Andre Ward staked his claim as the top super middleweight fighter in the world after defeating Carl Froch in a unanimous decision in the Super Six World Boxing Classic final on Saturday.
Ward used his speed and a combination of lefts to retain his WBA championship and win the WBC super middleweight belt in the final bout of the unique tournament that stretched out over two years.
“One of the strongest assets I have is my mind. I kept my composure, I kept things under control and we pulled it off,” Ward said. “I hope I did a good job, but we can still get better, believe it or not.”
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) dictated the pace from the opening round, connecting on a series of left hooks to rattle his English opponent. One judge scored it 118-110 for Ward and two others had it 115-113.
“We wanted to fight inside and outside, and we pulled it off,” Ward said. “I was actually surprised at how slow Froch was. He was as slow as he was on tape.”
Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) did not unleash his power punches until late, finally showing some overdue aggression in the 10th round.
“I wanted to put my shots together, but he moves around and slips and slides. He’s very good at that,” Froch said. “And that’s why it was a bad night for me.”
Ward entered the six-man, 168 pound (76kg) tournament as the underdog to the more experienced Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham, but dominated the field en route to taking the title.
He won Saturday’s bout despite injuring his left hand in training and then again in the sixth round. With each left hook and quick jab he could have fooled Froch that there was anything wrong with his dominant hand.
“I figured out during the fight I could explode with a left hook,” Ward said. “I know he felt some of those hooks.”
Ward, 27, has not lost as an amateur or a professional since he was 14. He capped an outstanding amateur career by winning a gold medal for the US in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Ward and Froch had been slated to meet on Oct. 29 before Ward suffered a cut while sparring and had to postpone the bout for nearly two months.
Ward smothered Froch when they were close, then managed to keep his distance from Froch for most of the rest of the bout. He landed 243 of 573 of his punches (42 percent), while Froch was a miserable 23 percent (156 of 683).
Froch, who lost and regained his WBC belt during the inaugural Super Six tournament, averaged only 56 punches per round after averaging 69 in his previous four fights.
“I never found myself in the zone where I could get my shots off and do what I want. That’s something I’m going to have to work on in the gym,” he said.
Froch, 34, went 4-1 in the previous rounds of the tournament. He opened with a 12-round decision over Andre Dirrell on Oct. 17, 2009, then rebounded from the first loss of his career — a 12-round decision to Kessler on April 24 last year — with decision victories over Abraham and Glen Johnson respectively.
Ward posted an 11th-round TKO over Kessler, then won decisions over Allan Green and Abraham.
The tournament took a bit of a hit with various boxers dropping out because of injuries. Other contenders, such as IBF champion Lucian Bute, opted not to participate.
Froch’s loss is yet another blow to British boxing, which has suffered since former champions Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton retired.