Boxing fans praying for a marquee matchup between fighters at the peak of their powers will finally get their wish on Saturday night.
Undefeated super middleweight champion Andre Ward prepares to defend his WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine crowns against Chad Dawson at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA, and both are rising stars who come into the fight with a ton to lose.
For Ward, it begins with his titles but ends with his undefeated record. At 25-0, Ward is one of the few top-tier young boxers with a flawless record.
If he's able to defeat Dawson on Saturday night, it could push him to a new stratosphere of mainstream fame. With an Olympic gold medal from 2004, a strong American pedigree and an unsullied record since his 12th birthday, Ward is the type of story that U.S. audiences latch onto.
A win for Ward could even set up a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., as the Money Team will undoubtedly be intrigued by the possible cash payout of an undefeated-versus-undefeated fight.
For Dawson, a victory proves he's one of the best boxers in the world. Already a light heavyweight champion, the 30-year-old would instantly ascend to the top or near the top of pound-for-pound rankings with the super middleweight belt around his waist.
And with so much to lose or gain with the throw of one punch, look for both men to come out Saturday night and provide the best boxing match of 2012.
It will lack the flair (and hopefully the controversy) of Manny Pacquiao versus Timothy Bradley, and the box-office name value of Mayweather versus Miguel Cotto.
Nevertheless, this fight will be a testament to true boxing skill and a test to see which man truly hungers for greatness.
There are no two fighters in the entire sport better suited to fight against each other. Both are students of the sweet science and master craftsmen in the ring who execute their punches with precision while rarely making mistakes.
Ward fights a defensive style that focuses on mitigating his opponents' strengths. Some have dared to call him the middleweight John Ruiz, but that's an unfair categorization. Unlike Ruiz, Ward doesn't bask in being the bane of all boxing fans' existence by clenching every chance he gets. Instead, he is a precision fighter who picks his spots and looks to defeat other fighters with precision over flair.
You could, theoretically, say he's like a young Mayweather (albeit a less talented version).
A southpaw who thrives on the outside, Dawson is nothing to write home about in the excitement department, either.
However, they are two marquee stars who are unafraid to make sacrifices to fight each other. And just because something isn't awe-inspiring doesn't make it unworthy of applause or accolades.
Ward-Dawson will not capture the imagination of the common man, or even leave boxing fans clamoring for a rematch.
It will simply be the best boxing match any of us watches this year.
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