Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reflecting On Olympic Boxing 2016


The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil saw what should be considered an overall improvement for Olympic Boxing. A return to basics in regard to not only the scoring format in returning to the traditional 10-point must system where a winner of a round earns 10 points while the loser of a round earns 9 or less, as well as a return of no headgear for men competing in the Boxing tournament seemed to have a positive impact on the 2016 Olympics.

Bouts in the tournament were generally quick paced and did have more entertainment value than had been the case in previous Olympic tournaments that were fought under the previous computerized scoring format that was in place from 1992-2012. The 2016 tournament also saw the inclusion of three professional fighters who competed against amateurs in the tournament. As controversial as the decision to allow professional fighters to compete against amateurs seemed however, it did not have as much an impact as some thought it would as all three fighters Amnat Ruenroeng, Hasan N’Dam, and Carmine Tommasone were all eliminated in the early stages of the competition.

In the first piece discussing the 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament last week, this observer stated that I was on record in saying that I was taking a “Wait And See” approach regarding the changes to the format of Olympic Boxing before forming an opinion one way or another. I also stated that despite the changes in the format, elements of controversy remained with regard to the scoring in that several fights ended in a split decisions and had differences of opinion as to who won those bouts, a scenario that is not all that uncommon from what happens on a regular basis in Professional Boxing in regard to close fights or bouts where the official outcome differs significantly from the opinion of spectators who watch a fight.

Although the original intent of this column was going to be centered on what may be in store for the various medalist coming out of this tournament, it cannot be overlooked that there was action taken in light of some of these controversial decisions that took place in Rio. The International Boxing Association (AIBA), the organization that oversees Amateur and Olympic Boxing announced during the second week of the competition that unnamed referees and judges who had not performed up to expectations were removed from officiating from the remainder of the tournament citing that less than a handful of decisions of over two hundred thirty plus bouts at that point were not at the level expected and after evaluation decided to remove those officials from officiating the remainder of the 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament. The AIBA also stated that the results of all the bouts would stand, but also expressed its commitment to ensuring a level playing field and its commitment to a zero-tolerance of foul play policy in regard to Boxing.

Even though the officials and particular bouts that led to the AIBA’s intervention during this tournament were not named, it is something that should be applauded by all Boxing fans and experts alike that the organization, which oversees Amateur/Olympic Boxing, is taking a proactive approach toward ensuring that all fighters who compete get a fair shake. After so many years of questions of corruption and questionable decisions in Olympic Boxing, it is refreshing to see that steps are being taken to improve the sport on the Olympic level.

It goes without saying however, that no sport Amateur or Professional is perfect and after many years of dealing with issues regarding questions of corruption and controversial decisions, it is not something that can be improved overnight. It takes time and it was simply unrealistic for anyone to expect that there would not be any questions of the scoring of fights or questionable outcomes in this tournament. The proactive approach that the AIBA has taken is nevertheless encouraging as it relates to future Olympic tournaments.

As for some of the boxers who stood out in this tournament, some fighters did show promise in my eyes as potential fighters, who could go on to have successful professional careers. Fighters such as Light Flyweight Bronze Medalist Nico Hernandez, Bantamweight Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson, both of the United States as well as Flyweight Gold Medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan and Middleweight Gold Medalist Arlen Lopez of Cuba were just a few of the fighters that stood out as those who could have promising professional careers. In all truth and honesty, it is hard to judge who might go on to have a promising pro career based on what happens in Olympic tournaments and it would not surprise me to see fighters who may not have advanced far in this tournament go on to do more in the professional ranks.

The 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament also saw history made as Women’s Middleweight Gold Medalist Claressa Shields of United States became the first American boxer male or female to win consecutive Olympic Gold medals after previously winning gold in the 2012 Olympics in London, England. Although Women’s Professional Boxing has not received the kind of exposure in the United States as it has in other countries, I believe that if Shields were to pursue a professional career that it would give the sport much-needed exposure that is frankly long overdue. Shields has demonstrated in two Olympic tournaments that she has the skills that could make her a force to be reckoned with in the professional ranks and it will be interesting to see if she decides to pursue a career as a professional fighter.

