By John J. Raspanti - I was on hand to witness the inaugural press conference announcing the September 8 meeting between undefeated WBA and WBC super-middleweight champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), and WBC light-heavyweight champion, “BAD” Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. The bout will be televised on HBO and heavily hyped, with the documentary series "24/7" being used as a lead-up to the fight.
I asked Dawson's promoter Gary Shaw if he had any concerns about
fighting in Ward's backyard. The last few months have seen some of the
worse examples of judging in the history of the sport.
"No - I'm not concerned about the California judges," said Shaw. "Bad
decisions hurt boxing. The last thing any of us want to do is hurt
boxing. The scoring will be fair."
Andre Ward's promoter Dan Goossen concurred, stating that the judging will be unbiased and honest.
I introduced myself to light-heavyweight champion Dawson (we did a phone interview last week) and asked him how he was doing.
"I feel great," said Dawson. "I'm really excited about this fight."
Dawson defeated legendary Bernard Hopkins to become the WBC light
heavyweight champion last April. He first won the championship in 2007
by outpointing Tomasz Adamek. Dawson added the IBF title by defeating
Antonio Tarver a year later.
Andre Ward told me his left hand (which was broken last December during
his victory over Carl Froch) felt fine. What about being out of the ring
for 10 months?
"I've had layoff's before," said Ward matter of factly. "Other injuries
in my career have caused me to have to take some time off. I'm ready
The victory over Froch earned Ward the WBC belt, in addition to the
Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup. Ward won the WBA title when
he defeated Mikkel Kessler earlier in the Super Six tournament. He also
routed Arthur Abraham in Carson, California.
Near the end of the press conference, Shaw, Ward, and Ward's trainer Virgil Hunter debated the merits of respect and verbosity.
"Number one, Chad Dawson is not your
opponent," said Shaw."He's equal, if not better. He didn't come here for
the money, he came here because he's a great fighter. And you should
Ward, sipping water, spoke up,"This is the fighters' press conference, not for the promoters, for the fighters," he said.
Shaw added, "Another thing is, so you understand, your promoter asked for 168, not a catchweight."
Ward stood up and asked for a faceoff.
Hunter, not missing a beat, sent some salvos in Dawson's direction. "Can
you talk Chad?" Hunter asked. "You don't talk much. Quit lettin' that
man talk for you, man. Speak for yourself, Chad."
The tension was palpable as Ward and Dawson stood inches from each other.
All in all not a bad first press conference. More quotes below.
Andre Ward: “The road I’ve taken to this point has not been easy. Being back on HBO
is a big thing, but fighting on HBO in my hometown is huge. To be great
you have to fight the best. Chad has beaten the best so these are the
type fights I want to take. I will put on a great show for all the fans
that come out to Oracle Arena.”
Chad Dawson: “This is a big fight for me. I
know their will be a huge crowd for Andre, but I’m not afraid. I’m
happy to be the underdog in this fight. I haven’t been the underdog in a
long time and I’ll do what I have to do to win this fight.”
Dan Goossen: “This is the type of fight
that makes a crossover superstar. Nothing will get in Andre’s way, no
chatter, no nothing. He is focused on this fight! This is why I can’t
wait to see 17,000 fans in Oracle Arena on Sept, 8. It will be filled
with electricity. Andre is a special fighter and Virgil is the Zen
Gary Shaw: “We all saw what Chad did to
Hopkins and I believe Dawson is the better fighter. The winner of this
fight is no doubt going to be a superstar. I’m so confident in this
fight Goossen can have his six brothers be the judges. In this fight you
have two fighters who hold belts, who are steroid free, who are young
and will bring their best on fight night.”
Virgil Hunter: “Weight training shouldn’t
take the thrill of the victory away. It’s a battle to get to 168 lbs
pounds for both fighters. While other fighters are playing games not
taking fighters, these two have stepped up. Its going to be a great
fight for all the fans” -
John Scully: “I’m very exited to be
involved with this fight. You got two prime, hungry, young guys ready to
go at it. It will be a tactical fight and Chad will be ready. I think
Chad and Andre are going to mix very well. I think clean combination
punching will be Dawson’s advantage.”
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