Outside the ring, Andre Ward is one of the most pleasant, personable, thoughtful and unselfish young men you’ll ever want to meet. Inside, he is widely recognized as one of the most talented young fighters in the world, a “can’t miss” world champion in the eyes of many. Others take it a step further and refer to him as the “future of boxing.” So, there is little doubt that the only boxer from the United States to capture a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, will likely one day become a world champion. The question is: when?
Ward is confident 2009 will be a magic number, the year he finally fights for and wins a world title. If it doesn’t transpire, however, do not look for the classy boxer-puncher to push the panic button.
“This year, I just want to continue to win and win spectacularly, regardless of who’s in front of me,’’ said the undefeated, world-ranked super middleweight who defends his North American Boxing Organization (NABO) belt against once-beaten Henry “Sugar Poo’’ Buchanan in the main event on Friday, Feb. 6, on ShoBox: The New Generation on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
“I’m not really one of those guys at this point in my career that says, ‘I have to have a (world title) belt by ’09.’ We’re just going to see what’s on the table. There’s really no telling. Boxing is the kind of sport where you really can’t plan for what’s next. You have a general idea what’s coming up, but you can’t plan.
“(Still) We are looking for a big, big year in 2009. We’re taking our time, but we’re kind of on a fast-pace at the same time.”
The 6-foot-one-inch Ward (17-0, 12 KOs), of Oakland, Calif., is ranked No. 3 in the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO), No. 10 in the World Boxing Association (WBA) and No. 14 in the International Boxing Federation (IBF). Both he and Buchanan (17-1, 12 KOs), of Chesterfield, S.C., are ShoBox alums, having twice appeared on the popular, eight-year-old SHOWTIME series.
Ward, who can effectively switch from a conventional stance to southpaw – he’s a natural lefty — has won his last seven fights by knockout, including a dominant third-round stoppage over Esteban Camou on Dec. 13, 2008. It was Ward’s first outing since he injured his right knee during a pick-up basketball game and had arthroscopic surgery in August ‘08.
Two starts ago, Ward, who turns 25 on Feb. 23, captured the NABO crown with an eighth-round TKO over Jerson Ravelo on June 20, 2008, on ShoBox.
Don’t expect Ward to overlook Buchanan in their upcoming 12-round bout. “Anybody close to my weight class or in my weight class we always (have to) watch for,’’ Ward said. “My job is to continue to stay focused and continue to stay ready. When you’re ready, you don’t have to get ready.’’
The 5-foot-9-inch, 30-year-old Buchanan, the uncle of San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, possesses above-average punching power and good natural athletic ability. He has won three in a row, including a ninth-round knockout over Brian Norman in his last start on June 25, 2008.
“I’ve been laying low, just trying to take it one fight at a time so I can strike it rich,’’ said Buchanan, who triumphed via 10th-round disqualification over Lucas Green-Arias in his ShoBox debut on June 25, 2008. “I know Ward won the gold medal and that he’s a good, speedy, fast boxer.
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be as hard as everybody else thinks. This is a great opportunity. I’m going to knock Ward out.’’
In the ShoBox co-feature, unbeaten John “John” Molina (14-0, 10 KOs) of Covina, Calif., will be opposed by Ghana’s hard-hitting Joshua “The Exciting’’ Allotey (15-6, 13 KOs), who has won three of his last four fights by knockout, in an eight-round junior lightweight bout. Goossen Tutor Promotions will promote the event from The Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino at Lemoore, Calif.
The popular, promising, aggressive-minded, power-punching Molina will be making his ShoBox debut. It is the 5-foot-10 and one-half-inch, 26-year-old’s second scheduled eight-rounder. In his last start, he registered a fifth-round TKO over Omar Lizararraga on Nov. 20, 2008, in Highland, Calif.
One night after the ShoBox event, the eagerly anticipated world title fight between IBF/WBC/WBA 115-pound champion Vic Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KOs) and former two-time world champion Jorge Arce (51-4-1, 39 KOs) will highlight a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast that begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast) from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
In the Feb. 7 co-feature on SHOWTIME, Antonio DeMarco (19-1-1, 13 KOs) will take on Almazbek “Kid Diamond” Raiymkulov (27-1-1, 15 KOs) in a 12-rounder for the NABO lightweight title.
Nick Charles will call the ShoBox action with Steve Farhood serving as expert analyst. The executive producer of ShoBox is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
For more information on SHOWTIME Sports, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go to the new SHOWTIME Sports website at http://sports.sho.com.