Tonight, in front of his hometown crowd in Oakland, California, Andre Ward (18-0 coming into the fight) defeated Edison Miranda soundly in a super middleweight (168 lbs) near-shutout fight, winning by unanimous decision.
Ward has been taking incremental steps up the boxing ladder, and the fight with knockout puncher Edison Miranda (32-3) brought him into the Shobox spotlight. Tonight, the fight also brought him to the attention of fight fans, as he showed courage in finally taking on a tough opponent rather than taking an easier route to a significant title shot.
Ward, a 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, displayed an exciting blend of offense and defense, skill and power, blending amateur skills with sly knowledge of the professional squared circle.
Miranda, game and macho throughout the fight, coming forward while waiting for a knockout moment that never came, was no more than the foil to Ward's showcase tonight, as Ward gave the veteran a boxing lesson.
In the first round, Miranda, known for dirty tactics, headbutted Ward, opening a gash over Ward's left eye. Ward didn't blink.
The butt was ruled accidental, and Ward showed courage and professionalism by keeping his cool and implementing a number of jab-right hand combinations with each punch coming up from his feet for maximum impact in the very same round.
Between rounds, we were introduced to Ward's corner, including his trainer, Virgil Hunter, and his cutman, "Stitch" Duran, author of acclaimed cutman training DVD "Giving the Fighter One More Round." Duran's understanding of the art of stopping blood flow came in handy, and the cut did not become a major issue in the fight.
Offensively, Ward came in at Miranda from a variety of angles, moving around the ring, mostly to his right away from Miranda's power shots. Ambidextrous, Ward moved between the southpaw and traditional stances before settling into a left hand stance in the later rounds, after Hunter noted that Miranda was being broken down by the powerful left hands which met their target again and again from this stance.
Ward's offense doubled as his defense, as his head and lateral movement kept him away from Miranda's punches, prompting commentators to note more than once that Miranda looked like an amateur as Ward made him miss, then countered effectively.
Ward blocked shots when Miranda come in close, spent most of the fight either comfortably outside of Miranda's range or inside of his punches, and used some man-handling techniques of his own to 'bully the bully' as commentators noted.
Adding to my enjoyment of the fight, Virgil Hunter offered many choice tidbits to his fighter from the corner. After round eight, he noted the psychological shift in the ring, "You breaking his heart."
He offered very specific combinations for use in upcoming rounds, like "Take a small half-step back and go in with an uppercut and a hook," which Ward translated into action. His advice before the championship rounds revealed his contribution to his fighter's patience throughout the fight, "Don't go for the knockout. Beat him up."
After the decision was announced, Ward declared that he is coming after the WBC super middleweight belt currently held by Carl Froch, who recently defended it against Jermain Taylor. Froch, who beat Taylor by knockout in the last round while behind on 2 of 3 judges' cards, better watch out.