Ward/Froch Vie for Super Middleweight Stardom

By David Matthew on December 16, 2011
Ward/Froch Vie for Super Middleweight Stardom
Andre Ward and Carl Froch have reached the top of the Super Six Classic the hard way

The Super Six World Boxing Classic has revealed hard truths, pro and con, about each and every competitor…

While the boxing world is still buzzing from two consecutive weekends of pugilistic brilliance (Cotto/Margarito and Khan/Peterson), Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall prepares for yet another superb showdown Saturday night (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) in the Super Six World Boxing Classic Final. 

While too often fighters are prematurely lionized before testing their true mettle in the trenches, both Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) and Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) have reached the top the hard way; by actually fighting the best to become the best—a concept far too novel in boxing today. For this reason alone, Ken Hershman (who will take over the helm at HBO in 2012) and Showtime Sports deserve a standing ovation for their innovative vision in developing this intriguing divisional tournament. 

Ward was not the favorite when the tournament began, but he will be the 2-to-1 favorite going into Saturday’s fight. This is still largely because of his one-sided victory over early favorite Mikkel Kessler. While it is true that Kessler was badly cut by Ward headbutts in that bout, there is no denying that before, during, and after the butts, Ward was dominating Kessler with crafty angles, superior timing, and an application of bully-inside fighting that frustrated Kessler and eroded his confidence. It may have been an unsightly performance to some, but Ward’s style proved to be tremendously effective as the tournament progressed. In Ward’s second tournament bout, he dominated unproven Allan Green in such a lopsided manner that many wondered if Green would continue his career. In his next two bouts, Ward so outclassed Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham that he made it look like they had no business being in the same ring with him.

It is difficult to pinpoint a weakness in Ward’s game. He is extremely well trained. He displays the patience and ring intelligence of a veteran technician matched with the athleticism and quick reflexes of a counterpuncher. While not the heaviest puncher in terms of raw power and strength, Ward possesses a seemingly unbreakable will that seems to overpower opponents mentally. He excels at fighting on the inside—and he loves to wage war in tight corners, chest-to-chest with his opponent. Conversely, Ward is sufficiently proficient fighting at a distance, and can pepper opponents with well-timed jabs and straight right hands all night long. Ward’s versatility has frustrated and bewildered every opponent he’s faced to date.

Ward and Froch have pivoted from respectful professionals to purveyors of bright-eyed boxing bravado throughout the pre-fight interviews and face-offs. “This isn’t the Carl Froch show,” explained Ward in a recent Fight Camp 360°conducted by Showtime’s Jim Gray. “Carl is not in control in this fight like he is against other guys. He tries to outtalk people and be philosophical. He talks too much.” While Froch has tried to convince Ward that he is the stronger guy with the psychological edge, Ward has made it clear that he’s not intimidated. “Like he (Froch) said in the press-conference—he’s going to be aiming for my head early and often. Well, I’m going to do the same thing.” Throughout the pre-fight pageantry, Ward has sought to distinguish himself from what he regards as excessive Froch bravado. “See, I was raised different,” Ward said. “I don’t pat myself on my back and tell people how great I am. I let them determine who is great for themselves.”

Even before the Super Six tournament, Froch was already facing the top guys in the division. Consider this: Since June of 2008, Froch has faced Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Glen Johnson. I’m comfortable in saying that this is perhaps the toughest schedule any fighter has had to face in boxing in the past few years. His only loss during that stretch (and the sole blemish on his record) came from a highly contested and controversial decision loss to Kessler, in what was a tremendous Fight of the Year candidate. And he now faces Ward—who many regard as the best super middleweight in the world. But Froch doesn’t just talk with brash bravado—he fights with it too.

What is interesting about Froch is that he’s an anomaly in his own right. He is highly revered in the British boxing world, but fights with a slick American style that few British fighters have mastered. With great length for his size, Froch surprises opponents with the deceptive reach of his fully extended snapping jab and sniper-like straight right hands. In addition, with an awkwardly thrown uppercut that lands at different angles, Froch skillfully disrupts his opponent’s rhythm with meticulous timing. At his best, Froch showcases a slick stalking style that overwhelms his opposition with superior strength and pressure. We saw this on full display in his KO victory of Taylor, and in his one-sided thumping of Abraham and Johnson.

