LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) – Andre Ward felt like the road team in his home state when he walked to the open-air ring amid a chorus of boos while hundreds of Armenians waved red-blue-and-orange flags.
Ward took the abuse and smiled. Arthur Abraham would have needed a white flag to stop Ward from steamrolling him on the way to the Super Six tournament final.
Ward overwhelmed Abraham with power and speed in nearly every round of an unanimous decision victory Saturday night, defending his WBA super middleweight title in the Super Six semifinals.
Ward (24-0, 13 KOs), the Olympic gold medalist from Oakland, put on another clinic in patient, tactical boxing while dismantling Abraham (32-3), the Armenian-born German who had a perfect record until losing three straight in the Super Six.
The Los Angeles area’s sizable Armenian population turned out in force for Abraham, but Ward had answers for all of them.
“We’re going to the final, baby,” Ward said. “Arthur is strong, and he’s a hard hitter, (but) we showed that we can win in a way other than our original game plan.”
Ward is one fight away from the tournament title that should establish him as the 168-pound division’s top fighter. England’s Carl Froch is favored to beat Glen Johnson in the other Super Six semifinal bout in Atlantic City, N.J., on June 4, and the final is expected this fall.
Ward felt even less at home when the referee wouldn’t allow him to fight Abraham on the inside, repeatedly breaking up the fighters when the action got close. After Abraham managed a few lively exchanges during the early rounds, Ward took control with an excess of speed and precision, peppering Abraham with jabs and combinations.
Abraham largely stopped throwing good punches when he realized he was hopelessly overmatched at Home Depot Center, just south of Los Angeles.
“I wish the ref had let me fight on the inside, because that’s what I had planned for,” Ward said. “But we made adjustments and got the win. … I’m going to stay humble. I’m going to keep working hard. I want to be a champion for a long time and take the least amount of punishment possible.”
Judge Stanley Christodoulou scored it a 120-108 shutout for Ward, while German judge Ingo Barrabas and The Associated Press favored Ward 118-110. Dr. James Jen Kin gave it to Ward 118-111.
Ward still hasn’t lost since he was a 12-year-old amateur. The Bay Area fighter starred in Athens, winning the only U.S. boxing gold in the past three Olympics.
Abraham had the fans’ backing in just his third U.S. appearance. Hundreds of rowdy fans jeered Ward and chanted “Ar-Tur! Ar-Tur!”, but Ward quickly quieted the crowd with another clinical display of his superior technical skill.
“I started well, and I thought I did good the first three rounds,” Abraham said through a translator. “He didn’t hit me, and I was blocking a lot of his shots. But then I tried for the knockout, and I couldn’t do it. I cramped up, and I got too tense.”
Ward used his jab aggressively in the opening rounds, but Abraham showed more aggression than in his previous two bouts, even rattling Ward with a right hand behind his ear in the third round.
Ward weathered those attacks and took charge. He never came close to stopping Abraham, but he battered Abraham into the ropes with an overhand right in the final minute of the 12th round.
Ward threw 289 jabs over 12 rounds, landing 178 of his 444 total punches. Abraham got credit for more power punches and landed a similar percentage of total punches, but Ward landed all the blows that counted.
Ward emerged as an elite pound-for-pound fighter while dominating the group stage of this now-ramshackle tournament matching the world’s top 168-pounders outside of Canada’s Lucian Bute, the likely challenger for the Super Six winner.
Although injuries led to the withdrawal of half the original field, Ward earned one-sided victories over Mikkel Kessler and Allan Green to reach the semifinals against Abraham, who advanced despite losing twice.
The Super Six hasn’t worked out well for Abraham, an unbeaten middleweight champion and presumptive tourney co-favorite when it began.
After knocking out Jermain Taylor in his first bout, he received his first career defeat when he was disqualified late in a fight he was losing to Andre Dirrell. Abraham then was trounced by Froch in his last bout, thoroughly unable to keep up with the English star.
Earlier at the Home Depot Center, slimmed-down heavyweight contender Chris Arreola stopped Nagy Aguilera in the third round in an impressive performance. Arreola, who lost his title shot against Vitali Klitschko in September 2009, dedicated himself to conditioning before beating Aguilera, who lost when he couldn’t defend himself on the ropes.