Andre Ward outclassed Paul Smith in his first fight back from a 19 month layoff in his hometown of Oakland, California at the Oracle Arena. It was throne Boxing’s first televised card on BET, and it was surely an event.
Ward had the hometown crowd fully behind him, and was even walked out to the ring by Stephen Curry of the newly crowned NBA champions the Golden State Warriors.
Andre Ward was very sharp coming out in round 1. His punches were sharp and it didn’t appear like he was dealing with much ring rust to start the fight, which was more evident as the fight continued.
Ward admitted to some ring rust in post-fight interviews after the fight, but it was difficult to see from a pure spectator’s point of view. There was plenty of beauty and brilliance displayed in the fight on the part of Ward, but the key to his victory had to be distance. Smith was unable to stay out of Ward’s range, and that was partly because Ward’s range was as bigger than the typical offensive success range of a fighter.
As the fight continued, Ward’s range got deeper and he was hitting Smith with hard punches from different distances. Smith was the bigger man in the sense that he missed weight by 4 pounds, and then missed it again when given a second opportunity, and once more the morning of the fight. Smith had to pay for his mistake financially, but he also paid for it in the ring as Ward battered his face to a bloody pulp.
Ward moved well in the fight, although he wasn’t being forced to use his legs out of desperation or even tactical evasiveness. Instead, he showcased his legs, which ought to have been as fresh as ever due to his layoff.
The punches that Ward was landing were hard, and that was easy to see, but it wasn’t until somewhere in the middle rounds that we could see just how devastating they actually were as Smith’s face turned into a bloody mess. Smith was cut over his left eye and there was also blood coming from his mouth and nose it appeared.
Ward was way ahead in the fight and basically cruising, although to Smith’s credit he was able to land some decent leather to no affect. Ward showcased different looks and utilized his jab well, but he was clearly trying to close the show.
In the 9th round, Smith was opened up and bleeding profusely when Ward caught him with a hard right hand that prompted Smith’s corner to throw in the towel.
Ward improved to 28-0 and seems to be his old self, only with fresher legs. It isn’t clear whether or not Ward will take another tune up fight against slightly better opposition or attempt to make his 2015 campaign really count by fighting someone universally deemed acceptable.
Ward made comments to reporters after the fight, suggesting that he’d move up for a Kovalev fight or a Stevenson fight, but he followed those statements up by reminding us of the politics involved with making those kind of matchups.