Ward wins big; Campbell wants a belt
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In this corner -- a 40-something Floridian hovering between atheist, agnostic and convert.
And in the other -- a mid-20s Californian bearing the nickname "Son of God."
But in spite of a wont to take cover when someone opens an interview by thanking a supreme being for protecting one man's consciousness over another in a boxing ring, I find it difficult to not root for a guy like Andre Ward.
And while we aren't likely to share a pew at Christmas mass, I make no bones about the fact that I was pulling for the 25-year-old Oakland resident on Saturday night when he took a career-defining step against Edison Miranda.
Even though he'd had just 18 fights against relative nobodies -- compared to the slugging Colombian's 32 wins and 28 knockouts and three tough losses against reigning world champions at 160 pounds -- I was confident Ward had what it took to get it done.
And when he closed out a clear-cut decision on Showtime, I felt he'd not only propelled himself into championship chatter in the reawakening super middleweight division, but chalked one up for the good guys out there as well.
Andre Ward took a career-defining step against Edison Miranda.
A winner of Olympic gold in the 2004 Summer Games at Athens, Ward reaped something less than the financial and recognition windfall such amateur success provided those before him -- most notably Oscar De La Hoya in 1992 and a handful of stars from 1984.
Even David Reid, courtesy of a one-punch KO in Atlanta in 1996, was gifted with a golden head start on a pro career his talent hardly warranted.
By the time Ward climbed the podium stardom was no longer automatic.
So instead of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Ward spent formative time beating a path through the backwoods of California, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon and Connecticut before his career was 10 bouts old.
He showed a fondness for jumping puddles as well, flying to Saint Lucia in 2007 and the Cayman Islands in 2008, while climbing the ladder against the Roger Cantrells and Jerson Ravelos of the world.
"That's the way the game is sometimes," he said. "You have different guys with different promoters and they have different plans for them from the start. People remember guys like Oscar, but they might not point out a guy like David Reid, who's a good friend of mine and won a world title, but didn't have a reign.
"That's where I want to be different. My goal isn't simply to win a championship and be finished. I want that to be the start of the process. I could've tried to get a title shot right away and finagled my way into a championship, but I want to earn it the right way and then hold on to it for a while."
Reid won a world title at 154 pounds after two years as a pro and defended twice before a brutal decision loss to Felix Trinidad in 2000. He fought just four more times and ended his career at 17-2 following a stoppage defeat against 13-2-1 Sam Hill in 2001.
Incidentally, Hill, now 38, is 3-9 since the ninth-round TKO win.
"I'm absolutely not just a shooting star," Ward said.
He and I spoke shortly before the Ravelo fight and I headed to the Caribbean to watch it live, eventually becoming charmed by the steel drums and rum outside the ring as well as Ward's obvious all-around skills.
His eight-round punch out of Ravelo was pretty much according to script on a muggy evening, while his before- and after-fight performance with media and fans confirmed he's every bit as good a person as a fighter.
"I just can't wait to get home to my baby," said Ward, who copped the WBO's vacant North American title at 168 pounds against Ravelo just days after becoming a father for the third time. "I want to lay it down at her feet and just enjoy the accomplishment."
Nice, as it turns out, doesn't always mean soft.
Two more wins followed Ravelo and led Ward toward the Miranda triumph, which got him to 19-0, let him retain his NABO and NABF regional titles, and, most notably, elevated him to mandatory challenger status against incumbent WBC champion Carl Froch.
Froch, of course, stayed unbeaten in 25 fights by toppling another ex-Olympian from the U.S. -- 2000 bronze medalist Jermain Taylor -- with a dramatic final- round stoppage last month.
According to WBC rules, he's required to defend his title against Ward by April 25, 2010.
"Hey, I'm No. 1," Ward said. "We're both undefeated. Let's get it on."
Heaven help me...I hope it works out for him.
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To anyone waiting for Nate Campbell to establish himself at 140 pounds...keep waiting.
A rumored bout between the former three-belt champion at 135 and recently crowned WBO junior welterweight kingpin Timothy Bradley "won't happen anytime soon," according to Campbell's manager Terry Trekas.
