Andre Ward (22-0, 13 KO’s) is an impressive fighter. He always shows up in great shape, has a cool demeanor, a reliable jab and very good boxing skills, which include a defense that’s not easy to penetrate. He’s tall and uses his height well. His ring generalship is probably the most impressive thing about his fighting style. He was due to fight on the 27th of November but the vague politics of boxing left an opening in his schedule. Smartly, Ward kept that date and found a fight outside the Super Six Tournament in order to keep himself busy and in good fighting shape. A smart move.
In the old days, fighters fought many times a year. These days, fighters, particularly the ones that are paid the most, fight maybe once or twice a year. That is not good. Unlike regular sports, in boxing, a man with a title can hand pick his opponents. Ward selected a seasoned contender in Sakio Bika (28-5-2, 19 KO’s), who proved to be tough opponent and a good test for Ward to keep his skills sharp.
Before Ward was selected to participate in the Showtime Super Six Boxing Tournament, the American Olympic Gold Medalist boxer was being spoon fed easy fights to build up his pro record, which is the typical practice in American boxing. So, when Ward finally faced a true, top level opponent in Mikkel Kessler, I was impressed with his abilities against a very good boxer puncher in Kessler. And Ward beat Kessler in most convincing fashion. His fight against Allan Green was more like what Ward was used to and it was a one sided shutout, where Ward had his way with the pacifist Green for all of twelve rounds.
Ward is physically bigger than all the contestants in the Super Six. He goes by the name “Son of God” and he sure rolls like a man with a path paved before him. I was pretty sure Sakio Bika (28-4-2, 19 KO’s) was here to give the WBA Super Middleweight Titlist a good workout. But Bika has a few good fights on his resume, including losses to the likes of Joe Calzaghe and Lucian Bute. Bika lost his last fight to an up and coming Jean Paul Mendy when Bika hit Mendy while he was down. Bika was disqualified. If boxing was governed by competition based reasoning, Mendy might’ve been the opponent tonight.
There was a lot of banter about how Ward’s handlers picked Bika to prepare Ward for his next Super Six fight against Arthur Abraham, who’s stock has fallen even further after last nights shutout loss to Carl Froch. Picking Bika makes little sense, since Abraham fights nothing like Bika. Bika is very aggressive and cagey. Abraham is very slow, usually gives away the first few rounds before he finds an opening for his bazooka punches. Former Super Six contender Andre Dirrell left a blueprint on how to dissect Abraham in the ring. The way things look now, after Abraham’s lifeless performance against Carl Froch, Abraham appears to have been exposed as a one trick pony. Ward has the size and reach advantage to beat Abraham by simply jabbing him into oblivion for 12 rounds. But you never know what can happen.
The Sakio Bika fight was interesting in that we saw how Ward reacts to pressure. It wasn’t the greatest fight but it was a bit wild in spots, as Bika behaved like a fighter who had everything on the line to gain if he could only win this fight.
Bika rushes in and lands a combo. Ward landed a left. Bika was aggressive and during the clinches, punches with his free right hand into Ward’s body. Ward opts to box, while Bika’s looking for a slugfest. They butted heads during a heated an exchange. Ward looked uncomfortable. 10-9 Bika
More head butts as Bika’s aggression throws Ward a bit off his usual game plan. Bika is fighting like a desperate man. Ward is holding when Bika gets too close. Ward makes the separation and tries to work his jab outside but Bika looks to get inside. Ward complains to ref about Bika’s tactics. Strategically, Bika is controlling the tempo and making it tough for Ward to do what he wants. 10-9 Bika.
Ward landed a clean shot and Bika goes wild punching while Ward holds. Ward landed a left hook. Bika capitalizes when Ward holds by hooking with his free arm. Ward looks a bit frustrated. Ward’s face is reddening from Bika’s landed shots. Ward backs Bika into the ropes but gets turned around by wild man Bika. Bika threw more, landed more and is in control of the tempo, albeit sloppily. 10-9 Bika
Ward bleeding above his left eye.