At his worst, Froch looks outright sloppy, slow, and vulnerable to counters. During the Kessler fight, there were moments where Kessler was able to find and stun the sturdy-chinned Brit. When he fought Dirrell, Froch struggled to a very close decision victory against a supremely quick, elusive, and athletic opponent. Still, even in fights where Froch doesn’t seem to be the more physically gifted fighter, he always seems to edge his opponent mentally. Against Ward—a man with extreme mental focus and discipline—it will be interesting to see who succeeds in the psychological grappling for high ground.

Like his British compatriots who have mastered the art of boxing bravado, Froch comes from the Naseem Hamed/David Haye/Lennox Lewis/Amir Khan school of Brit-bred confidence that some regard as arrogance. Possessing a quick wit and amiable communicative ability, Froch is sometimes able to seduce you into thinking that he’s better than he actually is. Even in boxing, perception is sometimes reality.

“He knows I’m a dangerous fighter,” explained Froch. “He knows I’m brutal and I can punch hard. He knows if I connect on his chin at any point in the fight he’s going to be in serious trouble. The important thing is—I hurt fighters. If you hurt them you stop them in their track. I don’t feel Ward can hurt me. He doesn’t hurt many fighters.”

In classic Froch style, he attempted to convince Ward of his superior pedigree: “It’s not about television or bravado,” Froch exclaimed. “I’m telling you categorically: You can’t knock me out, not without a mallet. But I’m telling you, I can knock you out.” Ward simply sneered in response to the challenge, indicating that he wasn’t buying “The Carl Froch Show.”

In what could be the most fascinating cerebral chess match in boxing this year, Atlantic City is in for a treat as two great champions in their prime do battle for super middleweight supremacy. “At this level there’s not much that separates the top, world-class athletes,” said Froch. “We’re both very fit. Our heart rates will be low. We’ll both make weight. We’re both strong.” Froch then shifted gears and talked about what makes him different from Ward. “I punch harder than Ward—that’s a fact. But he’s probably faster than me, quicker than me. But there’s very little to separate us.”

We shall find out exactly what separates these two warriors as both have vowed to leave Boardwalk Hall with the coveted Super Six Boxing Classic Championship Cup. Good for Ward and Froch—and good for boxing. Say what you will about the unexpected cancellations, injuries, and withdrawals that the tournament endured through its multi-year lifespan. But the truth is, this tournament has been great for boxing and its fans. With its round robin sequencing, the Super Six guaranteed that the best fighter in the division would emerge in the end. While Kessler and Dirrell were the most physically gifted fighters to enter the tournament, they were defeated by mentally sturdier fighters who were prepared to do more than they were to win. While Abraham may have been the strongest fighter in terms of brute physical strength, his technique was inferior against fighters of higher technical proficiency. That’s what has been great about this tournament—that either through inability to endure the grueling schedule or through a brutal exposure of boxing weakness, this tournament revealed hard truths, pro and con, about each and every competitor.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

SuperSix WBC Stage 1 - Mikkel Kessler vs Andre Ward

SuperSix WBC Stage 2 - Carl Froch vs Mikkel Kessler

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part1 (Pre Fight Build Up)

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part2

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part3

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part4

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part5

Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor HD Part6

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  1. AKT 12:02pm, 12/17/2011

    @Old Yank: I know it’s banter. That’s why I laughed. Iron sharpens Iron; it takes the best to push the best forward. We all need to be on our toes. It’s called progress.

  2. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:37am, 12/17/2011

    AKT—The Thresher and the Old Yank are old enough and forgetful enough to leave a screw driver in our back pocket from time to time when we sit down—bustin’ our own asses and tearnin’ up the furniture. He’s the bee’s knees when it comes to writting a crakin’ good piece about boxing—especially when it shows off his depth of knowledge about overlooked talent in years gone by. Don’t let the banter fool you - we’ve been sparring for years and my respect for him is huge.