Overall, I feel that the 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament should be viewed as a success, but also a work in progress. This tournament took some important steps towards improvement in regard to its format as well as improving the perception of the competition. As far as some things that I would like to see improved upon perhaps as early as the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, I believe that increasing the distance in rounds for Olympic fights from three to four rounds may decrease the potential for controversy with maybe a fifth round being used in the event of a draw as a tiebreaker round as a way that would hopefully resolve close decisions. In the 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament there were several fights where either one fighter was able to get the upper hand by a slight margin over his/her opponent in the first two rounds of the fight, while the opponent was able to be clearly more effective in the third and deciding round, resulting in many fights being scored by a margin of 2 to 1 on the scorecards.

As the 2016 Olympic tournament seemed to take a step of moving Olympic Boxing to a format closer to its professional counterpart, I believe increasing the distance of bouts by a slight margin may help improve future tournaments as well as decrease potential controversy. The 2016 tournament was nevertheless successful and if progress can continue to be made by the AIBA toward ensuring a level playing field for all fighters who compete in the sport in the future it will only benefit Olympic Boxing overall.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

What’s Next For Jarrell Miller?



The Heavyweight bout between undefeated rising contender Jarrell Miller and battle tested veteran Fred Kassi was an interesting fight on paper. Miller, a fighter who has risen to top ten contender status in the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) respective Heavyweight ratings has quickly established himself as a fighter to watch having knocked out fifteen of eighteen professional opponents prior to the fight with Kassi and had also won the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) championship in the Heavyweight division.

In previewing this fight, this observer stated that two questions are usually asked when a fighter establishes himself as a top contender. A question of whether or not that fighter will face a significant test as a top contender followed by a question of how long it might be before that fighter gets an opportunity at a world championship.

Some believed that Fred Kassi may have been the fighter to provide an answer to the first question of whether Miller would face a significant test. After all, Kassi had established himself as an opponent who has given fighters like Chris Arreola and Dominic Breazeale all they could handle and some might argue, Kassi deserved victories against both earning a draw against Arreola and a controversial decision loss against Breazeale.

Although Miller does have punching power, I did wonder how he would do against a fighter with an awkward style as well as hand speed such as Kassi. When the two fighters got in the ring at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY on August 19th however, it did not turn out to be the test for Miller that some, including this observer, thought it might be.

The first round of this fight was dictated by Kassi as he was able to land punches and use lateral movement to evade the pressuring Miller. It was after this round that I felt somewhat validated in thinking that this fight would be one that would answer some questions about Miller, a fighter who has been developing a reputation as a “Knockout Artist.” Even though questions surrounding a knockout puncher’s stamina as a fight progresses are natural to ask, Miller would show in this fight the ability to quickly adapt.

In the second round, Miller began to let his hands go and was able to land to Kassi’s body. Miller would continue his attack in round three in landing offense to the body and head of Kassi. The effects of Miller’s body attack seemed to nullify Kassi’s movement as he was unable to move as quickly away from Miller in the second and third rounds as he was in the first round. It was after the third round where Kassi stopped the fight citing an injury to his right hand.

Even though some may not call this victory for Miller an exciting one, I was impressed by how well he executed his attack of Kassi. It should not be overlooked that Miller not only possesses the ability to knock an opponent out with either hand, but he is also a highly skilled combination puncher and that could be a valuable asset as he progresses toward competing against the top fighters in the Heavyweight division.

The question coming out of this fight is obviously what is next for Jarrell Miller? Although the idea of Miller being in consideration for a potential opportunity at a world championship at this stage could be a possibility, this observer believes that fights against the likes of David Price, Johann Duhaupas, and potentially a bout against someone like former two-division world champion David Haye could all be viable options before Miller sets his sights on one of the world champions of the division.

A victory over the likes of fighters like Haye, a former world champion in both the Cruiserweight and Heavyweight divisions or a win over a fighter like Duhaupas, who gave a spirited effort in his challenge of undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder in September of last year would accomplish two things. It would not only give Miller further momentum toward a potential title shot, but it would also add another notable name and victory to his resume.

Even though this victory over Fred Kassi for Miller did not come via a highlight reel knockout, it was still an impressive performance and did accomplish the goal of taking a crucial step forward in his career against an experienced veteran. It will be interesting to see who Miller fights next and if he can continue to progress.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

ShoBox 8/19/2016 Weigh-In Results


The official weigh-in for Showtime Sports’ latest edition of it’s ShoBox: The New Generation series took place on Thursday in Rochester, NY. The official weights for the entire card are as follows. 

