Ring Ratings Update: Ward beats ‘The Man’ at super middleweight
Andre Ward (left) takes it to Mikkel Kessler during his technical decision victory over THE RING's previously No. 1-rated super middleweight on Saturday. Ward decisively outboxed and outfought the respected veteran which is why he assumed Kessler's No. 1 ranking in this week's RING Ratings Update. Photo / Alexis Cuarezma-FightWireImages.com
Pro wrestling legend Ric Flair's popular catch phrase “To be the man, you gotta beat the man” has become a credo that boxers live by and fight fans swear by. But it doesn't always work out that way in divisional rankings.
Sometimes a lower-rated or unrated fighter can beat the No. 1-rated fighter but still not assume that top-rated contender's spot. That happens when there are more-accomplished contenders just under the former top dog who are deemed more worthy of the No. 1 ranking.
Other times, the lower-rated fighter's victory is so impressive that his performance outshines the accomplishments of the higher-rated fighters and he supplants the No. 1 contender.
That's what happened when Andre Ward dominated THE RING's No. 1-rated super middleweight Mikkel Kessler to an 11-round technical decision Saturday in his hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Ward, the magazine’s No. 9-rated contender, had defeated only one RING-ranked contender (Edison Miranda) going into Saturday’s bout against the Danish star, who had earned his No. 1 ranking with a string of impressive victories over RING-rated contenders before he dropped a competitive decision to then-champion Joe Calzaghe in late 2007.
Kessler (42-2, 32 knockouts) wasn't competitive at all with Ward (21-0, 13 KOs) but there was still some question whether the 25-year-old challenger deserved the Dane's No. 1 spot over two undefeated beltholders — Lucian Bute and Carl Froch — THE RING's No. 2- and No. 3-rated super middleweights prior to Saturday's bout.
Bute, who defends his belt against Librado Andrade in a highly-anticipated rematch this Saturday, owns victories over RING-ranked contenders Sakio Bika and Andrade.
Froch, a participant in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament that Ward and Kessler are part of, has defeated current light heavyweight contender Jean Pascal, former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor and talented prospect Andre Dirrell.
However, those accomplishments did not trump Ward's brilliant performance against Kessler in the view of THE RING Ratings Panel of boxing journalists from around the world.
“The Editorial Board and the vast majority of the Ratings Advisory Panel believe that Ward has earned the No. 1 contender position by beating Kessler, who held that spot going into their bout,” said Nigel Collins, Editor-in-Chief of THE RING magazine. “The fact that Ward’s victory was decisive and that Kessler was favored to win Showtime’s Super Six tournament reinforced our decision.”
The decision is a fair one, especially when comparing Bute’s best opponents with Kessler and Froch’s recent performances with Ward’s showing on Saturday.
Unlike Kessler, who has good technique to go with his athletic prowess, Andrade and Bika are rugged-but-limited brawlers who often appear unpolished in the ring.
Froch’s last three victories are impressive but it should be noted that the confident Brit narrowly beat Pascal, an undefeated but unproven super middleweight at the time, was trailing on two scorecards when he stopped Taylor in the final round of their bout, and scored a controversial split decision over Dirrell in this last fight.
There was nothing narrow or controversial about Ward’s one-sided victory over Kessler (despite the three-time titleholder’s post-fight complaints of head butts and low blows), which is why the relatively inexperienced challenger became “the man” when he beat “the man.”
Three major titles changed hands and one alphabet belt was made vacant during a busy weekend of boxing, all of which is reflected in this week’s RING Rating’s Update:
Zsolt Erdei moves up from light heavyweight and enters at No. 3 due to his close decision win over Giacobbe Fragomeni, who slips from No. 3 to No. 4. Erdei’s debut at cruiserweight bumps down all rated No. 4 or below last week one spot each, and forces out Grigory Drozd (No. 10 last week).
Erdei (No. 4 last week) is now rated at cruiserweight. His departure allows everybody rated No. 5 or below last week to advance one position each, and makes room for Vyacheslav Uzelkov to debut at No. 10.
Ward’s dominating victory over Kessler vaults the 2004 Olympic champ from No. 9 to No. 1, while Kessler tumbles to No. 4. Everybody rated No. 4 through No. 8 last week slides down one slot to accommodate Ward’s jump.
Vitali Tajbert replaces Humberto Gutierrez at No. 9, thanks to his 12-round decision over Gutierrez,
Marvin Sonsona (No. 8 last week) failed to make weight for his alphabet title bout with Alejandro Hernandez (which ended in a 12-round draw), and has, therefore, been removed from the 115-pound division. Sonsona has been replaced by Daigo Nakahiro.
Moruti Mthalane retained the No. 7 position with a decision over Julio Cesar Miranda, who falls from No. 8 to No. 10. Miranda’s demotion elevates Luis Concepcion (No. 9 last week) and Zolani Tete (No. 10 last week) one rung each.
Rodel Mayol (No. 8 last week) knocked out beltholder Edgar Sosa (No. 2 last week), and jumps to No. 3, while Sosa dips to No. 4. Meanwhile, Giovanni Segura (No. 3 last week) moves into the No. 2 slot. The shakeup causes Ulises Solis (No. 4 last week), Cesar Canchilla (No. 5 last week), Omar Nino (No. 6 last week), and Juan Carlos Reveco (No. 7 last week) to fall one place each.
“From all reports, Mayol’s (second-round TKO) victory was aided by a significant headbutt, which is the reason that he did not assume Sosa’s former rating,” said Collins.