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Andre Ward’s Coming Out Party

Ward Stops Kessler to Win by Technical Decision in the Final Stage 1 Super Six Match

Andre Ward dominated Mikkel Kessler with speed and skills in winning via 11th round technical decision tonight at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Halfway through the 11th, the doctor stopped the fight due to the worsening condition of a butt-induced cut over Kessler’s left eye. Ward is the new WBA Super Middleweight Champion and earns two points in the Super Six World Boxing Classic.

Ward vs. Kessler Recap

Kessler later complained about the several butts and Ward’s holding. Ward did appear to be at least culpable for the decisive 8th round butt, however Kessler had yet to give any indication up to that point that he was going to be the winner in this bout.

Ward dominated from the opening bell. The speed differential was immediately apparent. Ward blitzed Kessler with sudden bursts of quickness, landing readily. Kessler seemed wooden from the beginning.

At the end of the second round, Ward landed a crackling right, one of many flashy and hard shots he would land on the Danish champion tonight. The hand and foot speed difference between the two became the decisive factor from very early on. The notion that maybe Kessler was engaging in an extended feeling-out process was scratched as Ward began to mark his face and dominate him increasingly.

The first of several different Kessler cuts materialized in the fourth, another big Ward round where Kessler seemed truly hurt by a big right hand. The assault continued in the fifth as Ward continued dominating him with quick, powerful bursts of shots. Doing much of his work in the middle of the ring, Ward was still able to dictate distance while Kessler was mostly missing.

By the midway point of the fight, Ward had landed dozens of good, eye-catching shots, as Kessler was only able to manage a few decent connects. Ward might have brought the workload down a notch after 5-6 rounds of a high-energy display of power boxing, but he was still doing most of the work.
Andre Ward Stops Mikkel Kessler
Before round 8, Kessler was complaining to his corner about his vision. Ward hit Kessler with several hard single shots in this round and Kessler began to take on the look of a guy who knew his fate. A head butt opened a cut over his eye, and Kessler went back to his corner dejected and bloody.

Round nine saw Ward pasting Kessler all over the ring. To his credit, Kessler stayed earnest and kept trying, but his cause seemed more and more of a lost one with each big shot he was being caught with. They banged heads again in the 10th and Ward kept hitting him with purposeful shots. The never-say-die Dane was severely battered in the last minute as Ward pounded away.

After another assault on Kessler midway through the 11th, referee Jack Reiss brought Kessler over to the doctor who deemed the cut over the eye was too bad for Kessler to continue. The fight went to the cards (due to the cut being caused by a butt rather than a punch) and Ward was declared winner and new WBA Super Middleweight Champion. Scores after ten were 98-92 (twice) and 97-93, which actually seemed charitable to the visiting champion.

Kessler vs. Ward Analysis

If Ward’s victory over Edison Miranda earlier this year was a strong hint that he may be the goods, this win is confirmation.

As a 2-1 underdog, he never looked anything but utterly superior to his favored opponent. He easily eclipsed the margin by which Calzaghe beat Kessler and in doing so, should rightfully inherit Mikkel’s co-favorite status in this tournament alongside Arthur Abraham.

Ward impressed with his speed, but that was somewhat expected. What was even more surprising was the power he showed. Ward rattled Kessler throughout, and cannot be simply categorized as a fast, moving fighter anymore. He engaged Kessler in close when he had to and boxed brilliantly without ever giving the impression that he was running.

Ward’s form never wavered. He maintained a busy style with a laser-focus that was impressive for a fighter of 25 in his first title fight. Before the fight, the idea of Ward merely winning would have been enough to satisfy most observers. So now, what should we think after he dissected the once beaten, longtime division stalwart and tournament favorite?

He earned the right to be called one of the USA’s brightest stars tonight. At 25, his future is ahead of him. Regardless if he runs the table in the Super Six or not, tonight was the night we were shown that Andre Ward is a top-flight fighter. When rising, young fighters put on a clinic against the #1 guy in the division; one can’t help but get a little giddy.

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Photo Credit: Tom Casino/Showtime