The time for America-on-America violence has arrived in Showtime’s most excellent Super Six tournament: In the final fight of the second round, it’s Andre Ward vs. Allan Green Saturday night. Ward either continues his coming out party after dominating previous tournament favorite Mikkel Kessler or Green begins his coming out party by taking the throne Ward inherited, and there are a lot of subplots besides.
American vs. American, yes; Ward’s chance to move in to the pole position vs. Green’s chance to get on the scoreboard for the first time, yes; but it’s also the quiet, understated personality of Ward vs. the flamboyant, sometimes obnoxious personality of Green; the boxer Ward vs. the puncher Green, even if that’s a mild oversimplification; the chance for Green to reverse the trend of the hometown fighter winning, if he can upset Ward on his home soil of Oakland, vs. the chance that Ward can become the first boxer in the tournament to win two in a row; and Ward’s gimpy knees vs. Green’s gimpy knees.
In all of these subplots, there’s also a boxing match. Ward is rightfully the heavy favorite, because in his last couple appearances he’s taken on the air of a special fighter. Green no doubt has talent, and his combination of speed and power present Ward with a mixture more potent than he’s yet to encounter, but he’s also inconsistent and flawed. Yet if Green pulls it off, this super middleweight tournament gets super sexy going into its third round with everyone neck and neck, and you enjoy watching a gifted craftsman at work, another Ward win will be a true delight. Also, five fights in, every tournament fight has produced some kind of major drama and/or controversy, so there’s that.
And if that isn’t enough:
[TQBR Prediction Game 3.0 begins with this fight. Please take this opportunity to brush up on the rules.]
Let’s lift up the hood and see what makes this fight go.
Watching Ward in action since he finally stepped up in competition last year has been a real joy. There’s nothing the man can’t do. He’s excellent on defense — extremely hard to hit cleanly. Offensively, there’s not a punch he doesn’t have, and he can deliver his punches while leading or countering, from the orthodox or southpaw stance, inside or outside. He’s got to be one of the smartest boxers going, capable of throwing different looks at his opponent from round to round or even mid-round. His speed is his greatest physical asset, and while I once thought it was a B+ kind of speed, it may be more like an A. He’s great on his feet and with his hands, with timing that makes him all the more difficult. He and his trainer Virgil Hunter have proven that they’re going to have an excellent game plan for their opponent and take away his best weapons, a la Bernard Hopkins and Naazim Richardson. Throw in Ward’s mean streak — he may be the “Son of God,” but he fights like a devil — and you have quite the boxing package.
Edison Miranda, whom Ward first stepped up against, hardly won a moment of that fight. Nor did Kessler when he fought Ward. With those performances, Ward made a case for belonging in the pound-for-pound top 20, not just a case as the best 168-pounder there was. You almost have to look for weaknesses. There are a few. His knees count; they have been a problem far too often, even leading to the postponement of the Green bout for a while. His power is unexceptional; for all his other assets, he’s very busy offensively, and after putting a ton of accurate leather on Miranda for 12 rounds and Kessler for 11, only Kessler was in danger of being stopped, before a head butt-induced cut drew the fight to a close one round early. Miranda is pretty knockoutable these days, too. His chin was once a question mark; it may still be a vulnerability, but Miranda and Kessler are both pretty good punchers, and they caught him a few times, to no effect. And Ward occasionally gets wild; he’ll throw punches from too far out or too wide, which is about the only time he gets hit to any degree, although his tendency to fight with his lead hand low is a potentially self-destructive habit.
Green is about where Ward was before he stepped up, although he’s four years older at 30. The closest he’s come to fighting a top opponent is Miranda back when Miranda was undefeated. It feels like ages ago: 2007. Green lost that fight, notably, in one of many “what the heck” moments in Green’s career, since Green spent the whole bout staring down at his feet. You can excuse the loss on the basis that Green, after that bout, was so ill he had surgery to remove 85 percent of his colon afterward. Except Green has a lot of “what the heck” moments, good and bad. Sometimes he’s so sensational you can hardly believe it, like with his destructions of Jaidon Codrington and Carlos DeLeon, Jr. Other times he stares down at his feet or nearly gets knocked out by journeyman Donny McCarary or struggles to beat Tarvis Simms. That he’s done all of this — excluding Miranda — against merely decent competition makes the highs less impressive and the lows troubling.
The sensational Green keeps his jab in his opponent’s face, uses his height to control range and avoid shots (he’s a touch taller and longer than Ward, by the way) and waits for the right moment to drop his left hook. And what a left hook it is. In all the videos of his I reviewed to study for this preview, his left hook led to every knockdown and/or knockout. You’d think everyone would be cautious of it, but he uncoils it short and quick. He’s really fast, something that doesn’t often get mentioned when people talk about Green, and his technique on offense is pretty solid, two things that make it easier for him to land the punch of his choice. That’s the sensational Green, though. The bad Green is far too hittable, although even the good Green isn’t much on D either. He’s counter-able, if Miranda could counter him, and he has long lapses on defense like he lacks an attention span. He’s also often not busy enough. And Simms had moments where he got inside and smothered Green’s power, or flummoxed him by switching stances. Nor could Green hit the clever Simms all that flush.
You can kind of see where this is going.
Let’s give Green the best possible scenario. He says he doesn’t often get a full training camp, and he got one this time, so the inconsistency isn’t a factor. He said he’s prepared to box Ward patiently, which he’ll need to do to find that opening for his left hook. Maybe Ward, unaccustomed to fighting someone in his league speedwise, gets caught, and his chin proves it’s still a liability — and Green, as we all know, is nothing if not a finisher.
It’s not remote, that scenario, but it’s not something with a big likelihood. More like it, I think Green’s chances of winning are rather small. He’s not going to outbox Ward in any world I can imagine, and I think Ward’s chin is now a reliable bet. Then, fighting the switch-hitting, defensively-clever, good-on-the-inside Ward is going to be messing with Green’s rhythm something awful. And if McCrary can almost turn out the lights on Green, then Ward can hurt Green, too.
There are fighters who can beat Ward in this tournament. I don’t think Green is the one. But while I think Ward can hurt Green, Green has showed he can survive when he’s wobbly, so I think he’ll not get knocked out. Give me Ward by a rather one-sided decision where Green flashes moments of danger but can’t fully turn those moments into enough danger to amount to anything and instead gets battered. Then Green gets an opponent more suited to him in the third round, when he gets to play spoiler against Kessler. And Ward’s job gets harder against the only fighter faster than him in the tournament, his friend Andre Dirrell.