The Ward brand

by Malaika H Kambon

“One thing about fighters – they are going to tell the truth about what they know. Boxers let you know who will be pound for pound. People look at physiques and try to determine who is big and who is small, and that is the worst mistake you can make in boxing because a lot of fighters look bigger from the outside – they must build the right way from the inside out …but you should move when you’re ready to move.” – Virgil Hunter

Power left and right hooks, jabs and straight punches to Alexander Brand’s right eye and body from Andre Ward occurred all evening. Some of them he could see coming and was powerless to stop. – Malaika H Kambon
Power left and right hooks, jabs and straight punches to Alexander Brand’s right eye and body from Andre Ward occurred all evening. Some of them he could see coming and was powerless to stop. – Malaika H Kambon

“Fighters know when fighters are in condition.” – the late Muhammad Ali

Typically, people make mistakes about Andre “Son of God” Ward all of the time.

People say he’s light (in terms of weight), but no one can push him around. They say he cannot punch, but no one can just walk right through him. The lesson is that it is always different on the outside, and until you get into a ring with him, you won’t know how hard he can punch. Once you find out, the same mistake isn’t repeated – at least not by the same people.

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, was no different.

Mr. Ward put on a boxing clinic for the 8,653 fans that looked and sounded more like 10,000 fans, to remind the world of what happens when mistakes of this sort are made.

Throughout the fight, Andre Ward kept tagging Alexander Brand, specifically in his right eye. Mr. Brand didn’t learn that he shouldn’t carry his right arm so low. So Mr. Ward kept tagging him in his right eye, first with left hooks, then with straight rights. He also scored several straight rights to the left side of Mr. Brand’s chest, and several straight lefts to the lower right side of Mr. Brand’s torso.

Mr. Ward put on a boxing clinic for the 8,653 fans that looked and sounded more like 10,000 fans, to remind the world of what happens when mistakes of this sort are made.

Brand, in response, was wild and very awkward, throwing back handed swinging, forward swinging, open gloved “arm bars” and large looping punches reminiscent of what the late Muhammad Ali characterized as George Foreman’s big, looping “hamburger punches.” He even demonstrated what he was talking about at the famed Rumble in the Jungle press conferences, and they looked precisely like some of what Alexander Brand was throwing.

Mr. Brand saw the punches coming and could do nothing. – Malaika H Kambon
Mr. Brand saw the punches coming and could do nothing. – Malaika H Kambon

However, George Foreman didn’t ever try to backhand an opponent in the ring. Alexander Brand tried that several times with Andre Ward. It was just barely this side of disrespectful, and it almost got Mr. Brand knocked out.

Predictably, Andre Ward left an “SOG brand” on Mr. Brand, just as his manager, Mr. James Prince, predicted that he would. He made him miss repeatedly, and when he missed he’d get tagged – hard – and usually to the same right eye.

Mr. Ward even occasionally switched to south paw, tagging him in the same eye with his other hand. And when Mr. Brand got on his bicycle, running around the ring, Mr. Ward did what he does: He neutralized the problem – in this case, Mr. Brand’s awkward fighting style – executed astute ring generalship, got the necessary rounds and dominated the fight.

These things he continued to do with great humility, power and grace.

Andre Ward left an “SOG brand” on Mr. Brand, just as his manager, Mr. James Prince, predicted that he would.

And with that same grace, at his public work-out press conference, he gave respect to women boxers, in particular the Raquel Miller vs. Gabrielle Holloway fight’s late addition to the Aug. 6, 2016, undercard. Remembering the days of the Christy Martin fights on the Mike Tyson undercards, Mr. Ward said, “It is a great shot in the arm for women’s boxing because unfortunately women boxers do not get the exposure that they deserve, and that it is a beautiful thing to have a boxer of Raquel Miller’s stature on the card. I don’t believe that there isn’t a market for women boxers. Let’s create a market; let’s create some buzz. I’m happy for her.”

