by Malaika H Kambon
“It’s been a long time coming for our team, and we are excited to be back in the great city of Oakland. I know Andre has a lot of frustrations that he’s planning on releasing in the ring come Saturday night and I look forward to seeing it. I happen to be from Houston. We all know what the Warriors did to the Rockets. We couldn’t beat them so I had to join them. After Saturday night, I’m asking Smith to join Andre Ward’s team and go back to England and let them know ‘that’s a bad man.’” – James Prince, Andre Ward’s manager, speaking at the final pre-fight press conference in Oakland
Moments into the second round, it was evident that Andre “Son of God” Ward would demolish Paul “The Real Gone Kid” Smith. Smith can now return to England and let them know first hand that Andre Ward is a really dangerous man in the ring.
In a decision that was unanimously in his favor even before his opponent threw in the towel, Mr. Ward easily picked apart the defenses of Paul Smith, whom he described as being “tough and durable” early in the first round of the fight.
The rest, as they say, was historic.
Virgil Hunter, Mr. Ward’s trainer, who is an extremely skilled and incisive analyst in his observations, stated before the fight: “I have to really admire Andre’s resolve going through the things he went through. I think it’s made him a more mature man. I’m anxious to see how he has evolved. He’s not the same fighter that he was before all the litigation.
“He’s been tested. A lot of people are mentioning ring rust, but I brought in some of the baddest guys I could bring in (for sparring) and I’m happy with what I’ve seen. I know we have a tough task ahead. I’m looking forward to a good fight and moving on from there.”
Virgil Hunter’s remarks concerning litigation referenced the long fight waged by Mr. Ward against his then promoter of record, Goossen Tutor Promotions, concerning his contract, the federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Ward against Goossen Tutor Promotions under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, and the subsequent resolution of matters between Mr. Ward and (the late) Dan Goossen and the Goossen family, giving him the free agency he wanted. For more information concerning the lawsuits, see “Andre Ward speaks out on Dan Goossen lawsuit” and “Andre Ward statement on lost arbitration to promoter Dan Goossen.”
In January 2015, Mr. Ward became the first high-profile fighter to sign with promoter and music mogul Jay Z’s ROC Nation Sports, followed by the signing of WBC world middleweight boxing champion Miguel Cotto (also present Saturday night) in March.
But there was no ring rust in evidence from Andre Ward in the Ward vs. Smith fight. In fact, anyone who has seriously followed Andre Ward’s career knows that he doesn’t do “ring rust.” It is insulting that anyone would actually consider that he would. This was an extremely lopsided fight, despite Mr. Ward’s nearly two-year layoff. And to add injury to insult, Mr. Smith came into the ring several pounds overweight and much heavier than Mr. Ward.
The score cards of referees Steve Morrow, Michael Tate and center referee Lou Moret read that Ward had won every round right up to the TKO at 1 minute, 46 seconds into the ninth round, when Paul Smith’s camp threw in the towel.
And the reality is that if Mr. Smith’s camp hadn’t thrown in the towel, the fight was going to become ugly. Andre Ward wasn’t even breathing hard by the ninth round, whereas Paul Smith’s head and face resembled nothing more than a piece of bloody meat. His nose had been broken, body shots from Ward had taken a serious toll, his legs were rubbery, he was extremely overweight and it showed, and there was a serious cut over his left eye.
And so Andre “SoG” Ward, who is perhaps the greatest super middleweight boxing champion in the world, proved yet again that he is highly deserving of the recognition.
For even though he chooses to be called the Son Of God rather than “Killer,” “Destroyer,” or something similar, tonight Mr. Ward demolished Paul “The Real Gone Kid” Smith in the ring, despite an obvious weight and fitness difference between the fighters.
On Friday, June 19, at the public weigh-in at The Plank in Oakland’s Jack London Square, Ward weighed in at a svelte 171.8 pounds, while Mr. Smith weighed in at 176.4 pounds, 4.4 pounds over the 172- pound contractual limit. At the subsequent Saturday morning, the day of the fight weigh-in, Mr. Smith was even heavier, weighing in at 184.4 pounds – which was 3.4 pounds over the 181-pound limit – in a déjà vu reminiscent of the same stunt pulled by Edwin Rodriguez, whom Ward defeated in November of 2013.
Though Paul Smith apologized for being overweight and Mr. Ward graciously accepted the apology, this seems to be a repeating strategy of Andre Ward’s opponents, despite the fines that come if a boxer doesn’t make weight.
If this is in fact the case, it offers the world a glimpse of how Andre Ward picks his opponents apart psychologically even before he enters the ring. For what serious athlete comes into competition with millions of dollars and/or a title at stake, giving away thousands of dollars at two weigh-ins before he even stepped into the ring?
Reminiscent in many ways of Muhammad Ali, who is the greatest heavyweight boxer who ever lived, Andre Ward’s performance this evening was eerily similar to the young Cassius Marcellus Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston. Mr. Clay remarked at the bout’s stoppage as he bounced up onto the ring ropes to celebrate his victory: “I’m 21 years old, I don’t have a mark on my face, I’m the heavyweight champion of the world, and I AM THE GREATEST!”
Andre “Son of God” Ward announces his greatness by continuing to win. He is the only fighter in the history of boxing to not have lost a fight since the tender age of 12. Now 28-0 in his 10-year professional career, he is a natural athlete, and has been boxing for 21 of his 31 years.
Team Ward is one of the best in the business, comprised of Virgil Hunter, trainer; James Prince, manager; and The Cut Man Don whom he met at the age of 10 years old; to name but a few. He was completely unscathed and unmarked after this bout, was not at all hurt by anything that Paul Smith threw, landed over 231 punches to Paul Smith’s 47, and is still the WBA super middleweight champion of the world.
He is honest with his fans and takes it personally when other boxing camps tell lies and sell wolf tickets to the public. And he repeatedly backs up what he says in the ring.
Oakland fans showed their appreciation. Stephen Curry, MVP of the world champion Golden State Warriors basketball team, personally requested to carry one of Andre’s title belts into the ring. Nearly 10,000 people packed the Oracle Arena to standing room only capacity to see the fight, which was televised live on BET into 9 million homes and streamed globally on TIDAL.com.
Also in attendance were San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, actor Michael B. Jordan and NFL star and good friend Marshawn Lynch. The ROC Nation Sports’ Throne Boxing card included an in-ring performance by underground Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, who has built his reputation working with Snoop Dogg, Drake and Lloyd.
Several times during the post-fight press conference it was remarked that Andre Ward was trending on Twitter, and the conference room was packed.
In the face of all of this, Mr. Ward was still the quiet, knowledgeable, gracious and tack sharp professional, who seems to be more accessible to his fans since his signing with ROC Nation Sports.
And though he is nowhere close to having reached his full potential as a boxer, in this reporter’s estimation, he is at this point in his career the greatest super middleweight boxer, pound for pound, of all time.
Malaika H Kambon is a freelance, multi-award winning photojournalist and owner of People’s Eye Photography. She is also an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state and national champion in Tae Kwon Do from 2007-2012. She can be reached at email@example.com.