Ward has big day planned for Saturday
Andre Ward has been looking forward to Saturday for years.
The last American boxer to win an Olympic gold medal will be facing his first major test almost five years after the 2004 Games when he takes on hard-punching veteran Edison Miranda in a 12-round super middleweight bout on Showtime.
And he’ll be doing it in front of the hometown fans at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., which seems to mean more to him than anything at the moment.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said over the phone Thursday. “ÔÇª And it has become a larger dream of late. I went to some (Golden State) Warriors games there and said, ‘I can envision us, me and my team, fighting here one day.’
“The day has arrived.”
Ward (18-0, 12 knockouts) also knows what’s at stake.
Some believe that his career has progressed too slowly, that a gold medalist should be farther along 4¾ years into his professional career. He has faced some decent opponents but no legitimate title contenders, no one to get excited about.
Dan Goossen, his promoter, is satisfied with the pace in light of injuries Ward has suffered – to his knee playing basketball last summer (which required surgery) and then a thumb injury, Goossen said. Now, Ward is healed and poised to take a big step.
“He’s exactly where he should be now,” Goossen said.
Which is standing directly in front of Miranda on Saturday night.
The Colombian (32-3, 28 KOs) probably isn’t as good as he once appeared to be. He gave Arthur Abraham a difficult time in 2006 (although Abraham fought with a broken jaw) but he was subsequently knocked out by Kelly Pavlik and then Abraham.
Still, Miranda is experienced, tough and has considerable power; he comes to win and almost always does. If Ward follows the lead of Abraham and Pavlik, he could be looking at a title shot in the very near future. He’s ranked No. 2 by both the WBC and WBO, whose titleholders are Carol Froch and Karoly Balzay.
“I know I have a job to do amidst the excitement (of fighting in Oakland),” Ward said. “ÔÇª You feel pressure every time you fight. And the better the opposition, the more the pressure. I’ve had to deal with pressure my whole career, though.
“No matter how you rate my former opponents, when they fought me, they had nothing to lose. The pressure was on me. I’m used to it.”
Ward, 25, doesn’t seem to be intimidated by Miranda, who’s been telling everyone who will listen all week that he’s going to score a knockout. Miranda actually said, “Andre Ward has zero chance to win this fight.”
Ward, one of boxing’s nice guys, hasn’t really fired back. In fact, he called himself the underdog in the fight.
However, make no mistake: He’s quietly very confident. He knows what Miranda’s strengths are; he also saw the same vulnerabilities we all saw in his fights against Abraham and Pavlik. And he can’t wait to exploit them.
“I’m just keeping a cap on it,” he said. “I’m fired up. Don’t take the humility and that sort of thing as weakness. I’m focused. I’m coming to do what I gotta do. Please believe that. ÔÇª The winner of this fight will be in line for a title shot, from what I understand, a mandatory shot.
“That’s huge. I want those belts really bad, I want to bring those belts to the city of Oakland. I have to defend home turf first, though. And that’s what I plan on doing.”
One thing is certain: We’ll know a lot more about Ward after Saturday night.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]