Kessler, Ward score KOs; next up is Super Six
Andre Ward viciously attacked Shelby Pudwill from beginning to end Saturday in Temecula, Calif. Photo / Renay Johnson-FightWireImages.com
Note: Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward won their fights a half a world apart Saturday to set up their showdown on Nov. 21 in Oakland, Calif., the first fight for each in the Super Six super middleweight tournament on Showtime. Here are the reports on their fights.
HERNING, Denmark — Mikkel Kessler shook off the rust that had accumulated in the 11 months since his previous fight and stopped overmatched Venezuelan Gusmyr Perdomo insides four rounds to retain his super middleweight title at the MCH Messecenter in Herning, Denmark.
As an exercise in providing a worthwhile assessment of Kessler’s form heading into the Super Six super middleweight tournament, which will get under way next month, this bout had little value. Perdomo, a 33-year-old southpaw whose 16 career wins against mediocre opposition were placed in even starker perspective by defeats against former Joe Calzaghe victim Mario Veit and Dimitri Sartison, whom Kessler stopped in the 12th round last year to regain the WBA belt, lacked the firepower to concern the 30-year-old Dane and he was clearly inferior. Andre Ward, a light heavyweight gold medalist for the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and unbeaten after 19 bouts as a pro, will be a significantly more threatening proposition for Kessler when he encounters the 25-year-old from San Francisco in their opening match in the round-robin tournament, scheduled for Nov. 21.
But Kessler will feel glad about getting some rounds under his belt. Since bringing the best out of Calzaghe over 12 competitive and compelling rounds in November 2007 and subsequently undergoing surgery on his right hand, he had boxed only twice. Sartison rocked him with a right hand to the jaw in the opening round before he suppressed the German with his formidable jab and finished him with a series of powerful right crosses and hooks in June 2008. Danilo Haussler, another German, survived only as far as the third round before a hard combination culminated in a straight left to the jaw and a 10-count by South African referee Stanley Christodoulou last October, Kessler’s most-recent fight. Before engaging Ward, he wanted to step back into the fray and Perdomo, willing but limited, was the perfect opponent.
Kessler dictated the distance and rhythm in the opening round with his sharp jab, which speared into Perdomo’s face and quelled his ambition. The Venezuelan, understandably enough, was preoccupied with avoiding the kind of heavy assault which Kessler is only too capable of instigating, so he moved constantly with no real purpose other than staying away from the firing line. His own jab landed short and his overhand lefts were insignificant, though he landed with a fast flurry of body shots and a right hook to the jaw midway through the round. Kessler confirmed his superiority, however, with a quick right to the jaw and follow-up left hook and short right in the final seconds before the bell.
The jab continued to be a debilitating weapon for Kessler in the second round and he landed productively with his right hand twice and the straight left, too, about midway through. Perdomo fired back but the effect was negligible. Even a circumspect Kessler had too much class to allow the South American more than a modicum of success. Spurred on by the partisan crowd, the Dane unleashed a powerful stream of punches in round three and he forced Perdomo back against the ropes. A left-right combination knocked the South American down in the closing seconds and referee Russell Mora counted, though replays showed that Kessler’s right landed on the shoulder and Perdomo’s balance went.
A succession of solid jabs softened Perdomo, 16-3 (10 KOs ), some more at the start of the fourth before Kessler staggered him with a powerful straight right to the jaw. The challenger sagged against the ropes, his legs barely able to keep upright. Kessler kept punching and, although almost all of his blows appeared to miss, the referee intervened at the 0:51 mark just as Perdomo’s knees gave way and he fell to the floor. He was not badly hurt but, had Kessler been given the opportunity to unload more ruthlessly, he would have ended the night in an unenviably bad way. The early stoppage did Perdomo a favor while Kessler celebrated the 42nd win of his career, 32 by stoppage.
“I’m happy with this victory and with the opportunity it gave me to get back in the ring,” Kessler said. “This was an opponent I needed to face because he was my mandatory challenger and, now this is out of the way, I can look forward to taking part in the Super Six tournament. It will be a great challenge but I am looking forward to success. With the support of Showtime TV in America , it will be an opportunity to show fans in the U.S. that I am one of the world’s best fighters, which I truly believe I am. I’m 30 years old and I have many more years to establish myself in this sport. That is my mission. The other guys better look out.”
To kick off the tournament, Britain’s Carl Froch, also a title holder, will meet American Andre Dirrell in Nottingham on Oct. 17, the same night Armenian Arthur Abraham, who lives in Germany , will face former world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor at the O2 World Arena in Berlin. Kessler, however, will be the man to beat.
WARD MAKES QUICK WORK OF PUDWILL
Andre Ward came out firing in his stay-sharp fight against Shelby Pudwill on Saturday in Temecula, Calif., throwing an array of hard shots meant to end it early. And although Pudwill came to fight, Ward got his wish.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist stopped his overmatched opponent 2:16 into the third round to remain undefeated and emerged unscathed – no injuries, no cuts, just a big smile when it was over.
That’s because now comes the main event, his Nov. 21 showdown against Mikkel Kessler in the opening round of the Super Six super middleweight tournament in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif. Kessler did his part by winning in similar fashion in his native Denmark, stopping Gusmyr Perdomo in four rounds.
Jermain Taylor will fight Arthur Abraham, and Andre Dirrell will face Carl Froch on Oct. 17 at separate locations to open the competition.
“No one believes they can lose,” Ward said immediately after the fight on Showtime, which created the tournament. “The only one in the tournament who may have doubts is Jermain Taylor. At the same time, he’s trying to get back to superstar status so he’s definitely one to be taken seriously.”
Ward (20-0, 13 knockouts) had no trouble with Pudwill (22-4-1, 9 KOs), who was game but has limited talent and had fought only once in three-plus years. Ward put him down with a half left hook in the final round and then battered him until the fight was stopped.
Things aren’t likely to be so easy against Kessler, a seasoned veteran who will be favored to win their fight. Ward passed a meaningful test by dominating Edison Miranda in his previous fight but has no where near the experience Kessler (42-1, 32 KOs) has. The Dane has lost only to future Hall of Famer Joe Calzaghe.
However, Ward has an Olympic title and has never lost as a pro. Confidence will not be a problem.
“I definitely consider myself the favorite in our fight,” he said. “I think he’s one of the best super middleweights out there. ÔÇª I take nothing away from him. At this level, there are no weak links. It’s the best against the best. Then you try to prove yourself and see who is the last man standing. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ward will have one significant edge: home-field advantage. The fight was originally expected to take place in Denmark but it ultimately landed in Oakland, probably because that works better for American television.
Ward is ecstatic.
“That’s a huge difference,” he said. “Believe me, that’s a favor from God, truly a favor.”
Antonio Tarver, the newest member of Showtime’s commentating team, isn’t so sure that Ward needs any favors. He wonders whether those who dismiss Ward as a long shot because of his relative lack of experience are going to be surprised when the tournament is over.
“When I look at Andre Ward,” he said, “I see a fighter that’s peaking at the right time. When you look at the Miranda fight, how he got through the fight and impressed all of us. Then you look at him (Saturday night), putting on a showcase.
“He’s peaking at the right time. I think he’s more than just a sleeper for the (Super) Six.”
Also in Temecula, James Toney (72-6-3, 44 KOs) stopped journeyman Matthew Greer (12-6, 11 KOs) in the second round of a heavyweight fight.
Toney weighed in at 217 1/2, his lightest in six years, which apparently means he's serious about one more run at the heavyweight title at 41.
He was just too fast and too good for Greer, who is from St. Louis.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]