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WardDawson TJHogan3Here is Ward negating the Dawson jab, just one of the brilliant strategies and tactics and tricks he used in his dominant win Saturday. (Hogan)

It's been a long time coming. Sixteen years to be exact, but it looks like we're going to have to wait awhile longer. The last time it happened, he was just 12 years-old. It's never come close to happening since. In a sport where styles are paramount, Andre Ward's uncanny ability to adapt to any given situation showed yet again why he has to be considered the world's most unbeatable fighter at the moment, and why the last time he lost, he didn't even shave.

Chad Dawson –an athletic, fast, six-foot two inch southpaw– was no slouch. But on Saturday night in Las vegas, he was no match.

The opening two rounds saw little much happen. One could make the case Dawson took them both. However, everything changed for good in the third. Ward landed a straight right, left hook combination that sent the light heavyweight champion down to the canvas. Dawson rose to beat the count, his confidence didn't. He never recovered.

Twice more Dawson tasted the canvas, the third and final time in the tenth. That was enough for Dawson, “No mas” he told referee Steve Smoger. A systematic beating drew them out, not embarrassment. But Chad Dawson need not feel ashamed or embarrassed. He lost to a special fighter who had just painted his masterpiece. Still the light-heavyweight champion of the world, Dawson would likely be a betting favourite against every other light-heavyweight in the world. We mustn't forget neither, that it was HE who took the bigger risk here by choosing to fight in his opponent's home town as well as at his opponent's desired and optimum weight.

Let's be honest though. Would it have really made that much difference had this fight took place in any other domain? Chad Dawson came across a fighter Saturday night who not only has the potential to be great, but an all-time great.

The best light-heavyweight in the world was soundly beaten by the best super-middleweight in the world. I don't think seven pounds north or south for either fighter would have changed the outcome that much. Styles make fights, and Ward's capacity to tailor his, in order to neutralize his opponent's, was the real reason why Chad Dawson was deconstructed on Saturday night. Ward was clearly the better man when it came to strategy. Every battle throughout history will have had a plan of attack laid out prior to it taking place. Boxing is no different. Both Ward and Dawson had, what they believed to be, the blueprint on how to solve each other's styles. Here's the difference. Ward carried his blueprint to the ring so that he could make adjustments as the battle was unfolding. Just when an opponent seems comfortable with what's going on,Ward transforms and does something different. Most of the time, it's just a subtle change, but it's enough to disrupt what his opponent is doing. Andre Ward is a kaleidoscope. Trying to prepare for his multi-dimensional approach to boxing is nigh on impossible for his opponents.

Here is what I thought Andre Ward did really well Saturday night.

#1. Unorthodox movement:

When an orthodox fighter faces a southpaw, he's usually looking to get his lead foot outside of the southpaw's lead foot, by moving to his left and away from the southpaw's power left. Dawson, a converted southpaw, carries his power in his right hand, his dominant hand. This lead to Ward's unconventional movement for an orthodox fighter against a southpaw. By stepping to his right, and inside of Dawson's right hand, Ward had nullified Dawson's dominant hand threat. For Dawson to have any chance of winning the fight, he had to get his jab working. It was no coincidence that he barely threw it. Ward's intelligent footwork and ring smarts enabled him to get on the inside of Dawson's right hand. If you look at the knockdown in the fourth round, you'll see Ward in what is generally a bad position against the southpaw. But because Ward knew that Dawson is right handed, and doesn't really throw the straight left as say, Manny Pacquiao does, he could afford to move onto Dawson's left shoulder because he knew that there wasn't any real danger there. This is what resulted in Ward being a marksman from strange angles with the left hook all night long.

#2. Eliminating the jab.

Continuing on from point #1, by moving to his right, and diagonally away from Dawson, Ward had forced Dawson into becoming the aggressor, something that the British announcers failed to pick up on. They also failed to see what had stymied Dawson's jab. If you have a chance to look at the fight again, you'll see that in the first two rounds, many minutes went by with Ward seemingly pawing with the jab. This was an illusion. What Ward was really doing was taking away the southpaw jab of Dawson. With both fighter's lead hands lined up with one another, Ward was able to perform a kind of parry, preventing the jab from even being thrown. Dawson couldn't seem to figure out why Ward was never in position to be hit with the southpaw jab. Ward's unconventional movement, along with his lead hand out in front and in line with Dawson's lead hand, was the answer.

#3. From the outside.

