By Nick Tywalk
Andre "S.O.G." Ward
Birthplace: San Francisco, California
Resides: Oakland, California
Height: 6' 0"
Current World Titles Held: WBA Super Middleweight (168 lbs.)
Former World Titles Held: None
Professional Record: 24-0, 13 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 4-0
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 5-0
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Carl "The Cobra" Froch
Birthplace: Nottingham, England
Resides: Nottingham, England
Height: 6' 1"
Current World Titles Held: WBC Super Middleweight (second reign)
Former World Titles Held: None
Professional Record: 28-1, 20 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 5-1, 1 KO
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 7-1
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The long and winding road that once marked The Beatles' final act has nothing on the Super Six World Boxing Classic. Yet despite numerous potholes along the way, Showtime's ambitious super middleweight tournament will finally crown a champion on Saturday night when Andre Ward and Carl Froch face off.
The undefeated Ward entered the event untested but emerged early on as one of the favorites. He made some believers by defeating Mikkel Kessler in his first Super Six fight, and he's barely been tested since then, breezing through Allan Green and Arthur Abraham.
Froch's sailing wasn't quite as smooth. The Cobra found himself in two close fights, beating Andre Dirrell and losing to Kessler, but he regained his swagger in victories over Abraham and Glen Johnson and seems to be in great form for the final.
Along the way, both men have transformed many experts' previously held opinions of them. Ward has always flashed the textbook boxing skills his amateur background would suggest, but he's proven to be equally adept at rough, close-range fighting. And while Froch made his rep as a slightly awkward puncher, he's impressed with his underrated athleticism and superior ability to change tactics in mid-fight.
These fighters always enter the ring in fantastic shape, and they should be prepared for 12 close, hard-fought rounds. Much has been made about the difficulties of winning on the road in the Super Six, suggesting that Ward may get the benefit of the doubt in a tight battle that goes to the cards. Still, he's a Cali native who doesn't have a huge East Coast following, so Froch is likely to get as fair a shake in Atlantic City as he'd get anywhere outside of his home in Nottingham.
Ward's Winning Strategy: Mix Things Up
Yes, we just mentioned above that Froch is plenty adaptable. But that only works for The Cobra when he has opponents with nothing else to offer once he's figured them out.
That's not the case for Ward, who can box from a distance or go inside and bang. He should be able to use his excellent jab and all-around good technique to land shots even against the slightly taller and rangier Froch. In tight, Andre isn't afraid of the rough stuff (some detractors say that's because he leads with his head in those situations), which is good because his foe isn't either.
Ward just has to make sure he doesn't fall in love with one approach or the other, because Froch is just too crafty for that. He'll want to switch gears often, varying his range, his target (head or body) and perhaps his stance as well.
Without scary knockout power, Ward has to be ready for a battle that goes the distance. If he makes sure to utilize all of the tools at his disposal, he's got a good chance to find the trophy waiting for him at the finish line.
Froch's Winning Strategy: Be the Aggressor
Though The Cobra's counter-punching talent has been something of a revelation during the Super Six, he's also learned the hazards of fighting of the back foot too often. He was lucky to escape with the decision against Dirrell when the young American chased him the whole night, and his otherwise even bout with Kessler went against him largely because the Dane stepped on the gas more when it counted.
It's something of a cliche that judges in American boxing matches like action, but there's some truth to it as well. Since Ward isn't a super busy fighter by any means, Froch has a chance to steal some of the close rounds if he just decides to work more.
Ward also hasn't had his chin tested much, and Froch has the power to do it. He can still look for his sneaky, accurate counters, he'll just want to get off first when he sees openings. That will increase his opportunities for landing something that will tell us the strength of Ward's whiskers.
Above all else, Froch has demonstrated that he knows how to do whatever it takes to win. That might mean taking the lead more often than normal, but don't be surprised if The Cobra finds it suits him just fine for this particular fight.
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