The CBZ Newswire

Andre Ward scores easy 9th round TKO over British Challenger Paul Smith

by on Jun.22, 2015, under Boxing News

By Christopher Morgan at ringside

 

 

OAKLAND, CA,  June, 20, 2015 — It’s been quite a ride for the Oracle Arena and city of Oakland over these last few weeks, with the NBA Golden State Warriors winning their first championship in 40 years and the Number 2 pound for pound best fighter on the planet, Andre Ward, making a long awaited comeback after a 19-month layoff. Andre Ward’s new promoter, Rapper and media mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, sold out the Arena with competitive ticket prices and a star-studded cast, including San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and none other than the 2015 NBA MVP himself Stephen “Steph” Curry, who carried one of Wards championship belts as he walked to the ring. Did the fight itself live up to the hype? Please read along and find out, as I take you through the fight from my perspective at ringside.

The arena is full and fans are on their feet as Michael Buffer goes over the familiar fighter introductions routine. Paul Smith, introduced first, gets an Arena full of hecklers and boos, but carries a determined and serious look on his mug. Andre Ward gets the full support from his local fans, as is to be expected.

In the 1st round, Paul Smith, Liverpool, England (35-5, 20 Kos) who came into the fight over the scheduled weight of 172 lbs.,  looks a little flabby around the mid-section and is holding his guard very high and not throwing any punches. Andre Ward (27-0, 14 Kos) throws a few jabs up and downstairs to shake off the ring rust.  About 2 minutes into the round, Paul Smith attempts a fast one-two, but it falls short of the mark.  Ward, showing a little rust himself, also misses a one-two. Near the end of the round, Ward spears Smith flush in the face with a hard jab.

Between the first and second round, Miguel Cotto appears on the monitor in a quick interview.  He speaks as if the much anticipated fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been made already and that his preparation will be great. Triple G is also mentioned and Cotto says he is willing and able to fight both men.

For the majority of the 2nd round, Paul Smith is highly inactive, laying on the ropes and holding his guard up, forcing Ward to occasionally loop hooks around the guard that partially land. In the last 10 seconds of the round, Smith uncorks a hard right hand that lands flush on Wards face, visibly bothering him and forcing Ward to react immediately, pummeling Smith into the ropes before the bell rings, stopping the onslaught.

In rounds 3 and 4, Ward starts to notch up the intensity a little, throwing extended series of punches and fighting more aggressively than in past bouts.  It suddenly dawns on me that I am witnessing a changed Andre Ward; he isn’t fighting with his left hand low as he has for the majority of his career and, instead, has both hands up in a hybrid conventional/shoulder roll configuration. This new stance seems to be working effectively when Ward blasts Smith with a straight right hand that has him on shaky legs for a few seconds.

In round 5, Ward starts to amp up the bodywork as Smith, with his hands held high, isn’t giving up too many chin shots. Ward takes what he can and lands two great uppercuts in succession to Smiths slightly jiggly belly.  Another two hooks to Smith’s midsection have him wincing, as he ties Ward up to prevent further punishment. Smith, who has been mostly inactive all round, finally lands a wind-up, roundhouse hook to Wards body, paying the man back for some of the pain he has received. An excited fan yells “knock his chin off”!! Smith lands another left hook directly to Wards ribcage with such force that the thud can be heard throughout the arena.

The 6th round begins and Ward comes right out popping Smith with jabs while, once again, Smith is largely inactive.  Fans begin yelling at Smith, “C’mon, you’ve got to throw something! We came to see a fight!” Smith lands one jab during the course of the round with all of his offerings being telegraphed and easily evaded or blocked by Ward.

I am sitting here, watching the fight in the 7th round, and all of a sudden I see vintage Andre Ward materialize.  It looks as if the ring rust is finally coming off.  It’s a vintage Ward, with extended series of combination punches, jabs, check hooks, and right hands,  all while evading everything coming back.  But wait, there’s vintage Andre Ward and something else dawns on me:  Ward isn’t clinching or wrestling — a hallmark of his pre-layoff fighting style. Ward is also fighting much more aggressively with no backpedaling, I wonder is this is a new Andre Ward, or maybe his style for just this opponent, or possibly his anxiousness to get the ring rust off and get back into action. As the 7th round concludes, Paul Smith walks straight toward me, back to his corner.  His right eye is bleeding, and he carries a look of frustration.

