OAKLAND, Calif. – On paper, Chad Dawson should’ve been Andre Ward’s toughest opponent. Dawson was quick and skilled. And he was the naturally bigger man, having come down to 168 pounds from 175.
Didn’t matter one iota. Ward, who has made a fascinating habit of cutting talented foes down to size, did it again on a special Saturday night at the Oracle Arena in Ward’s home town.
THE RING super middleweight champion put the quick, skillful big man down a stunning three times, the last time apparently prompting a beaten Dawson to say to Steve Smoger, “It’s over, it’s finished, I’m done.”
That was good enough for the veteran ref, who stopped the one-sided fight at 2:45 of the 10th round as about 9,000 rabid Ward fans went nuts and Ward leaped around the ring.
Dawson came to believe the hard way what the rest of us already knew: “He really is one of the best.”
Ward (26-0, 14 knockouts) has now beaten in succession Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and Dawson. And none of these fights was particularly close, even if the scores might indicate they were.
No one has been able to solve Andre Ward, not even some of the best fighters in the world.
The difference in this one is that Ward ended matters before 12 full rounds were completed against perhaps the strongest man he has ever fought. The dramatic knockout against a top-tier opponent was the only thing missing from his sterling resume.
“The missing piece was finishing people off. That was the last piece of the puzzle,” Ward said proudly in the ring afterward.
The first two rounds gave us no indication of what was to come, as the principals spent most of six minutes feeling one another out.
Then, late in the third round, came a right-left combination that sent Dawson to one knee and instantly changed the course of the fight. Early the next round, Ward landed a crushing left hook that put Dawson down and hurt him badly, which seemed to set up a dramatic finish in that round.
Dawson somehow was able to survive but – hurt? tired? deflated? all of the above? – he was never the same afterward.
The end came dramatically, Ward landing a devastating five-punch combination that sent Dawson (31-2, 17 KOs) to one knee again and evidently took his will to fight.
Andre Ward forcing Chad Dawson to quit? Amazing.
“The better the competition, I rise to the occasion,” Ward said.
We really shouldn’t be shocked at the outcome. Ward has done it a number of times now.
He takes a bit of time to figure out his opponent and then, when the time is right, he takes charge. That typically has meant outboxing – inside and out – his opponents to win one-sided decisions. On Saturday, that meant finishing the job in a more-spectacular manner.
The result is the same, though: Ward making his opponent look grossly inferior. He also did it to highly regarded Kessler and Froch, the latter of whom took some solace in the fact that he at least he could claim that he was the most competitive of Ward’s opponents.
In other words, Froch was saying: “Man, that bloke is special.”
We shouldn’t anoint Ward the best fighter in the world, at least not yet. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao remain the driving forces in the sport. And the likes of Nonito Donaire, Adrien Broner and perhaps Gennady Golovkin are gifted fighters who are poised to become superstars.
After what we saw on Saturday, though, it’s difficult to say that anyone is better than Ward. He has fought a gauntlet of exceptional opponents and destroyed them all, something no one else can claim.
And if he can start doing the one thing we’ve been waiting for – knocking people out – well, it might be only a matter of time before Ward becomes the best there is.
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Photos / Naoki Fukuda