Main Event: North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Heavyweight championship – 10Rds.

Jarrell Miller (Champion) 296 1/2lbs.         vs.        Fred Kassi 237lbs.

North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Bantamweight championship – 10Rds.

Antonio Nieves (Champion) 117lbs.           vs.        Alejandro Santiago 117 1/2lbs.

Vacant North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Lightweight championship – 10Rds.

Baholdir Mamadjonov 135lbs.                    vs.        Mason Menard 134.5lbs.

Welterweight – 10Rds.

Bakhtiyar Eyubov 142lbs.    vs.        Karim Mayfield 142lbs.

*Other Bouts scheduled to take place: (Weights unavailable as of this writing.)

Middleweight - 4Rds.
Dorell Van Horn         vs.        Henry Beckford

Jr. Middleweight – 4Rds.
Saadiq Muhammad             vs.        Dave Tamaso

Jr. Lightweight – 4Rds.
Saquan Felton                       vs.        Vinnie Denierio

Featherweight – 4Rds.
Glenn Dezum             vs.        Aaron Hollis

ShoBox: Miller vs. Kassi takes place Tonight (Friday, August 19th at Rhinos Stadium, in Rhochester, NY.  The card will be televised in the United States by Showtime at 10PM ET/PT and will also be available on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. Check your cable/satellite provider for time and channel in your area. For more information on Showtime, the Showtime and Showtime Anywhere apps, and available devices please visit: www.sho.com. Check your listings internationally.

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Miller-Kassi Preview


In the sport of Boxing, a common topic that you will hear discussed and asked among Boxing fans of any description as well as experts will be in regard to who is the next “Great” and/or rising Heavyweight? Obviously, such a topic will invoke varying opinions as well as stir more than a few debates.

The recent history of the division has seen a bit of an upward trend of such discussion due in large part to the rise of undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder as well as the emergence of undefeated unified WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Tyson Fury, who ended longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko’s over decade-long reign over the division last November. Although much of the focus of the division has naturally centered on both Wilder and Fury as two of the division’s central figures, undefeated knockout artist Anthony Joshua, who won the IBF Heavyweight world championship earlier this year has also established himself as a player. As Wilder, Fury, and Joshua sit atop a division that has appeared in recent times to be heading toward a period of transition, a question that some might ask could be if there is a prospect on the rise who could also enter into the discussion as a player in the division.

One such prospect could be undefeated rising Heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller. Much like Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, Miller is a fighter who has been developing a reputation as a “Knockout Artist.” In eighteen fights as a professional Miller has compiled seventeen victories and has scored fifteen knockouts in those seventeen wins while earning a draw in his fifth pro fight against veteran Joey Dawejko in January 2013.

Miller seems to have the ingredients that turn the heads of Boxing fans. An aggressive pressure attacker, with power in both hands as well as the ability to throw punches in combination. What has stood out to me about Miller thus far in his career is not only his ability to get an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise, but also how he uses body punching as a component of his offense that is in some ways similar to how Mike Tyson used to attack opponents to the body. In his last fight in May of this year, Miller stopped Nick Guivas in two rounds to win the vacant North American Boxing  Organization (NABO) Heavyweight title and has moved his way into top ten contender status in both the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) respective Heavyweight ratings.

When a fighter establishes himself as a top ten contender, two questions are normally asked. The first particularly in the case of a fighter who has established himself as a “Knockout Artist” is will he face a significant test as a top contender. The second question that usually follows one of if that fighter will face a significant test is how long could it be before this fighter earns an opportunity at a world championship.

There could be potentially an answer to the first question as Miller will defend his NABO championship on Friday night against veteran contender Fred Kassi at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY in a fight scheduled for ten rounds that will headline the latest addition of Showtime Sports’ popular ShoBox: The New Generation series here in the United States. Kassi, who will enter the fight with a record of 18-5-1, with 10 Knockouts is a fighter that has given two recent world title challengers, Chris Arreola and Dominic Breazeale all they could handle in their respective bouts against him.

Kassi is an awkward fighter who switches between a conventional and southpaw stance during his fights and has good hand speed and defense. Kassi however, has also been a knockout victim once in his career when he suffered a brutal knockout at the hands of Heavyweight contender Amir Mansour in November 2014. A fight that Kassi was on the verge of scoring an upset of Mansour when a flush right hand from Mansour put an end to the fight and knocked Kassi out cold in the seventh round.