  3. AKT 02:03am, 12/17/2011

    Is it Ward vs. Froch or thresher vs. old yank on tonight? lol

    My gut feel says that if both fighters fight the way they always have, Ward will take a UD over Froch. But from the way Froch has been talking (never underestimate any boxer’s power. knockout punches do not have to be heavy handed. There is also the surprise factor), I think he may get knocked out.

    We shall see.

  4. raxman 08:58pm, 12/16/2011

    Irish Frankie - i think froch will use the right uppercut and i fear ward will counter left hook him every time - froch drops his hand and straightens up in similar manner to ali. and when i see i fear ward will counter thats my heart speaking - my wallet and my mind wants ward to hit froch and stop him!!

  5. raxman 08:56pm, 12/16/2011

    yank - i hope you’re right about ward. i’ve been on him since athens and i always thought he was great but at the start of this tourney you convinced me he was on his way to being #1p4p - knowing both froch and ward would face each other prior to their wining the semis i had a long time to think on this result. about a week ago i started to convince myself froch would win. my heart had fully got over my head. froch has become my favourite fighter. his point of difference both stylistically in the ring and his manner outside coupled with his deep talent pool resume has a lot to do with that. but today as i put my bets on the head took over and i’ve put a weeks pay on ward at 6-1 but it has to be by ko. a points win and i do my dough (a points win was paying less than 3-2. i figure taylor hit froch alot so ward should hit him more.  i see this being similar to floyd vs chico where by the championship rounds ward is landing unanswered punches on froch.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 06:19pm, 12/16/2011

    A proven antidote for fighters who engage their opponents head first is a cracking good uppercut like Bute throws. Khan had Lamont going in the ninth with this punch and then for some illogical reason stopped using it until the end when he almost took Peterson’s head off with one. Froch needs to use all the weapons in his his arsenal tomorrow night especially this one.

  7. JC45 06:00pm, 12/16/2011

    My pick is Andre Ward by a fairly wide space . Carl is a plodding stalker type , never a good style to fight a slick boxer like Ward. Then you factor in the fact that Andre is a far superior inside fighter to Frochy. Ward gets a bad rap from the Kessler fight. He jabbed the Dane to pieces . It wasnt his head that beat Kessler. I wouldnt actually be stunned if Froch is the one who backs up. Glen Johnson had him backing up and in some early trouble in that fight. Ward managed to back Kessler up. Cheers all and its nice to see the top blokes in a division actually fight each other. I’ve really enjoyed the Super 6 even though it should have been a knock out event.

  8. the thresher 02:52pm, 12/16/2011

    Yep. If it’s not a barnburner, all bets are off. And somebody like Arce will get it.

  9. Don From Prov 01:00pm, 12/16/2011

    Agreed—another good article.  Mr. Sares summed up Ward nicely below: He is a tough man to beat, but Mr. Casey has seen a fight or two and indicated that he leaned toward Froch.  I’d venture that though Ward is a beast in close, Froch’s best shot is to turn the fight into a war mid-distance/close/mid-distance—if he can: Strength and grit might win out then, but I have come to like both these fighters and don’t care about who wins as much as I am hoping for a good fight.

  10. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:54pm, 12/16/2011

    The Thresher—I tend to agree. This bout needs to be a barnburner, or else…. If it is, then the walk-of-fire these guys came through might justly be rewarded with naming the winner Figher of the Year.

  11. the thresher 12:49pm, 12/16/2011

    In fact, unless something really fantastice happens, I can’t see Ward OR Froch being the fighter of the year. Ward beat an exposed Abraham in a snoozer and Froch beat Glen Johnson who is nothing any more, I don’t think either man did enough this year SO FAR..

    That is all. I’m done posting for the night unless David responds

  12. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:42pm, 12/16/2011

    Pressure cooker for both fighters. I’ve gotten the impression that both can handle it. Thats all—no counter-punching intended. Peace to you.