"(Bradley promoter Gary) Shaw wants options on Nate in order to make the fight," Trekas said. "That's a deal-breaker. We are open to negotiations for that fight. We just aren't in a position to give options. As for the chances? Hard to tell. Thirty percent maybe?"
Campbell was also shut out of a chance to win the WBC title Bradley held before wrestling the WBO jewelry from Kendall Holt. The WBC belt was either surrendered by Bradley or stripped from him by Jose Sulaiman, depending on whom you believe.
Bradley's publicist circulated a letter he'd supposedly written to Sulaiman on April 27 declaring his intention to vacate the title. Conversely, on the WBC Web site, a press release claims Bradley "stepped on the rule that gave him the WBC title, tarnishing the prestige, the image and the honor of all WBC champions."
Nate Campbell last fought in February on a Don King show in South Florida.
The belt's fate will be determined by No. 1 contender Devon Alexander and No. 2 contender Junior Witter in a bout for the vacant title, scheduled to go to a purse bid if no agreement was reached this week.
Campbell, ranked No. 3, last fought in February on a Don King show in South Florida.
"We have a hearing on (May 27) that hopefully will end the battle with King, and then we can move on free and clear," Trekas said.
Another option could come from a WBC welterweight title bout on May 30, which will see IBF 140-pound champion Juan Urango challenge Andre Berto in Hollywood, Fla.
Should Urango win, he'd have seven days to decide to reign at 140 or 147, according to IBF Championship Chairman Lindsey Tucker Jr.
If he wins and stays at welterweight, the lighter title would be filled by a bout between the top two available contenders, presumably No. 1 Randall Bailey and Campbell, who's also ranked No. 3 by the IBF.
"Nate wants to start collecting the titles at 140, so we would take the first one available," Trekas said. "Whether that's negotiating a Bradley fight for the WBO, fighting Bailey for the IBF if Urango vacates, or fighting the Devon Alexander-Junior Witter winner for the WBC. Nate will fight anybody. Fighting Randall is our least-preferred option.
"They are very good friends and both are trained by John David Jackson. It creates some problems. In an ideal world, Urango keeps his 140(-pound) belt, fights Randall, Randall makes some money and hopefully wins, Nate picks up the other titles and then Nate and Randall unify sometime down the road for good money."
The least likely of all is a mega-match with Manny Pacquiao, who won the IBO title at 140 with a second-round blowout of Ricky Hatton earlier this month.
The Filipino is reportedly considering a move to 147 to meet Miguel Cotto or a challenge of the winner of July's bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez.
"Pac is not a realistic option, regardless of what Nate does at 140. There are too many ways for them to maneuver around Nate," Trekas said. "The easiest way is by saying that Nate doesn't bring enough money to the table."
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This week's title-fight schedule:
WBC super bantamweight title -- Monterrey, Mexico Toshiaki Nishioka (champion) vs. Jhonny Gonzalez (No. 2 contender) Nishioka (33-4-3, 20 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten since March 2004 (10-0) Gonzalez (40-6, 34 KO): Ex- champ at 118 pounds; Three title fight wins (3-2)
FitzHitz says: Gonzalez by decision
WBA flyweight title - Uttaradit, Thailand Denkaosan Kaovichit (champion) vs. Hiroyuki Hisataka (No. 12 contender) Kaovichit (46-1-1, 20 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in last 27 fights (26-0-1) Hisataka (17-7-1, 6 KO): Second title fight; Two wins in six fights since 2007
FitzHitz says: Kaovichit in 10
WBC flyweight title - Shanghai, China Daisuke Naito (champion) vs. Xiong Zhao Zhong (No. 10 contender) Naito (34-2-3, 22 KO): Fifth title defense; Unbeaten in last eight fights (7-0-1) Zhong (12-1-1, 8 KO): First title fight; One win over foe with better than .500 record
FitzHitz says: Naito in 6
IBO middleweight title - Brisbane, Australia Daniel Geale (champion) vs. Anthony Mundine (No. 3 contender) Geale (21-0, 13 KO): Second title defense; Turned pro in 2004 Mundine (35-3, 23 KO): Former two-time champ at 168 pounds; Second fight at 160
FitzHitz says: Geale by decision
Last week's picks: 1-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 91-35 (72.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.