Although Kassi is coming off two straight losses, this should not be viewed necessarily as a rising contender being pitted against a fighter who should not be considered dangerous. In thinking of how Kassi might approach this fight, it is logical to assume that he will look to use his awkwardness to nullify some of Miller’s attack and to be more specific his punching power. Jarrell Miller has only been as far as seven rounds once in his career and from a strategic standpoint, Kassi could well look to weather the storm of the power puncher in the early rounds with the intent of extending him further than any other previous opponent while also looking to implement a fight plan to put himself in a position to win the fight.

Kassi is also a solid counter puncher and will no doubt be looking to exploit any openings that Miller might leave him. Even though most would probably consider Miller to be the favorite going into this fight, if he is not prepared or cannot adapt as the fight progresses, it could play right into Kassi’s hands as he likely sees this fight as an opportunity to reestablish himself as a contender in the division by scoring a victory over an undefeated rising contender.

Whether or not Jarrell Miller will be any closer to a potential opportunity at a world championship assuming he wins this fight is something that will probably be determined based on his performance if he is able to earn his eighteenth career victory. This is nevertheless the biggest potential test of Miller’s career thus far and he is facing the type of opponent that every potential “Great” fighter has to go through at some point in their careers. We will see what happens when Miller and Kassi do battle on Friday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

ShoBox: Miller vs. Kassi takes place on Friday, August 19th at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY. The card will be televised in the United States by Showtime at 10PM ET/PT and will also be available on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. Check your cable/satellite provider for time and channel in your area. For more information on Showtime, the Showtime and Showtime Anywhere apps, and available devices please visit: www.sho.com. Check your listings internationally.

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison  


Monday, August 15, 2016

Has 2016 Been A Resurgence For Olympic Boxing?



For many years, the Summer Olympics has served as a springboard for top amateur boxers to begin their professional careers after competing for Olympic medals in what has been thought of as the pinnacle of Amateur Boxing. Fighters such as Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks, Leon Spinks, Pernell Whitaker, Evander Holyfield, and a host of others all received much-needed exposure by way of their participation in Olympic tournaments. Following that exposure at the end of their amateur careers, many of them were able to quickly establish themselves in the professional ranks due in large part to getting exposure out of the gate as they embarked on professional careers.

It goes without saying however, that the exposure and accolades that come with Olympic Boxing has diminished somewhat over the years. Some may remember the well-publicized scandal that emerged in the 1988 Summer Olympics that took place in Seoul, South Korea where Roy Jones, then competing as a Jr. Middleweight was the victim of what most, including this observer feel was a miscarriage of justice in his gold-medal bout against Park Si-Hun of South Korea in a fight that Jones thoroughly dominated, but lost a controversial decision.

The injustice that took place in the Jones-Si-Hun bout led to a change in the scoring format for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Instead of the traditional 10-point must system where both Amateur Boxing had been scored as is also the case in Professional Boxing, the 1992 Olympics saw the introduction of computerized scoring for its Olympic Boxing tournament. Although the computerized scoring system, which was based on a fighter’s ability to out land their opponent with judges pressing a button for a fighter one punch landed, and was aimed at putting an end to controversy and corruption, the computerized scoring system in reality created more problems than it ever solved.

Although in regard to the United States Boxing team where fighters like Oscar De La Hoya in 1992, David Reid in 1996, and Andre Ward in 2004 were able to win Olympic gold in the respective weight classes, most fights that took place under the computerized scoring system, which this observer has often referred to as the “Nintendo scoring system”, became almost non-competitive to a large extent as fighters were more concerned with trying to land punches that would be clearly visible to judges scoring the fight in the hope of a judge being able to hit a button quickly enough for a punch to count as a point. The scoring format did not seem to take into consideration elements of ring generalship, effective aggression, and defense. Three aspects that are also  considered part of scoring criteria in Professional Boxing in addition to effective aggression.

This led to fights almost always being determined by simply who was ahead according to the computer rather than necessarily who was the better fighter. After twenty-four years of computerized scoring, the 2016 games saw a return to basics for Olympic Boxing. Not only has the scoring format returned to the traditional 10-point must system, where the winner of a round receives ten points and the loser of a round receives nine points or less, but there have been other significant changes. For the first time since the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow, Russia, the 2016 Olympics was the first where the Olympic Boxing tournament would not include mandated headgear for men competing, while women competing are still mandated to wear headgear.

