2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Oakland native Andre “S.O.G.” Ward and current World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight world champion Mikkel “Viking Warrior” Kessler have to wait until Saturday, Nov. 21 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., for their first fight in the SHOWTIME® Super Six World Boxing Classic, but that doesn’t mean they won’t sound off on this weekend’s fights from Nottingham, England and Berlin, Germany. The historic tournament begins on Saturday, Oct. 17, with a split-feed doubleheader live at LIVE 8 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast) on SHOWTIME.
Ward will be rooting for the Americans on Saturday night, and he says his money is on his fellow ’04 Olympian and a former middleweight kingpin against their favored European opponents.
“Overall, of course I’m pulling for the Americans in each bout,” Ward said as he prepares to fight Kessler in his first world title shot. “I don’t think anyone has given any of the three of us much of a chance to get past the first round with a victory.”
In the first fight on same-day-tape-delay, undefeated former middleweight champion “King” Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs) of Berlin, Germany, will face former undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor (28-3-1, 17 KOs) of Little Rock, Ark., at the o2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany.
“With Jermain Taylor and Arthur Abraham stylistically, I don’t think Abraham is going to put a whole lot of pressure on Taylor in the later rounds,” Ward said. “I think Jermain has worked on his stamina problems, and will be well prepared for the later rounds in this fight. I just feel like Jermain is the bigger, stronger man.
“If Jermain fights a disciplined fight, he should also come out of the first round with a victory. But that’s the beauty of boxing and this tournament, you never know what’s going to happen, so everyone is going to have to tune in on Saturday night. “
Immediately following Abraham-Taylor, Carl “The Cobra” Froch (25-0, 20 KOs) of Nottingham, England, will defend his World Boxing Council (WBC) title against 2004 Olympic Games medalist Andre “The Matrix’’ Dirrell (18-0, 13 KOs) of Flint, Mich., LIVE on SHOWTIME from the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
“In the Dirrell-Froch fight, I feel that if Dirrell fights a disciplined fight and continues to do what he’s been doing in the ring, but does it better because this is another level of competition, I don’t see why he won’t walk away with the victory,” Ward said.
The Danish star Kessler is less committal about the first fights in Group Stage 1 of the tournament and seems more interested in just watching some great boxing matches.
“The Super Six tournament will revolutionize the boxing scene,” Kessler said. “The concept only allows the best fighters to participate from the super middle weight division, starting with Abraham vs. Taylor and Froch vs. Dirrell this Saturday. I will at the O2 World in Berlin to see Abraham vs. Taylor.”
“I am looking forward to seeing the Abraham-Taylor fight live in Berlin. The key words of the fight are power vs. intelligence as I see it — Abraham as raw power and Taylor as the smart/intelligent fighter. Hopefully, the fight will promote the Super Six tournament as it should be promoted. That counts as well for the Froch-Dirrell fight later that night in Nottingham.”
While Kessler sees Abraham-Taylor as a battle of power vs. intelligence, he’s got a different view on Froch-Dirrell as both fighters have tremendous knockout potential.
“Froch-Dirrell is experience vs. the eager of youth,” Kessler said. “Froch is known for his stamina and ability to return when everything is against him. Dirrell is a super talent — he is young, but has already proven his position in the division. He is difficult to fight because he is changing styles all the time. Again, this is a fight that is hard to predict.”
Regardless of who wins, Kessler just seems to be excited about what this tournament will do for the future of the super middleweight division and boxing in general.
“As a fighter I look forward to be a part of this great tournament, but as a boxing fan also, I am very excited to follow all the other fights in the tournament,” Kessler said.
“Hopefully the group stage concept will create even more entertaining fights — at least I hope so. A K.O. victory will put you close to the semifinals! The tactical dimensions of the fights will be changed with this concept without a doubt.”
The Kessler-Ward battle in Oakland for Kessler’s WBA title will be Ward’s first world title fight and Kessler’s third defense.
For more information on the Super Six World Boxing Classic including exclusive videos, photography, expert analysis from Al Bernstein and Steve Farhood, and much more please visit www.WorldBoxingClassic.com.