RING Ratings Update
Andre Ward established himself as a player in the packed super middleweight division and a potential star with his clear-cut unanimous decision over Edison Miranda on Saturday.
Ward (19-0, 12 knockouts) didn’t just beat the toughest opponent of his professional career and prove that he could sell tickets (almost 8,000 gathered to cheer the hometown hero on against Miranda at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, Calif.), he finally made the transition from prospect to bona fide contender.
Ward entered THE RING’s super middleweight ratings at No. 10, bumping former WBO titleholder Denis Inkin.
“Andre Ward and Denis Inkin have very similar records, but the Advisory Panel members thought the fact that Ward is undefeated, while Inkin lost his most resent bout (a decision loss to Karoly Balzsay), was enough to give Ward a slight edge,” said THE RING editor Nigel Collins. “The editorial board concurred.”
Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, turned pro 4¾ years ago with very high expectations from fight fans and boxing media. With his extensive amateur background and obvious athletic gifts, he was expected to advance in the pro ranks as quickly as some of the most celebrated U.S. Olympic gold medalists of recent decades — Sugar Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, and Oscar De La Hoya — however, his trainer Virgil Hunter was adamant about gradually developing his young fighter (who was only 20 when he turned pro).
The fighter and trainer took their share of criticism from the media in recent years but it appears that the slow approach was the right one for Ward as he exhibited complete skills and varied strategy while outboxing the stronger, more-experienced Miranda from a distance, often doing so from a southpaw stance, and while outworking the Colombian slugger in close, going to the body with regularity, over 12 intense rounds.
Ward appears to have enough seasoning to target the top fighters in the 168-pound division, and the 25-year-old boxer may very well face one before the end of this year.
He replaced Jermain Taylor as the WBC’s No. 1 contender with the victory over Miranda. The WBC title is currently held by tough-as-nails Englishman Carl Froch (25-0, 21 KOs), who made a splash in the U.S. by upsetting Taylor by 12th-round TKO last month.
Froch is THE RING’s No. 3-rated contender, ranked behind only fellow titleholders Mikkel Kessler (No. 1) and Lucien Bute (No. 2).
Froch has demonstrated a willingness to travel to the States for big fights. Kessler, a star in his native Denmark, and Bute, a popular Montreal-based Romanian, routinely attract more than 15,000 fans to their fights at home. They may not be as willing to defend their titles against Ward in America.
However, there are more than a few attractive domestic super middleweight matchups for Ward, including showdowns with THE RING’s No. 4-rated contender Librado Andrade, Allan Green (No. 7) and Taylor (No. 9).
An eventual high-profile fight with THE RING middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik is also a possibility.
Now that Ward has arrived, let’s hope he plans to make up for lost time.
There was significant movement in two other weight classes this this weekend:
Italy’s Giacobbe Fragomeni (26-1-1, 10 KOs) jumped from No. 7 to No. 4 after fighting a 12-round draw with Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, who retains his No. 2 rating. Fragomeni’s advancement forced down all cruisers rated between No. 4 and No. 6 last week.
Maywood, California’s Urbano Antillon (26-0, 19 KOs), No. 7 last week, exited due to the fact he is now campaigning at lightweight. Antillon’s departure elevated fighters rated No. 8 through No. 10 last week one rung each. Debuting THE RING’s rankings at No. 10 is Sergey Gulyakevich (26-1, 12 KOs) from Belarus.
“There was some consideration given to rating Urbano Antillion among the top-10 lightweights,” said Collins, “but we decided against it because his accomplishments at 135 pounds are not as significant as those of Amir Khan, THE RING’s current No. 10 contender in the lightweight division.”