Although this could be seen as a dangerous change in the format given the ongoing concern throughout all sports of with regard to the dangers of concussions, this change appears to be an attempt to move Olympic Boxing closer to his professional counterpart. After all, most Olympic boxers, particularly those who are medalist turn professional shortly after competing in the Olympic Games and Professional Boxing does not have mandated headgear. The third significant change for the 2016 Olympic Boxing tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been the inclusion of professional boxers competing against amateurs in the tournament.

This observer has been on record in saying that I was taking a “Wait And See” approach with regard to these changes to Olympic Boxing before forming an opinion one way or another as to whether or not these changes would be good or bad. In all truth and honesty, I applauded the decision to go back to the traditional 10-point must system of scoring as it would not only be a way through even the field among all the athletes competing in the Olympic Boxing tournament, but also a way to hopefully ensure that fighters would not be given a “Tough Break” simply because of a scoring format that was frankly flawed.

The decision to return to no headgear for the men competing in this Olympics for the first time in thirty-six years did have me concerned due in large part to the ongoing research with regard to the effects of concussions throughout all of sports. As this Olympics is now approaching its conclusion, I can say that the decision to forgo the use of headgear has not had the negative impact that I thought it might have prior to the tournament beginning even though there has been an increase in fighters suffering cuts during bouts. The third change however, in allowing professional fighters to take part in this tournament against amateur fighters was a mistake, in my opinion.

Despite the opinion of this observer, the decision to allow professional boxers to compete in this Olympics has not had the negative effect that many thought it would in regard to safety as well as other concerns, as all three of the professionals who qualified for this tournament did not make it far. Longtime professional top Middleweight contender Hassan N’Dam of Cameroon, who entered this Olympics competing as a Light-Heavyweight was dominated in his only bout in a tournament by Michel Borges of Brazil on day one of the Olympics, losing a three round unanimous decision.

Current European Professional Featherweight champion Carmine Tommasone of Italy, competing in this Olympics as a Lightweight was eliminated in his second preliminary fight in the tournament losing a three round unanimous decision to Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba. The third professional who took part in this Olympics, former IBF World Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand, who also competed as a Lightweight, was stopped in three rounds by Sofiane Oumiha of France in his second preliminary bout in the tournament.

Whether or not the concept of professionals competing against amateurs in Olympic Boxing is one that will remain after 2016, remains to be seen. It is clear however, in this observer’s eyes that part of the reason the professional fighters who took part in this tournament were not successful was due to the fact that this is an amateur tournament and thus fights are only scheduled for three rounds. A distance that is not common for most top level professional fighters. Even though the inclusion of professional boxers did not ultimately have much effect on this tournament, this observer believes that Olympic Boxing should remain the pinnacle final stage of Amateur Boxing for most top level amateur boxers before embarking on a professional career.

One thing that should not the overlooked is a positive that has come with going back to a traditional scoring format is fights in this tournament has been fought at a much quicker pace than has been the case in previous Olympics due to the flawed computerized scoring format. Fights in this tournament have been determined on a basis of which fighter is able to get off first with their offense as well as effective aggression, ring generalship, and defense. There has not however, been an absence of controversy in the tournament as several fights have gone to the scorecards and have ended up being split decisions.

Much as is the case with regard to Professional Boxing, the potential for controversy especially with regard to the scoring of a fight is something that will never be absent from the sport. It is something that simply comes with the territory and at times not everyone will agree on who wins a fight. It is clear however, that going back to the traditional scoring format has been an improvement as compared to how fights were determined under computerized scoring.

Whether or not 2016 will be viewed as the year of a rebirth of sorts for Olympic Boxing remains to be seen, but as the tournament is ongoing, this observer is encouraged by the direction Olympic Boxing is going and believe that this should be viewed as progress. There is however, more Boxing to take place before the 2016 Olympics concludes.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The second piece of Olympic Boxing material for the 2016 Olympics will be released on Wednesday, August 24th. Stay tuned.