  13. the thresher 12:42pm, 12/16/2011

    Ward can fight outside, is especially good on the inside and can switch stances and fight effectively. Ward’s defense is also very subtle but effective.

    When it comes to skills the 2004, 178lb Olympic Gold medalist Andre Ward hasn’t lost a fight since he was 13 years old. His international experience is 2nd to none in the amateur ranks

    Conclusion: Froch might as well stay home.

    But here is something to ponder given the styles of these tow. This fight could be a lousy one or it could end early on cuts. If so, the winner will be hard pressed to get Fighter of the Year. The possibility of this fight being a stinker is quite distinct.

  14. the thresher 12:27pm, 12/16/2011

    “Old Yank” Schneider, I said I think Ward will have the pressure on him. Certainly that’s no reason to get your panties in a bunch. Just stop the pedantic need to counter each and every post. Go on Bob’s fine thread and post there or on another thread. Stop bothering me. Thank you.

  15. the thresher 12:24pm, 12/16/2011

    Poor Froch. Looks like he doesn’t have a tinker’s chance here. That said, I hope he gets this kid into a brawl early and then roughs him up in the corners and on the ropes. Miranda was shot.. AA looked shot. Froch will be a diffrent kettle of fish. He is deceptively strong with the dame body structure as Marciano. Wide back and long neck. Almost look like a goat which is what they called the Rock. He also has a mean streak.

    Man I would love to see him UPSET S.O.G.. but Ward is one of the few fighters out there who can adjust to changing circumstances and that likely will prove fatal to the Cobra, Still…..

  16. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:22pm, 12/16/2011

    Gold Medal pressure in Athens, Greece. WBA championship bout pressure against Kessler. Pressure of three title defenses (Green, Bika and Abraham). My opinion is that Ward has handled pressure well. Fairly poised in and out fo the ring. I imagine it’s a pressure cooker for tomorrow night for both fighters and I wish them both well and hope that it is a no-excuses bout (no pressure collapses, no butts, no health excuses, no ref excuses, no judge excuses, no excuses).

  17. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:13pm, 12/16/2011


  18. the thresher 12:03pm, 12/16/2011

    Well, you know everything so must MUST be right

  19. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:01pm, 12/16/2011

    I think Ward was in a high-pressure environment for the Kessler bout and left me with the suggestion that he handles pressure fairly well.

  20. the thresher 11:59am, 12/16/2011

    This is worth a peak. It’s an interview with Froch re GQ. Very well done.


  21. Robert Ecksel 11:49am, 12/16/2011

    I agree. My immediate reaction was that Smoger was the wrong ref for this fight.

  22. the thresher 11:42am, 12/16/2011

    That’s really a shame. That is an insult to California refs and also increases the possibility of a TD or the possibility of butts and cuts.

    Sooner or later some will need to ask the hard questions here re SS.

  23. Robert Ecksel 11:33am, 12/16/2011

    Unless there’s been a change, I heard it was Steve Smoger.

  24. the thresher 11:23am, 12/16/2011

    Yes Irish. I wonder who the ref will be?

  25. the thresher 11:22am, 12/16/2011

    AA picks Ward.

    Dirrell picks Ward.

    So nothing new here and it puts more pressure on Ward.

  26. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 11:21am, 12/16/2011

    The writers on this Boxing.com have their own Super Six tourney going on! That being said, when you write about Kessler being ” badly cut by Ward headbutts” or Ward’s “unsightly performance”  or Ward preferring to fight “chest to chest” (more like head to face) you are basically describing a “tremendously effective” dirty fighter. Headbutts can be just as devastating to a fighter as loaded gloves and intentional headbutts are just as despicable. This particularly repugnant infraction doesn’t have to be as obvious as Ortiz’s foul to be intentional, so the great fight that we all are hoping for on Saturday will depend in large part (more so than in most fights) on who the referee is.

  27. the thresher 11:19am, 12/16/2011

    Glen Johnson picks Ward.

