep these beasts at bay??? Those two are what he should/we should be asking for—not the undersized Middle GGG who has unfinished business at his weight.

  11. Pete The Sneak 05:55am, 11/21/2013

    Let’s see…Ward has a very defensive style of fighting, yet wins fights against tough opponents handily…Ward is a soft spoken individual not prone to trash talking and shows respect to his opponents…Is a dedicated family man…Is a person grounded in his religious beliefs and faith…Is not shown flushing money down the toilet…Does not go to strip clubs to get video taped showing off his privates and porking strippers…Yes, I can see why Ward “hasn’t really captured the imagination.” Certainly wouldn’t want my kid emulating him, that’s for sure…Nice write up there Mr. Spoon…Peace.

  12. GlennR 09:36pm, 11/20/2013

    Great article Ted, i think youre spot on with your call about him fighting the old timers…. he’d do just fine.

    Great comment on posture, first thing i look at in a fighter

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