Saturday, December 17, 2011

:boxing: I Mean, It Still Works Out, Right?:: Super Six Finals: Ward vs Froch

Six men went in, half of them dropped out, two of them jeopardized their careers in two different ways, nearly as many substitutes stepped in as participants, and everyone, at some point in time, had something unfortunate happen to them. Yet despite a seemingly good idea going fifteen rounds with Murphy's Law and experiencing numerous setbacks and rescheduling along the way, the finals of Showtime's "Super Six World Boxing Classic" still managed to reach its 2011 set date (albeit, cutting it close…) with two perfectly reasonable contenders for the trophy: Andre Ward and Carl Froch.

The American Ward is the only fighter to have gotten through the Super Six with an unblemished record and, not coincidentally, is also the points leader. Englishman Froch had a more than a puncher's chance at reaching the finals, so finding him at the top despite not being one of the initial frontrunners is not too much of a shock. Even so, the tourney (with its original participants) was very well-chosen and everyone had at least one chance to beat someone else in it, so in the end, we get a fine and perfectly reasonable match-up between two top, capable fighters.

So, due to computer rescuing and Christmas shopping, let's cut to the chase. This is a pretty close one on paper, with Ward being more technically-impressive and physically-gifted, and Froch being the more rugged and unorthodox pugilist. These types of matches tend to go either way, and if the latter kind is able to exert themselves hard from the outset and try to make it a difficult task for the former to fight them, they can get the victory in impressive fashion. But as much as I would like to pick Froch, the problem is that Ward is capable of going into an unorthodox style himself, as well as employing old-school tactics (that is, the dirty ones). Combine that with Ward's greater hand speed and skill, and you have a strong possibility of Froch having a long, frustrating night. He certainly has a chance, and I'm not all in on Ward either, who I still think is underdeveloped and not at the level he should be at at this point of his career. However, he has to literally fight the best and smartest fight of his career to beat him, and right now, I'm probably less sure he can pull that off to its fullest.

Prediction: Ward, UD (if Froch has his day, Froch, UD). Should be a good, hard-fought contest, though a blowout on either end would not be out of the question.


Outcome: Ward, UD. Went pretty much as predicted, though Froch looked better in the first half then I expected. Froch's poor angling and lack of uppercuts were big factors in not giving Ward more fits, as well. While Ward fought well enough, as I said on Twitter, I still cannot find myself being impressed by him. He has way too much inate skill and ablity to rely so much on clinching, pressing opponents up against the ropes with his body for lenghty periods of time, and leading with head along the way. They may seem like slick tactics and I have seen them used to masterful effect, but Ward's employment of them breeds more of a feeling of insecurity (in what he is capable of) and weakness than cunning or guile. Besides what is present visually, there is just something about Ward that bothers me. I just don't have a lot of trust in him.

But make no mistake, Froch lost the bout fair-and-square. He needed to be at the top of his game and mistake-free and neither was the case. He as the ability to beat him, but did not enact the right plan by being pressured instead of applying the pressure (when he was most effective), and, in conjunction, not landing effectively, either. Being fair-minded and honest like he usually is, Froch said as much in his post-fight interview and knows he has much work to accomplish regarding his technical deficiencies. Hopefully, he makes due on fixing them.

As for Super Six Champion Ward, he now moves into top contention against the real prize of the tournament--a fight against division kingpin Lucian Bute. Though Ward may be dismissive of any date against him, contending that he needs to fight someone of note before he ever fights himself, I'd honestly say he's more dangerous and talented than anyone Ward has yet faced. It could be an either/or, but unlike Froch, Bute certainly has more than enough to match Ward and beat him.

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