    Bute picks Ward.

    Mikkel Kessler picks Froch.

    “Another advantage for Froch is the tournament history - he had some very tough fights that made him even stronger.”

  28. "Old Yank" Schneider 10:19am, 12/16/2011

    David—Keep in mind…Ward fought at light-heavy in the Olympics (a 178 pound amateur limit—not 175 pound pro limit). When he turned pro they slowly took him down to 160—seeing if they could safely campaign him as a middleweight. The bout link you posted was the proof that Ward could not be dried out to 160 safely. Following the bout against Darnell Boone, Ward fought only one more bout where he weighed in at 160. Dehydration of the brain cortex increases shock to the brain dramatically. Moving Ward up to 168 was entirely the right thing to do. I place little to no credence in Ward getting rattled to the ground in 2005 at 160 – I chalk it up to a bad experiment in attempting to dry him out. Those (i.e. Froch) who make too much of this, do so at their own risk.

  29. David Matthew 10:00am, 12/16/2011

    FYI - here’s the only time Ward has been hurt & down in his pro career:  http://splicd.com/vNeJ6RXkgoM/745/768

  30. David Matthew 09:59am, 12/16/2011

    Yes that’s well-said Yank…I also had Dirrell winning that fight (albeit by one point) - but Dirrell really blew the game-plan by not throwing enough punches in that fight.

    I’m picking Ward by UD - but Froch always finds a way to make a fight competitive…I don’t see a wide decision victory…but 7 rounds to 5 or 8 rounds to 4 for Ward.

  31. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:32am, 12/16/2011

    David—I’m one of many who believe Dirrell beat Froch. And there are many who believe Froch beat Kessler—so perhaps all is right with the Karma surrounding Froch. I agree that Froch’s path has been as tough as nails. But the downside is that many fans believe he lost two important bouts along this path and got damn lucky Taylor (ahead on points) ran out of gas. When we temper enthusiasm with reasonable critique, Froch may very well have more chinks in his armor than his fans are willing to admit. Catch you in AC!

  32. David Matthew 09:16am, 12/16/2011

    Thank you for the encouraging words, thresh…greatly appreciated.  Agreed on the point of Dirrell reacting like a rabbit to Froch’s hounding.  While in my opinion Dirrell possesses exquisite physical gifts (super fast-twitch reflexive ability, speed, great foot-work/coordination, decent pop in his punches - it may all be for naught because I suspect that psychologically he simply isn’t a fighter…he’s a tremendous athlete and I do think he’s one of the most physically gifted guys in the sport.  If he only could find some of the hard-nosed courage that his brother possesses, he could be at the top of the division.

  33. mikecasey 09:04am, 12/16/2011

    You know, Ted, I’m really looking forward to this one. I want Carl to win as a fellow Limey, but I really don’t care who wins if it’s a corker if a fight that does credit to the game. And I believe it has the potential to be exactly that. If it goes the full 12, I just hope we won’t have to endure the tiresome ritual of scorecards that have been cynically revised a la Khan-Peterson.

  34. the thresher 05:51am, 12/16/2011

    But nice work David. Your stuff is getting better and better with each piece. You are like a boxer who is quickly becoming a title contender.

  35. the thresher 05:50am, 12/16/2011

    “While Kessler and Dirrell were the most physically gifted fighters ...” Not so sure about Dirrell. He was the most rabbit like as he ran from Froch like a hare being chased by a hound.

  36. the thresher 05:48am, 12/16/2011

    “Froch has faced Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Glen Johnson. I’m comfortable in saying that this is perhaps the toughest schedule any fighter has had to face in boxing in the past few years. ”  Agreed. Far tougher than Ward’s. No comparison.

  37. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:03am, 12/16/2011

    Fabulous pre-cap to this bout. As Froch said, he’s got the power and Ward’s got the speed. And I’m going with the classic “sure thing”—speed beats power every time (hyperbole for effect). And I’m going out on a 1:28 limb (per odds-makers line), and predicting a KO/TKO win for Ward (late).

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