Andre Ward was already regarded as the best super middleweight boxer in the world. His bout with Chad Dawson was going to take him to the next level of stardom and change his legacy forever, or would sully almost everything he has worked for up to this point and change his legacy forever.
Saturday night in Oakland was the biggest positive statement that Ward has ever made inside the boxing ring. He took Dawson down with a barrage of power and precision strikes en route to scoring a 10th-round knockout in which Dawson told the referee he couldn't get up.
For someone who has gotten by in his career by not taking many chances and using an efficient offensive attack, Ward unleashed a whole new side to his boxing style that could change the landscape of his career.
Too often in boxing we see fighters coast by on easy bouts that don't provide a challenge. A perfect example came on Saturday in Russia, as WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko, who took on a cupcake in Manuel Charr and scored an easy fourth-round victory.
Ward and Dawson both deserve credit for making this fight happen. They could have been content to stay in their own divisions and keep dominating for the next few years.
Thanks to Ward's win, he not only has the luxury of saying he defeated the best light heavyweight in the world, he has the thrill of a dominating knockout on top of it. His legacy goes from being one of the best fighters of this generation to potentially legendary.
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com compared this knockout to some of the more recent legacy-shaping victories we have seen.
The performance from Ward was staggering. Potential-all-time-great staggering. This was as good as Roy Jones Jr. routing James Toney or Floyd Mayweather Jr. crushing Diego Corrales.
At just 28 years old, Ward still has several prime years ahead of him. This fight could be the kickstarter that launches him in the stratosphere of boxing greats. He is not quite there yet, though he is much closer than he was 24 hours ago.
Here is where we will learn what Ward ends up becoming. His star is never going to be brighter than it is right now. He has his choice of future opponents and can do one of two things: Challenge himself or coast along.
As mentioned with the Klitschko bout, too often fighters are constricted to certain restrictions that they need their opponent to agree to; otherwise, they just won't fight.
Ward can't turn into one of those fighters. He needs to keep striking while the iron is hot. That's not exactly as easy as it sounds, since there isn't much left at super middleweight. His best bet, though he would have to be willing to try it, is a move up or down in weight.
No one can force Ward to do anything he doesn't want to, nor should he have to since he is the best and it is incumbent upon someone else to stop him.
This victory worked wonders for Ward's legacy. He is in the mix for best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He just has to find the right opponent who can keep pushing him forward.
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