Being a fight fan is a bit like waiting for a bus, you can spend a long time waiting for one fight and then two come along at the same time. This weekend sees two bouts involving high profile fighters from the Welterweight and Super-Middleweight divisions.
The man regarded by some as pound for pound the best fighter in the business Super-Middleweight Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) makes his long awaited comeback against Britain’s Paul Smith Jr (35-5, 20 KOs) in the Oracle Arena, Oakland California. Just before that bout multi-weight champion Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) meets the former IBF Welterweight champion Shawn Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs), in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
Both fights are being contested at catch-weight; with the Ward v Smith Jr. bout contested four pounds above the Super-Middleweight limit, at 172lbs and Broner v Porter at the agreed weight of 144lbs.
It seems to be all too common in boxing that weight stipulations form part of the negotiation process for a fight. It seems to be making a mockery of the competitive nature of boxing. In terms of weight it may have the most significant impact in the Broner v Porter fight.
The match-up between Broner and Porter is interesting as it is the meeting of two former world champions who will not want to suffer the setback of another career loss. Broner is the former WBO Super Featherweight champion, WBC Lightweight champion and the WBA Welterweight champion. He lost his WBA Welterweight title to Marcos Maidana in December 2013, but has since notched up three wins on the bounce. Porter is perhaps best known to UK fans as the man who Kell Brook beat to win the IBF Welterweight title in August 2014. Porter has several notable wins over fighters such as Julio Diaz, Devon Alexander and a technical knockout victory over Paulie Malignaggi.
The fight is intriguing on a number of levels, both have an orthodox style, they share similar physical attributes, although Broner has the longer reach, but it is Porter that is considered the slight favourite. Porter has a reputation for making significant weight gains after the weigh in for each of his fights. The concern is that Porter may overwhelm Broner, who is considered a small Welterweight, with his weight advantage and aggressive style, which is perhaps why the catch weight stipulation was inserted into the fight contract by Broner’s management.
However as the old saying goes styles make fights. Broner is mentored by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and he very much emulates Floyd’s defensive style. In his only loss he struggled to contain the pressure style of Marcos Maidana, suffering two knockdowns on route to losing a lopsided decision. Since then he has improved significantly, in his last fight he utilised his footwork, speed and defensive abilities to earn a unanimous decision against the hard punching John Molina Jr.
Stylistically, this fight is reminiscent of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. v ‘Sugar,’ Shane Mosley bout; Broner playing the part of Mayweather and Porter being similar in style to Mosley. Mayweather won a unanimous points decision but was rocked in the second round by power punches from Mosley. In theory there could be a similar result in this fight, yet the outcome remains balanced on a knife edge.
The result will depend on whether Broner has the ability to contain Porter with his footwork and defensive abilities or whether Porter will have a sizeable weight advantage that will enable him to overpower Broner. However, Porter struggled with the defensive tactics of Kell Brook in their fight, and in his last fight against late replacement Erick Bone, he looked too eager to mix it up and took some unnecessary punches. Broner will look to correct the mistakes of his loss to Maidana and will surely box a smarter more defensive fight against Porter. It is a hard one to call, but at a push I would go with Broner on points.
In the other marquee fight that night Andre Ward returns to the ring following a prolonged period of inactivity. Ward is considered the best Super-Middleweight in the world, his classy boxing displays have earned him respect the world over and many feel that he is the best pound for pound fighter on the planet.
Ward has not fought for nineteen months, during that time he became embroiled in a contractual dispute with his manager Dan Goossen who subsequently died leaving the issue unresolved. He was also stripped of his WBA and WBC Super Middleweight titles because of his inactivity.
The fight against Paul Smith Jr. is important for Ward, not only does he need to shake off the ring rust he also needs to get his career back on track.
His opponent Paul Smith Jr is coming off the back of a two fight losing streak, both losses at the hands of German fighter; Arthur Abraham. Smith’s first fight against Abraham was considered a much closer affair that the scorecards suggested. There were some who felt Smith deserved the win in Germany that night, although he was conclusively beaten in the rematch with Abraham five months later.
Outside of the ring Smith works as a pundit for Sky Sports Boxing and is an articulate and likeable personality, which makes it harder to admit that he is not in the same league as Ward in terms of ability. Ward won a lob-sided decision against Arthur Abrahams in 2011 as part of the Super Six tournament. In addition to that win, in his last seven fights he has beaten former world champions including; Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bakia Carl Froch and the lineal Light Heavyweight Champion Chad Dawson.
Even a under par Andre Ward would be considered too good for Paul Smith, and that is not to take away from the British boxer’s ability as a fighter, but rather it is a recognition that Smith operates on a level below the former champion. The greatest chance for Smith to do well is to start fast and take the early rounds from Ward. He does not have the punching power to trouble Ward but if he can knock him off his rhythm he might have a chance. That said if he did beat Andre Ward, it was be an upset on the same scale as John H Stracey’s stoppage of Welterweight Champion Jose Napoles in 1975, or Lloyd Honeyghan’s stoppage over Donald Curry in 1986.
Smith will still be expected to give a good account of himself in the ring on Saturday but the most likely outcome is a points decision in favour of Andre Ward.