Part of the 8,653 people that sounded like 10,000 people watch a seven fight ROC Nation card of fighters win by KO and by unanimous decisions. – Malaika H Kambon
Part of the 8,653 people that sounded like 10,000 people watch a seven fight ROC Nation card of fighters win by KO and by unanimous decisions. – Malaika H Kambon

Raquel Miller, who is now 2-0, 1 KO in her professional career after defeating Gabrielle Holloway in a unanimous decision, said at her pre-fight work out: “This opportunity means everything to me because it’s like being at the door of opportunity. You’ve got to knock and walk on in, or let opportunity pass you by.

“And it’s not just about what it means for me; it’s about what it means for females, for people from the hood, for low income people, for people who do not have money or silver spoons (in their mouths) people who’re working hard every day. So to be given this opportunity by ROC Nation, it’s like when I win, we win.

“Dre to acknowledge me the way he did and to have the response that he had was everything. I feel like so many women can just smile and love Andre Ward so much more because he’s ready for us to have our shine too. “

On the upcoming Ward vs. Kovalev fight, Ms. Miller had the following analysis: “I definitely think that Ward is the more technical fighter. I think that Kovalev is very strong and very aggressive, but I think that Andre Ward is a technician, and that he’s going to break him (Kovalev) down in the later rounds. And I think that is going to be the decision, that it’s probably going to go to decision, but that Andre Ward is going to be the cleaner fighter, super technical, sharp, that he’s going to get the win.”

Recall that at the pre-fight press conference at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Andre Ward said of Alexander Brand: “It’s impossible for me to overlook this man, I’m not built like that. I wasn’t raised like that. I wasn’t groomed like that as a young fighter. I don’t operate like that. This man is coming. This is his Super Bowl, so because it’s his Super Bowl, it has to be my Super Bowl.”

Alexander Brand throws an awkward, open gloved “arm bar” punch as though pushing against Andre Ward's head. – Malaika H Kambon
Alexander Brand throws an awkward, open gloved “arm bar” punch as though pushing against Andre Ward’s head. – Malaika H Kambon

And so it came to pass. The official “Super Bowl” CompuBox scores had Mr. Ward throwing 121 punches to Mr. Brand’s 37, 58 perfect faster and with far more accuracy.

Judges David Sutherland, Steve Morrow and Michael Tate – with Jack Reiss as center referee – scored the bout 120-108 unanimously in Andre Ward’s favor.

Mr. Brand received a boxing lesson. He was shown graphically in fact, what it means to see a punch coming and not be able to do anything about it.

And Mr. Sergey Kovalev, who has presented himself at ringside at more than one Andre Ward fight, has had the opportunity to hear Mr. Ward state that he wants to be the world’s light heavyweight champion.

Judges David Sutherland, Steve Morrow and Michael Tate – with Jack Reiss as center referee – scored the bout 120-108 unanimously in Andre Ward’s favor.

Seemingly, Mr. Ward and Mr. Kovalev will have the opportunity to discuss this on Nov. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. ROC Nation and Main Event promotions, in conjunction with HBO executives, will no doubt make all of the necessary arrangements.

Some of Andre Ward’s punches could have knocked out Alexander Brand. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
Some of Andre Ward’s punches could have knocked out Alexander Brand. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

Andre Ward is now 30-0, 15 KOs. Sergey Kovalev, who, the talk around town says, wasn’t all that impressive in his recent fight against Isaac Chilemba, though he secured the win and is now 30-0-1. 26 KOs.

It is now on to Las Vegas, Nevada, for Mr. Ward and for Mr. Kovalev, with the light heavyweight title belt on the line, in a much anticipated battle for pound for pound best boxer in the world status to be determined by millions on international pay-per-view television.

It bears mentioning that many said that the Muhammad Ali left and right hooks that put George Foreman on the canvas in Kinshasa, Zaire, were “phantom punches.” I’d bet that Mr. Foreman didn’t share that particular opinion, and could in fact dispute it with frightening clarity.

Though Andre “SOG” Ward did not knock Mr. Brand out, a case could still be made that Mr. Foreman and Mr. Brand now have a lot in common. George Foreman didn’t see what hit him either until it was too late.

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 kambonrb@pacbell.net.