Andre Ward comes straight out in attack mode as the 8th round begins and refuses to let up, putting an extended beating on Paul Smith and his rapidly deteriorating face, which oozes more and more blood as the round progresses.  As the bell sounds to end the round, both men stay in the ring staring each other down, refusing to go back to their corners.  The crowd erupts in a frenzy, and I can see Steph Curry jumping out of his seat and getting on his feet to cheer with the crowd.

The 9th round begins much like the previous round, with Ward coming right out and turning up the intensity.  His conditioning obviously hasn’t suffered.  After 1:32 seconds of the round have elapsed with Smith absorbing an extended beating, the ref jumps in and waives the fight over.

At the post fight press conference, Andre Ward, who has obviously done a lot of thinking and studying during his time off from the ring, let it all hang out in a very honest and informative monologue before answering a few questions. He gave himself a B rating and said he did well, but can do a lot better. As for a future opponent, he wouldn’t definitively name anyone, but said simply “I am available”.

In regards to which wait class he will fight at in the future, he says he plans to sit down with strength conditioning, nutrition and overall fitness guru Mackie Shillstone and find out what is best for his body, whether it’s staying at 168 or moving up to 175. Gennady Golovkin at 168 or Sergey Kovalev at 175 seem like the most logical opponents for Ward, and each will probably put up a much better fight than Paul Smith, who showed great class and sportsmanship upon showing up for the post fight presser, his face bandaged and swollen.

 

Undercard

The first televised fight and co-main event was a lackluster rinse and repeat affair between two undefeated Junior featherweights, Cleveland Ohio’s Antonio Nieves (12-0, 6 KOs) and Stephon Young (13-0, 5 KOs) of St.Louis Missouri. After 8 very similar rounds of action, the fight ended in a split draw, which seemed reasonable, as neither man really wanted it enough.

In the 1st round, it is mostly a cat and mouse affair, with both men standing in front of each other and posturing but not throwing much. Young was staggered near the end of the first from a straight right on the button.

Nieves, cranks it up in the 2nd round, trying to extend his late round success, but it appears that Young has made an adjustment and wins the round timing Nieves’ activity with laser-guided straight lefts that land in between Nieves’ ineffective salvos.

Young continues is assault in the 3rd round staggering Nieves and getting Devon Alexander at ringside to jump out of his seat.

The bout continues along these lines for the next 5 rounds with Nieves very active but not many of the shots hitting home while Young throws less frequently but his shots are accurate and hard, in the final round Nieves face is bleeding profusely as he runs away from Young for the entirety of the round just trying to survive.

At the end of the night the judges safely scored the bout a split draw however if I were to have to pick the winner I would say Young edged it based on his cleaner punching.

 

Non-Televised Undercard

In the opening bout of the evening, promising young middleweight prospect Luis “Cuba” Arias of Milwaukee Wisconsin (10-0, 4 Kos) scored an impressive 3rd round TKO over tough, game but outgunned Tony Brinson (4-2, 3 Kos) of Albany New York. Luis set his punches up well going hard to the body to set up vicious headshots, after scoring 3 knockdowns in the fight the referee wisely halted the contest.

In the 2nd bout of the card, undefeated featherweight prospect Daniel “Twitch” Franco (10-0-3, 7 Kos) of Riverside California earned a hard fought but clear 8 round unanimous decision victory over the tough and rugged Jonathan Alcantara of Los Angeles (7-13-2, 1 Ko)

Franco nearly stopped his man in the second but Alcantara somehow survived and even mounted some sporadic rallies in the remaining rounds but was simply outclassed by the superior puncher and tactician in Daniel Franco.

In the 3rd bout of the evening local middleweight Aaron Coley (9-1-1, 6 Kos) of Hayward California earned a pedestrian 6 round unanimous decision over Yosmani Abreu (5-5-2, 5 Kos) Yosmani mainly played defense making it hard for Aaron to track him down and connect with many meaningful punches.

In the 4th bout of the evening, Mongolian cruiserweight Meng “ColdBlood” Fanlong (1-0, 1 Kos) of Chi Feng Inner Mongolia absolutely demolished his overmatched opponent Albert Avina (0-3) of Stockton California via TKO in the 2nd round.

Wang “Jimmy” Zhimin of Ning Bo, China (2-0) annihilated Jose Luis Guzman (6-10-1, 3 Kos) of the Bronx New York dropping his man 3 times in the first round and getting the stoppage.

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