For me, this was the key to Ward's success Saturday night. If any of you read my pre-fight breakdown, you'll notice that I mentioned the Chad Dawson-Jean Pascal fight. What Pascal was able to expose in Dawson was a flaw in the way he defends himself. If a fighter in right in front of Dawson, throwing conventional punches, then Dawson sees everything and his defense becomes almost impenetrable. If a fighter is out of range before coming in with unorthodox power leads like straight rights and left hooks, then Dawson becomes touchable, as I feel he's unable to defend whilst being the attacker. Dawson is similar to Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, in that he defends with his feet planted, using upper body movement. Dawson will dip and bend at the waist in order to avoid blows. It's not often you see him taking a step back. This is what really hurt him Saturday night. Look at the shots that Mosley hurt Mayweather with, that Pacquiao scored the first knockdown of Cotto with, that Roy Jones peppered James Toney with, what Jean Pascal occupied Chad Dawson with and what Andre Ward knocked down Dawson in the third round with. They all look the same –power shots thrown low then high, forcing the opponent into adjusting their guard. Ward's right leads and left hooks, thrown in alternating patterns, downstairs and up, completely negated Dawson's defense. What was worse for Dawson though, was by being the aggressor and then having to defend, he found himself walking onto Ward's shots. Chad Dawson, a counter puncher, had no answer for Andre Ward's attacks on Saturday as he was advancing.

Dawson struggles to blend defense and attack if he's made to be the aggressor. This was the reason Ward always appeared to get off first, which in turn, lead to Dawson being on the defensive all night long. Dawson's dreadful punchstat numbers reflect this perfectly.

#4. On the inside.

Ward's in-fighting skills are well documented. We know he's very strong and very physical, but he's also extremely skilled at this range. If you look at the occasions when the fight took place on the inside, you'll see exactly what I mean. Notice how Ward was always able to lock an arm up, while having his left hand free. Ward's hooks and uppercuts with the left hand last really took a lot out of Dawson. Also, look how Ward was always conscious of a Dawson punch getting through in close. Ward kept his glove held high and tight to his head as he was throwing away with his free hand. Notice how you never see Ward bombing away wildly with both hands on the inside. Ward always remains defensively responsible at close quarters. Also, look at Ward's uppercuts and hooks in close. His ability to throw them so short and with so little back lift really is of the highest order.

#5. The feint.

Ward's ability to feint his opponent out of position or into a defensive position, is one of the ways in which he always appears to be one step ahead of his opponent. Dawson was constantly being off set by Ward's and head and shoulder feints. I was reminded of Roberto Duran's feinting masterclass against Carlos Palomino, in that both Palomino and Dawson had no idea what was coming next.By mastering the art of feinting, a fighter doesn't have to search for too long to find openings. Again, it's one of the reasons Ward is so accurate with his punches. He knows exactly where his shots are going to be placed because he's aware of how different fighters react to different feints. Dawson, a defensive Philly shell style counter-puncher, was predictable on defense.

I don't want to take anything away from Andre Ward and neither should anyone else. Yes, Dawson's weight loss may have been a factor, but as was mentioned here earlier, Ward's versatility was what really dominated the fight. As was the case in the Carl Froch fight, we saw just about every single boxing nuance one can think of –out-fighting, in-fighting, combination punching, body punching, defense, — performed at an extremely high level from Ward. How many fighters can you think of that are able to do so many things as well as Ward can? With each passing fight, it's becoming increasingly difficult to argue against Andre Ward being the best fighter, pound for pound in the world. I for one am sick of finding reasons to say that he isn't.

So what's next for both fighters?

Chad Dawson, now 32-2 {17} will surely travel back up to light-heavyweight where decent challenges await. Personally, I think Mikkel Kessler would make for a compelling fight. As for Andre Ward, now 26-0 {14} a rematch with Dawson at light-heavyweight to me seems pointless. No matter how you slice it, Ward was simply too physical, too smart and too good for Chad Dawson. My own feelings are that Ward will continue at 168 pounds for the time being. Sergio Martinez has already voiced that middleweight is as high as he'll go, while Chavez Jr will be lucky if he's on the receiving end of anything other than a comprehensive beating by the same man next weekend. Gennady Golovkin would probably jump at the chance to face Ward, but realistically, he's a lot smaller than Ward, who is actually one of the bigger men at 168 pounds. I can't see anyone below 168 pounds being good enough to threaten Ward's undefeated streak, can you? Andre Dirrell is a fighter who may ask some questions, with his athleticism and speed, but I don't see how he will be able to hang with Ward on the inside. Ward's strength would be far too much for Dirrell by my estimation.

Who knows what the future may hold? Andre Ward has had his opponents laid out for him for quite some time now, what with the Super Six tournament and Dawson's public challenge, so it will be interesting to see just what his next intentions are. One thing's for certain. Whoever it is, they will be faced with the unenviable task of trying to come up with a gameplan for a fighter whose strategical capabilities are limitless. Thinking back, I can't think of another fighter who has managed to win with the same level of dominance as Ward, other than Roy Jones when he was on top back in the nineties. And let's face it, Ward is currently doing it against sterner opposition too. While we're on the subject of Jones, who eventually went on to claim a portion of the heavyweight title after dominating at 168 pounds, I'll leave you with this:

With his ring smarts, quickness and ability to get inside and know what to do there, Andre Ward would have produced a better effort against Vitali Klitschko than what Manuel Charr managed on Saturday. And that readers, is a fact. The Klitschkos won't be around for too much longer….maybe down the road a crack at a smaller heavyweight champion is plausible?

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