A frustrated Ward tries a haymaker left hook…but misses. Bika boxes and waits on Ward now to come in. Bika tripped by Ward and goes down after a punch that included a trip, which was ruled a slip. Bika takes a shot and is stunned. Ward wrapped up with Bika but gets free and then again finds himself interlocked in clinch mode. Ward lands a shot on top of Bika’s head. Bika lands a left hook. Lots of action, as both score in turns. Looks like Bika is here to win! At least it seems that way so far. They grapple till the bell. 10-9 Ward.
Another head butt. Ward comes in and Bika clinches. Busy referee! Bika lands a few as Ward’s pressured onto the ropes. Ward landed a good left. Ward looked aggravated. Bika lands big left to the body. Bika looks relaxed. Ward landed an upper cut. Ward jabs and then lands another left. Ward throws a big shot that misses, Bika counters with awkward combos and the tide is turning more and more in Ward’s favor. 10-9 Ward.
Bika works the body during a clinch early. Lots of holding. Ward is struggling to get anything going with Bika, who presents him with a snaky quickness and wildness. Andre Ward’s both eyes are bloody now. Bika threw some wild hooks. Neither man out did the other here. But Ward looks the worse for wear. 10-9 Bika.
Listening to the ring side commentators, you’d think Ward was winning an easy fight. Bika has to be the toughest fight Ward’s been in so far in his pro career. Again, there was a lot of holding. Ward landed an elbow, opposite the ref’s view. Bika’s quickness sees Ward miss some shots. Bika landed two body shots during a clinch. Bika has totally screwed up Ward’s gamelan, forcing him to fight Bika’s style of fight. They smile at the end of the round, something of an acknowledgement to Bika’s guile perhaps? 10-9 Bika.
More holding to start the round. Bika uppercut. Bika to the body, as Ward comes in and clinches again. Ward combos inside. Sloppy round, more holding. Bika right hook grazes Wards face. Ward back to infighting. Bika right to head. 10-9 Ward.
More holding. Ward jab to face. Crowd gets excited. Ref strongly warns Bika for an elbow that didn’t happen. Bika running out of gas a bit, as they struggle on the ropes. Ward pressing Bika into ropes but not landing anything clean. Ward landed an elbow on the ropes. Bika slowing? Ward amps up the aggression, leaning on Bika and forcing him to waste stamina. Ward clearly dominant in this round. 10-9 Ward.
Ward lands a right, left. Ward moves in head first and butts Bika, ref says nothing. Ward jumps on Bika and head butts in the process. Ref says nothing. More holding. Bika holding and not fighting this round. Bika left eye cut. A little dirty but all Ward. 10-9 Ward.
Lots of posturing, holding and feinting. Ward uses his size to force Bika backward. Ward is winning the rounds now and Bika has lost his quickness to fatigue but Ward is in top shape and looks fresh even in the 11th round, as he landed more and threw more. 10-9 Ward.
Bika needs a knockout but didn’t look up to the task. Ward is bigger, stronger and in better shape. Ward lands a left then makes Bika miss, spin around and though Bika landed a shot to the body, Ward countered well and was definitely the stronger man. Bika landed a couple of shots. Ward smiles and deals with Bika by holding and forcing a reset. Then Ward lands a dirty shot after the ref tells them to break. Bika left eye looks hurt. Ward overpowers Bika with borderline dirty tactics to neutralize him. Bika lands a left hook. Bell rings, Bika tries to be friendly after a tough fight but Ward didn’t look too interested in pleasantries. 10-9 Ward.
The official scores were: Marty Sammon, 120-108. John Schorle and Hunter Walton had it 118-110, all for Ward.
The official scores do not reflect the reality of this fight. But that’s boxing. Ward won the fight, true, but it was a lot closer than the officials scored it. Marty Sammon didn’t give Bika a single round. Really, how is that possible? What fight was he watching? Or worse, did he fill in his scorecard before the fight started? The end result remains that Andre Ward successfully defended his WBA title but this was no walk in the park for Ward, as Sammon’s score suggests.
Next up for Ward will be Arthur Abraham. That should be an easy outing for Ward, who is a much better boxer than Abraham. But who knows what can happen?
Congrats and kudos to Andre Ward for keeping busy and taking care of business.