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Update


We would like to let our readers know that the first of two pieces discussing the ongoing Olympic Boxing Tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil is currently in the works and will be released on Monday, August 15th. The second of the two pieces will follow on Wednesday, August 24th.  Stay tuned. “And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Brief Thoughts On Ward-Brand


When undefeated former Super-Middleweight world champion Andre Ward won the Super-Six World Boxing Classic  Super-Middleweight tournament in 2011 with a twelve round unanimous decision over Carl Froch, it was in many ways a coronation of a great fighter. Ward entered the Super-Six tournament as an undefeated professional and the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the Light-Heavyweight division.  When all was said and done, Ward left the tournament not only as a unified Super-Middleweight world champion, but also regarded as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world having defeated several of the top fighters in the Super-Middleweight division over the course of the Super-Six tournament.

In a scenario where tournament concepts have taken place in Professional Boxing, in most cases the fighter who emerges triumphant at the end of such tournaments is almost branded as not only one of the best fighters in the world, but also a mainstream attraction in the sport. An argument can be made that Ward emerged as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, but has not completely emerged as one of the sport’s mainstream attractions or would be pay-per-view draws.

Despite remaining undefeated and nearly dominating all opposition that has been placed before him, Ward also saw his career stall for a period of time due to a well-publicized promotional dispute with his former promoter the late Dan Goossen, which caused him to be inactive for nearly two years between 2013 and 2015. When Ward returned to the ring in June of last year, he did not show any ill effects from the inactivity as he stopped an over matched Paul Smith in nine rounds.

Ward, who had returned to the ring as a Light-Heavyweight then squared off against IBF number one Light-Heavweight contender Sullivan Barrera in March of this year. The victory over Barrera put the former world champion in a unique position of a potential clash against undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion and knockout artist Sergey Kovalev for November of this year, provided that both Kovalev and Ward were successful in their previously scheduled bouts prior to the would be pay-per-view showdown between the two.

Kovalev for his part, took care of business on July 11th when the champion successfully defended his title for the eighth time by scoring a twelve round unanimous decision over WBO number eleven rated contender Isaac Chilemba in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Although some were critical of Kovalev for being unable to stop the awkward and “Game” Chilemba, it was as this observer stated in my coverage of that fight, a case where Kovalev simply did what he had to do in retaining his world championship and position atop the Light-Heavyweight division against an opponent that is difficult to look good against.

It was now time for Andre Ward to do his part to set up a showdown with Kovalev later this year. The time came for Ward on August 6th in his hometown of Oakland, CA as he took on relative unknown contender Alexander Brand at the Oracle Arena, a venue that has served as home turf for Ward throughout much of his career.

As was the case when Kovalev took on Chilemba, the question was whether or not Ward would underestimate Brand, an opponent who was treated as a mere “Tune Up” with a lucrative fight with Kovalev waiting in the wings. Whenever an opponent such as Brand is cast as the “Tune Up” for a fighter who has a big payday in the works, the question is always can the fighter who is being called a mere opponent turn what some may see as a mere formality into a fight.

Despite having an awkward and defense oriented style, Brand was simply unable to provide Ward with much offense, but did provide the former world champion with some resistance in being able to go the distance as Ward thoroughly dominated the fight for all twelve rounds and in the process gave the Colombian-based contender Brand a gradual beating as Ward would win every round on the scorecards earning a twelve round unanimous decision. Much as was the case when Sergey Kovalev defeated Isaac Chilemba last month, this was a fight where one fighter Ward simply had a superior skill set and was dominant throughout against a fighter in Brand, who was able to hang in there and occasionally land some punches, but ultimately not enough to provide a significant test for Ward as the former world champion out landed Brand one hundred ninety total punches to only forty-five for Brand over the course of the twelve round bout according to CompuBox.

As was the case when Ward defeated Sullivan Barrera earlier this year, there was no drama that accompanied this fight. Much like Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward simply did what he had to do against a very “Game” and awkward opponent in Alexander Brand, who took the best that Ward could dish out, but a fighter who was ultimately outclassed.

Kovalev and Ward have now each done their respective part to set up an intriguing showdown between the two currently scheduled to take place on November 19th in a bout that will be televised by HBO Pay-Per-View in the United States. For both fighters, this will be the first time that either has headlined a major pay-per-view card. A classic battle of a puncher and knockout artist in Kovalev against a highly skilled boxer in Ward. Both fighters have faced and defeated all opposition that has been placed before them, both fighters have earned their status as superstars of the sport, although I look forward to providing further analysis as this fight gets closer, this fight does have the potential to not only be a Fight Of The Year candidate, but potentially an all-time classic in this observer’s eyes. A showdown that I am very much looking forward to.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


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