Well, after postponements, injuries and fighter replacements, Showtime's Super Six tournament is about to culminate this weekend. The final bout will feature a matchup between American Andre Ward 24-0 (13) and England's Carl Froch 28-1 (20) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The winner will be recognized as the baddest Super middleweight in the world, at least according to the WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine. That said, a fight between the Ward-Froch winner and Lucian Bute 30-0 (24) of Canada would even be a bigger draw among boxing fans and observers.
For the record, I didn't really care for the point system and format of the Super Six tournament from the beginning. It's taken over two years to complete and there's been too many substitutions and filler bouts along the way. I would've preferred a single elimination format like the one set up by the WBA in 1967 to find Muhammad Ali's successor after he was stripped of his undisputed heavyweight title for refusing to be inducted into the US Army. Although I applaud the effort and despite not being crazy about the format, the intentions were refreshing and ending up with a true champion in any division serves the sport of professional boxing well.
The pairing of Ward and Froch is very compelling and some even predicted before the beginning of the Super Six that they'd eventually meet in the final.
In Andre Ward, age 27, you have a fighter who has to be one of the most improved boxers that we've seen in the past couple years. He's very hard to catch with a solid shot and is equally effective moving to or away from his opponent while putting punches together. Andre is very disciplined and technically sound and everything works off of his left hand. He takes whatever his opponent gives him and checks his ego in his dressing room before he enters the ring.
Ward doesn't do any one thing particularly great, but he does everything well and sees everything coming at him. He's not the type of fighter who will be outdone or outfought by an opponent who is predictable and unimaginative. Show him a steady diet of the same thing and he'll neutralize it and shut it down. When all is said and done, he's clearly a better fighter than Froch. Most likely he'll wait to see if Froch wants to push things from the onset of the fight. If Carl leads, Ward will counter-punch and move out and then counter.
Froch, age 34, relies almost entirely on toughness and physical strength. He punches from weird angles and isn't very imaginative offensively. He's a big and strong super-middleweight. He's shown that if he's facing an aggressive opponent, he has the legs to circle and pot-shot them on the way in. However, if he gets nailed good, he'll gladly stand his ground and trade due to his confidence and toughness. Froch often keeps his left low, but he's not easy to hit and basically uses that as a ploy in trying to lure his opponent into initiating the exchange.
He might try to bait Ward into pressing the fight, then catch him with wild shots but I'm guessing that won't be his approach. My guess is that he'll try to force the fight, then use his strength and unorthodoxy to throw Ward off his game to make him a less measured fighter.
Ward-Froch should be a tactical battle. Ward has shown that he can handle tough guys who can hit, and Froch barely handled Andre Dirrell's athleticism and speed in Nottingham, which doesn't bode well for him facing a better fighter on neutral soil. Ward isn't as fast as Dirrell, but he's a better and stronger fighter with a sturdy constitution. Froch will no doubt have a few moments because he'll somewhere along the line try and rough Ward up and even make it ugly. His size and underrated strength will afford him that luxury.
However, it won't work. Ward is the better and more complete fighter. Andre is a little too shrewd and calculating to be upended by a tough and strong, but vanilla fighter like Froch. When it's over, Ward will win a non-controversial decision having controlled the tempo and ring geography most of the way.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com