OAKLAND, Calif. – World Boxing Association super middleweight champion Andre Ward established himself as the man to beat in Showtime's Super Six tournament with a shutout 120-108 win over Allan Green on Saturday night.
Ward dominated the fight at Oracle Arena, and seemed to break Green's will by the third or fourth round in a fight that was largely an inside game. Ward repeatedly powered Green into the ropes and fired away with body shots and an assortment of uppercuts and overhand rights. As the fight wore on, it appeared Green had given up on getting in much offense and was largely trying to survive for 12 rounds.
Ward (22-0, 13 knockouts), the 2004 Olympic gold medalist who hasn't lost as a pro or amateur dating to age 12, remained the tournament's only undefeated fighter. In retaining his championship, he also became the first fighter in the tournament to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
But first he'll have to face Andre Dirrell (19- 1, 13 knockouts). Ward and Dirrell are friends and former sparring partners who trained together before the 2004 Olympics.
"I'm a boxer and I do take more chances than Andre Ward does," said Dirrell, who was at ringside for the fight. "When in with another boxer, you need your thinking cap on. I think I'll be strategic. I'm fast. He's fast. I've sparred with him before the Olympics. It's going to be a strategic battle."
One stipulation Dirrell asked for after the fight is that it not be held Oakland, Ward's hometown. Dirrell feels he got a bad decision when fighting Carl Froch in his native Nottingham, England, where Dirrell took his first loss.
"I'm not looking forward to that happening again," he said. "If we have it in Las Vegas, that would be excellent."
Green (29-1, 20 knockouts) was a late entrant in the tournament, taking the place of Jermain Taylor. He'll face Mikkel Kessler next in what is for him a must-win situation.
Ward's only regret was that he wasn't able to deliver a knockout finish in front of a partisan audience of 8,797, which would have given him a one-point bonus in tournament scoring. Ward has four points, with a prior win over Kessler, in a tournament format that awards two points for a win, one for a draw and a bonus point for a knockout or a TKO.
"I definitely feel he stopped trying to win," said Ward. "I wanted to get the three points. Virg [trainer Virgil Hunter] wanted it. He was yelling at me to finish him in the 10th round. But he [Green] knows how to survive. I felt like I was trying. I was cognizant he was still throwing. He tries to throw a 90-yard bomb and get a touchdown. I had to stay cognizant of defense. He was holding. We're going to improve from this victory and make the necessary adjustments."
Ward beat Green in every aspect of the game. He was busier, quicker, crisper, stronger and better conditioned.
Ward took over the fight in round three, landing solid combinations to both the head and the body, and from that point, Green took no real chances and mostly played defense.
"That wasn't the game plan to stay inside," said Ward. "I think the fight was 60 to 70 percent inside. I expected a little more from him. I saw him at the weigh-in and he looked sucked in [from cutting weight]. In the ring, he still looked dry. He told me afterwards that he felt like he overtrained and he was flat."
"The inside fighting was part of it, we wanted to do it in spurts, but definitely stay close and not to pull out with our hands down," said Ward. "He caught [Edison] Miranda and Carlos De Leon like that. The guys he catches with his left hook is when they pull back or when they just stand there. It ended up being more of an inside battle than we expected. He thought I wasn't an inside fighter but, man, that's my game. Has he seen any of my fights?"
Playing that game nullified Green's five-inch reach advantage, and in the 12 rounds, Green never really adjusted.
"We had to nullify the jab," Ward continued. "That's something we worked on for seven weeks. We worked on staying low and … taking away his jab. We know he throws single jabs. He wasn't going to double up. We knew the jab and the left hook is his bread and butter. We pretty much had him figured out. The key was to take away the jab and everything would fall into place."
There were no knockdowns in the fight, but Ward damaged Green's left eye in the seventh round and Green was hospitalized after the fight and needed stitches.
Green landed some shots in the eighth round and a good right in the ninth, but couldn't follow up and did little from that point.
"I think he landed two good shots [in the fight], but it was nothing out of the ordinary," said Ward. "It's a good shot. He's a strong puncher. In a battle like that, you never acknowledge you're hurt. But I wasn't hurt and I came right back."
Ward continued to hurt Green, with similar rounds in four, six and seven and by that point it appeared the fight was virtually over.
"I feel like I won most if not all of the rounds," said Ward. "I expected a different fight, a tougher fight from Allan Green. He's a very strong puncher and he's very skilled and he wanted to come win this title.
Ward also felt the ability to defend the championship – his first successful defense – was a major career milestone. "I feel like a real champion now, getting the first title defense out of the way," he said. "It's one thing to win, but it's another to defend it. It's something special when you see a guy constantly defending the title and hear, 'and still champion.' "