By Glen Anglin: Saturday night, Andre Ward showed the world (at least all those who care to see without bias) that he has staked a legitimate claim as ‘the Man’ in the super middleweight division. Ward showed the right stuff in defeating the Danish tough guy and longtime title holder, Mikkel Kessler. Contrary to my predictions for the fight, Andre Ward showed that his exquisite boxing skills and game plan were superior to Mikkel Kessler’s power, experience and determination. His performance heralded a new era in this division. Andre Ward is the real deal.
Kessler attempted to do in this fight what he has done so often against previous foes; walk forward, size up his opponent for a few rounds, find the range with his hard jab, and then take over the fight with his right hand later in the match. However, on this night, it was not to be. From the opening bell, Ward used his quicksilver speed and skill to good advantage and never relinquished the upper hand in the fight. With a few exceptions he won every exchange. Ward moved extremely well and used his hand speed and reflexes to land his own jab and combinations and then slip Kessler’s return fire.
Even on those few occasions when Ward got a little wild with his attack and came in flailing and out of control, Kessler was unable to make him pay with a hard counter shot. In fact, in this fight the most important of Ward’s skills was not his excellent hand speed or foot speed, which were both superior to Kessler’s, but his ability to slip Kessler’s right hand, even when he was in Kessler’s preferred range. At least 30 times Kessler was in position to land his poleax right, but each time, he just barely missed. This was due to Ward’s terrific defensive reflexes and training. He ducked and slipped the Dangerous Dane’s hard right every time.
The match was marred by two nasty cuts suffered by Kessler that were due to clashes of heads. Both cuts were on Kessler’s brow and caused him considerable trouble. Both cuts were caused by unintentional head butts. The first was a complete accident, as both men were seeking punching position when their heads met. The second cut (and the one that eventually caused the ring doctor to stop the fight) was caused when Ward dove in head first to close the distance with Kessler and in doing so rammed the top of his head into Kessler’s forehead. Ward was not attempting to actually butt Kessler, so much as he was trying to stay close to Kessler to avoid punches (Kessler showed a complete lack of aggression when the two fighters were in close quarters). Ward had done the same movement numerous times in the fight, but until this instance, it did not actually cause a bad clash of heads. However, Ward could have been legitimately warned or penalized for the second head butt. Although it was not an intentional head butt, it was a dangerous head movement and caused a serious cut. However, let’s not allow the cuts to distract us from the reality of the fight. Ward was superior from the outset and with few exceptions; he continued to be so until the referee stopped the fight.
Also, let’s not take away from Ward’s victory by downgrading the quality of Kessler as an opponent. Kessler was an excellent champion and defeated many good fighters. His lone loss prior to Ward was to the all time great Joe Calzaghe. Make no mistake, Ward defeated, even dominated, an excellent boxer in Kessler. With more performances like this one and a little improvement in his power punching, Andre Ward can stay atop the super middle weight division for a long time. JGA