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Ward brings heat to Cayman Islands
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Give Andre Ward a little credit.

After all, if you're going to spend your weekend standing in front of a guy being paid to punch you in the mouth, you might as well at least enjoy the surroundings.

The 24-year-old Ward, who won gold at 178 pounds in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, adds another stamp to his passport Friday when he meets reality TV alumnus Jerson Ravelo at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal in the Cayman Islands capital of George Town.

The bout headlines Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" broadcast at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

"Yes, I'm sure we'll be suffering down there," a chuckling Ward said in a FitzHitz interview, shortly before he left his suburban Oakland home on a 2,760-mile trip to the largest city in the British-run island group in the western Caribbean Sea.


Andre Ward will add another stamp to his passport Friday when he meets Jerson Ravelo.
"It's a wonderful place and it'd be a great spot to spend a vacation, but I'm going for a business trip this time. After the fight, maybe my wife and I can go back and take it easy and relax. But that's going to have to wait until we get finished with work."

And the task at hand, he admitted, involves not only defeating Ravelo, a 30- year-old who took part in ESPN's "The Contender Challenge: UK vs. USA," but doing so in a manner impressive enough to help get him a few steps closer to his goal of a world championship at 168 pounds.

"To a degree it's not just about the win, but it's about making the people take notice of what you can do," said Ward, who turned pro in late 2004 but has been limited to just 14 more fights in the subsequent three-plus years. "To get where they set the bar you can't just get by, you have to try and look spectacular."

But my advantage is that my bar is already set very high. No one is going to have expectations for me that exceed the ones I already have for myself, and it's that work ethic that carries me. As I'm training and running in the hills and hitting the bag, I always want to max out my own talents."

Former 168-pound world title challenger Rubin Williams was the most recent steppingstone for the ambitious California native, who stopped the 33-fight veteran in seven tough rounds when they met on March 20 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.

Still, neither the Williams triumph nor the other nine KOs he's scored have gotten Ward the notice heaped upon recent U.S. Olympic champions like Ray Mercer (1988), Oscar De La Hoya (1992) and David Reid (1996), or illustrious past medalists named Leonard, Jones and Whitaker.

The soft-spoken Ward, though, sees the slower rise as a positive.

"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.

"I'm absolutely not just a shooting star."

At least one more 40-something trio isn't ready to hang it up... or, more accurately, to keep it hung.

On Friday, 46-year-old Donovan Boucher, who turned pro during the reign of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, fights for the fourth time after a decade layoff against national 154-pound champion Gareth Sutherland at the Shaw Conference Center in Edmonton.

The Jamaican-born veteran was beaten by Crisanto Espana for the WBA welterweight title in 1993 and fought just once more before an exodus that stretched from 1996 to 2007.

He returned to score wins over Martin Desjardins and Claudio Ortiz before being stopped by Sutherland -- who's 3-1 in four fights of his own with Ortiz -- in nine rounds on April 1 in Toronto.

Boucher, by the way, claims to have suffered from the flu before the initial encounter.

"I talked to Donovan and he said he's in the best shape he's been in in years," promoter Glen Carriere told the Edmonton Journal earlier this month. "What it is, is experience. Boucher, who's got a lot of skill, has fought some of the best fighters in the world. If some of the skill comes back on June 20, Sutherland's got his hands full."

And remarkably, four days later... the hairs get even grayer.

On Tuesday, nearly 450 miles southwest of his Sydney home, Australian hero and former three-division champion Jeff Fenech comes back after 12 years to meet even more ancient ex-rival Azumah Nelson at Vodafone Arena in Melbourne.

Fenech, who turned 44 in May, hasn't fought since he was stopped in two rounds by Philip Holiday in a bid for the IBF lightweight title in 1996 -- just 10 days before he turned 32.

But he's trumped here by the nearly AARP-eligible Nelson, who first fought as a professional in 1979 and will celebrate his, wait for it... 50th birthday... in September.

The matchup has drawn the ire of local medical boards, including the Australian Medical Association, which suggested it and all other bouts should be banned.

To which Fenech predictably replies... bollocks.

"I'm not out to kill anyone, but if that happens, that's life. If I die, it would be doing what I love," he told the Melbourne Herald Sun. "I just want to prove to a lot of people who have doubted me that I can beat Azumah Nelson."

Two previous attempts have ended badly for the ex-kingpin at 118, 122 and 126 pounds.

Fenech drew with the Ghanan veteran over 12 rounds in Las Vegas in June 1991, falling short of winning Nelson's WBC 130-pound belt. He was stopped in a rematch nine months later in Melbourne, suffering his first loss in a bout named "Upset of the Year" by Ring Magazine.

He went 2-2 in four subsequent bouts before the long layoff. Nelson, meanwhile, seeks to end a two-fight skid that began 11 years ago.

He earned the 130-pound title for the final time with a fifth-round TKO of Gabriel Ruelas in 1995 and stopped Jesse James Leija in a defense before losing it to Genaro Hernandez in March 1997.

One last match with Leija -- their fourth -- followed in July 1998, ending in a wide scorecard loss that pushed the 39-year-old into a nearly 10-year retirement.

"I'm too tough to get hit," Nelson said. "A champion is always a champion. This is not killing, this is boxing. That's why the referees are there."

When compared to Saturday's Andre Berto-Miguel Rodriguez WBC welterweight title bout, previewed in this space last time week, the day's other big fight involves a big name vying for dubious recognition.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, once-beaten ex-WBC/WBA champion Mikkel Kessler gets a chance to regain lost glory when he faces No. 4 contender Dimitri Sartison for the WBA's once-again vacant super middleweight title.

Kessler originally won the WBA's 168-pound belt in 2004 and defended it twice before adding the WBC's jewelry with a knockout of Markus Beyer in 2006. He held the pair through a dual title defense before losing the collection to WBO incumbent Joe Calzaghe last November in Cardiff, Wales.

Calzaghe is still recognized as the WBA's "undisputed champion," a distinction that lessens his responsibility to make timely defenses against the organization's top-ranked contenders while letting him also meet the top challengers of the WBC and WBO.

To fill the void, the sanctioning body also recognizes a "world champion" -- a title won by Anthony Mundine in 2007 and held through four defenses before he voluntarily relinquished it in advance of a planned move down to 160 pounds.

That transition provided another title opportunity for Kessler and a first for the unbeaten Sartison, a 29-year-old Kazakstan native now living in Germany. He improved to 22-0 in February when he stopped Pablo Daniel Zamora Nievas in eight rounds.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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