Sharkie's Machine: In Showtime’s Super Six Tournament, Andre Ward Makes His Mark by Defeating Mikkel Kessler by Technical Decision in 11
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Nov 23, 2009) Photo © German Villasenor  
This Super Six Tournament is great for boxing. All other weight divisions should follow suite. Doing so would generate more interest in our sport and increase the fan base. Here you have six fighters who must all fight each other and win by accumulating points. This is real competition and that’s what “sports” is all about. Kudos to the promoters who put this thing together. There are obvious ways to improve on the tournament format but for now, this is a good start that should help improve the realism of the rankings—at least in the 168 pound division. Of course without Lucian Bute and Librado Andrade, it’s not a tournament that will create one true Champion but hey, it’s still a move in the right direction.

The Andre Ward vs. Mikkel Kessler fight was pretty far from being the competitive fight I expected. It was surprisingly one sided in favor of Andre Ward, who I thought won every round. As for Kessler, he fought like Champions do—just before they become former champions on Saturday night in Oakland, where he was out boxed and out hustled for all of eleven rounds (on my scorecard). Since boxing is an International sport, why wouldn’t World Title fights be fought on neutral ground? The obvious answer is money. But after watching Ward have his way with Kessler for the whole fight, I doubt that location would’ve made any significant difference. Ward was simply too much for Kessler to handle. Ward fought a perfect fight, using his superior speed and agility to neutralize Kessler, who is a top notch, technical boxer.

From the opening bell, Ward was aggressive, established his jab right away and darted in and out with shots that were scoring. Kessler looked like he was in over his head as Ward controlled the tempo and everything else in the ring. There were a few head butts along the way and a bit of holding from Ward when Kessler got in close. Some of the head butts in this fight definitely influenced the outcome but even without the head butts, Kessler wasn’t able to keep up with Ward, who was the faster, more agile and the cleaner puncher all night.

For all of the eleven rounds, Kessler never was able to do anything to hurt Ward. I scored this one a shutout, as Kessler never was able to establish any kind of momentum. Kessler got the worst of the head butts but to his credit, he did what he could under adverse conditions.

Because Ward often moved in and out quickly, he often came in head first. The head butts seemed incidental and never intentional. There were at least five notable head butts. Kessler’s face was cut in several places from the butts but also from punches. A head butt in the late third round caused a cut on Kessler’s right eye that bothered him all night. Whenever Kessler did manage to rally his offense, Ward moved well enough to avoid any damage. By the ninth round, Kessler had matching cuts over both eyes, a cut under his right eye and was a bloody mess. If Ward was a number five in terms of speed, Kessler was a number two. Each round was like the last, with Ward landing the better shots and Kessler eating them.

A nasty head butt in the eleventh round caused referee Jack Reiss to pause the action. The ringside doctor looked at Kessler and stopped the contest. Kessler complained to his corner in earlier rounds that he was having trouble seeing due to the bleeding cut over his right eye that came from a head butt, which was irritated and expanded from eating too many Ward left hands to the face. Kessler was off key all night. Ward fought from the southpaw stance often but changed up in spots and had Kessler lost in a maze.

After watching both guys in recent fights, it was easy to tell that Andre Ward, who won a Gold Medal in the Olympics, has good fundamental skills and a strong will to win. He’s big, aggressive and smart. Ward demonstrated those abilities when he beat Edision Miranda back in May. Miranda may be past his best days but is still a dangerous, power punching fighter. Ward neutralized Miranda and controlled every aspect of that fight. Recently, against the pedestrian Shelby Pudwill, Ward didn’t have to do much to win but we could see that Ward has some pop to compliment his quality boxing skills.

Kessler, on the other hand, didn’t look so hot in his last outing, a tune up against challenger Gus Perdomo, who gave Kessler a good run, using fast hands and aggression for four rounds before suddenly falling apart and then being TKO’d by the tattooed Dane after being punched on the shoulder. Watching Kessler over the last few years, particularly his performance against Joe Calzaghe proved something of a blue print on how to defeat Kessler. Calzaghe also used speed and mobility when he handed Kessler his first loss two years ago in Calzaghe’s hometown arena. Flash forward and here is Mikkel Kessler (42-2, 32 KO’s), a very good boxer with respectable power, one of the two fighters favored to win it all in the Super Six tournament, losing big against a man who, on paper, is still a prospect level fighter in Andre Ward (21-0, 13 KO’s).

After the stoppage, Ward was interviewed and said he was thankful to God, attributing all his success to God. Ward’s nickname is S.O.G. (Son of God) so I guess God didn’t have Kessler’s back Saturday night…but we won’t go there. When asked about the head butts, Ward said that he wasn’t a dirty fighter and that he never intentionally tried to butt Kessler. When Kessler was interviewed, he was adamant in saying that Ward was using head butts as part of his strategy. Kessler said that he’s not used to referees allowing all that fouling to go unchecked. He never mentioned that Ward was faster, stronger and the more accurate puncher. It’s got to be tough to lose your title in the first leg of a tournament where you’re so highly favored. Kessler said he would reserve his assessment of his performance until after he reviews the tape of the fight.

With Ward’s win over Kessler, its Europe 2 and the USA 1, as Germany ’s Arthur Abraham won his fight by KO over American Jermain Taylor and England ’s Carl Froch won a Split Decision over American prospect, Andre Dirrell. Andre Ward is probably the best of the American fighters in the tourney. With his size, speed and impressive boxing skills he may be the guy who can beat Arthur Abraham, who is possibly the strongest, while being the shortest of the six fighters. The score for the contestants is now Abraham 3 points (an extra point for the KO win). Froch 2 points. Ward 2 points. Dirrell, Taylor and Kessler all have zero points. And so ends the first leg of the tournament.

Congratulations to Andre Ward for realizing his dream of winning a World Title as a boxer. Guys like Taylor, Dirrell and Kessler will be under pressure to come up big in their next fights while Abraham, Froch and Ward will enjoy the sweet taste of victory—for now, while we fans start the business of recalculating of who is the guy most likely to win it all in the Super Six Tournament.

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