Ward faces most dangerous foe in Miranda
Edison Miranda (left) has 28 KOs in his 32 victories. The Colombian slugger has vowed to make Andre Ward (right) his 29th KO victim, however the undefeated prospect refuses to be intimated by Miranda going into their super middleweight showdown at the Oakland Arena on Saturday. Photo by Alexis Cuarezma-Fightwireimages.com
Oakland, Calif.-native Andre Ward is delighted to be fighting at home for the first time in his professional career but the promising super middleweight prospect picked a tough homecoming assignment in Edison Miranda.
Ward, who takes on the hard-punching veteran in a Showtime-televised (9 p.m. ET/PT) 12 rounder from the Oakland Arena on Saturday, is an exceptional athlete, a skilled boxer, and the last American to win an Olympic gold medal (in the 178-pound division at the 2004 Games), but he’s never faced an opponent as dangerous as Miranda in his 4¾-year pro career.
Miranda (32-3, 28 knockouts) isn’t unbeatable as his record suggests, but the rangy Colombian slugger is experienced, still in his athletic prime at age 28, and is a bona fide KO puncher.
Ward (18-0, 12 KOs), a classic stick-and-move boxer with excellent speed and hand-eye coordination, is mature beyond his 25 years, but he’s never fought a pro fighter as strong and willful as Miranda.
However, Ward, who weighed in at 167.5 pounds on Friday, says he’s ready for Miranda’s vaunted power.
“When I get that first heavy shot, know that I am prepared,” Ward said at Thursday’s final press conference. “I am ready to hit and not get hit, but when you get hit, you snarl and come back. Miranda’s knockouts in his career were against small guys, everyone can make the boogie man of Miranda, but I am not going to be intimated or bullied.”
Ward has got a point about Miranda’s scary KO percentage; most of those stoppages have come against smaller fighters the Colombian faced during his prospect years outside of the U.S.
Miranda won his first 21 bouts by KO (16 in the first round). The only decent fighter among those victims was Alfonso Mosquera, who went on the challenge for a 154-pound title.
Miranda was taken the 10- and 12-round distance by undistinguished opponents in his first two bouts in the U.S. However, since then he’s had some impressive victories, including a stoppage of former middleweight title challenger Howard Eastman (the first and only knockout loss of the Englishman’s career) and a 10-round decision over super middleweight contender Allan Green.
“The public only looks at my losses and not my victories,” Miranda, who also weighed in at 167.5 pounds, complained at the final press conference.
“I have fought 33 fights and have lost to only two. They were top middleweights in the world.”
Those two fighters were middleweight champ Kelley Pavlik, who stopped Miranda in seven brutal rounds, and undefeated IBF titleholder Arthur Abraham, who survived a broken jaw to controversially outpoint the Colombian in their first encounter and then knocked him out in fourth round of their rematch.
“Any man can lose, no one is invincible, but in his loses he has shown vulnerability in his chin,” Ward said of Miranda’s knockouts to Pavlik and Abraham. “If you have seen one of Miranda’s fights you’ve seen them all – I don’t think he will have any tricks up his sleeve.”
Ward has a point about Miranda’s style — he’s your basic forward-marching puncher who’s there to be hit with jabs and right hands — but it might not be fair to question the slugger’s chin.
Miranda was just knocked out by the two best middleweights in the sport, but arguably the two hardest punchers in the 160-pound division. Pavlik was 30-0 with 27 KOs when he fought Miranda. Abraham was 26-0 with 21 KOs when he knocked out Miranda out in their super middleweight rematch.
Ward doesn’t possess such power, nor does he have Pavlik or Abraham’s considerable physical strength.
It will be interesting to see how Ward handles Miranda if the veteran is able to get close enough to grapple with him.
So far, the best fighters on Ward’s ledger have been Rubin Williams, Jerson Ravelo and Henry Buchanan — all of whom were solid boxers with varying degrees of experience and stylistic difficulties, but none of the fringe contenders were physically imposing.
However, the real moment of truth for most fans will occur if and when Miranda lands a clean power shot — probably his right hand, which is his money punch — to Ward’s chin.
Ward questioned Miranda’s chin but hardcore fans have their doubts about his whiskers because of a few “wobbly” moments early in his career.
Ward was badly rocked by unheralded Kenny Kost in the second round of his second pro bout in February of 2005, and he was dropped in the fourth round of his seventh pro bout against journeyman Darnell Boone late that same year.
Ward points out that he hasn’t been dropped, wobbled, or even buzzed since then — and he deserves credit for the manner in which he reacted to the adversity (he dominated both fights with Kost and Boone) — but it’s also a fact that he has yet to face a real puncher in the prize ring.
However, Ward sounds like he’s looking forward to Saturday’s challenge.
“I won’t be intimidated by this man,” he said. “I have seen a lot of blood sweat and tears to get to this point. Professionally, this is the biggest stage in my career and I won’t shy away from it.”
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]