Undefeated Ward ready for May bout with Abraham

Undefeated Ward ready for May bout with Abraham

April 5, 2011

LOS ANGELES, (AP) -- Although the Super Six World Boxing Classic has become a ramshackle, sputtering vehicle in its final laps, Andre Ward is still determined to ride it to the finish line.

Ward recently announced he'll face Arthur Abraham at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on May 14 in the semifinals of a well-intentioned super middleweight tournament beset by injuries that led to the withdrawal of half the original field.

The turmoil hasn't slowed down Ward (23-0, 13 KOs): The Oakland native and Olympic gold medalist dominated his last three fights, emerged on the international boxing scene and became the favorite to win it all. England's Carl Froch meets Glen Johnson in the other semifinal in June, with the final expected late this year.

"Since this tournament started, my skin has got a lot thicker," Ward said. "I've just got to keep doing me. Just keep fighting, keep winning, and keep putting on spectacular performances for the fans."

Ward and Abraham appeared together at a promotional news conference in an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks, although Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) attended by video link from Berlin, declining to interrupt his training with a flight to Los Angeles. Ward didn't let it shake him, grinningly posing with a life-size cardboard cutout of Abraham.

Rewind: Ward tops Bika, defends WBA title

Abraham was an unbeaten pre-tournament favorite, but the Armenian-born German's career took major hits with a disqualification loss to Andre Dirrell and a stunningly one-sided decision loss to Froch last year.

For all of its flaws and changes, Ward still believes the Super Six will propel him into greater fame and paydays. He expects a win over Abraham to set up a decisive fight with WBC champion Froch, and he's hoping to fight IBF champion Lucian Bute for the undisputed 168-pound title after the Super Six is settled.

Froch already has called out Ward, a thought that evokes a smirk from Ward.

"I'm going to give him what he's been asking for," Ward said.

Although Ward was criticized early in his pro career for his slow pace up the ladder following his gold medal triumph in the Athens Olympics, he believes everything was building to 2011. The only American gold medalist in the past three Olympics won the WBA's 168-pound belt with his stunning victory over Denmark's Mikkel Kessler to open the tournament in November 2009.

"This tournament sped me up," Ward said. "I knew I had to win right away. I couldn't build it up slowly anymore."

Ward is the only fighter who has emerged from the Super Six concept with his career enhanced and unscathed.

Related: Ward's former opponent sparring with Pacquiao

Froch lost to Kessler, who eventually cited injuries in withdrawing from the competition. Dirrell and Jermain Taylor also withdrew, essentially reducing it to a four-man tournament now with the addition of the tough veteran Johnson.

"No matter how the Super Six has progressed, I think it's a tremendous concept for boxing," said Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter. "I think everyone learned how tough it is to make great fights amongst the world's best fighters. It sometimes takes years and years to put together a fight that people want to see. It's taken some time, but it's been worth it."

Although Ward has career aspirations that include an eventual fight at heavyweight, he's hoping the Super Six title propels him into a fight with Bute, the best 168-pounder not in the Super Six field.

And even if everything works out as he plans, Ward won't forget the struggle that got him into position for a shot at this title.

"I have two more fights before I'm the best super middleweight in the world," Ward said. "And I plan on winning both of them."

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point over the last month, the Giants quietly stopped playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the late innings of games they trail. 

It’s unclear exactly when it started, or who made the decision. A number of team employees, surveyed over the past week, had noticed. But nobody knew the exact details. Perhaps the longtime staple of AT&T Park was shelved on July 9, when FanGraphs dropped the playoff odds to 0.00 percent for the first time in a lost season. Maybe it was during a bad loss before that or a bad loss after that. You can take your pick. This season has been filled with so many of them it’s hard to keep track. 

Friday’s stood out, in part because this was the kind of night where Journey briefly made sense. The Giants gave Jeff Samardzija a 4-0 lead in the first inning against a Padres team that spent the early innings kicking and throwing the ball all over the field and making mistakes on the bases. It was 5-1 after three innings. By the sixth, the Padres had tied it. By the seventh, they had the lead. By the eighth, it was a three-run lead. 

Before the bottom of the eighth, the in-stadium crew played Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for a crowd of a few thousand. Last weekend, Huey Lewis was the fill-in for Journey. On Wednesday, a game the Giants actually came back to win, the scoreboard played a singalong game to “Happy Together” by The Turtles. 

On this night, the Giants actually would come back. Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth, tying the game and sending it into extras. The Giants had trailed by three with one out remaining, but the momentum provided by Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Gillaspie was just a blip. The Padres scored three in the 11th off George Kontos, who has pitched five times over the last eight days and was supposed to get a night to rest. 

Kontos was the last to give up runs in a 12-9 loss, but hardly the only one. Samardzija took blame after failing to get through five with a big early cushion. That put pressure on the tired bullpen, and the relievers blew it over and over again. The Padres scored runs in six consecutive innings at one point and had 20 hits. 

“We couldn’t stop them,” Bruce Bochy said, shaking his head. 

Nothing can apparently stop this skid. The Giants are 37-61 and six games behind the Padres. They are much closer to the No. 1 draft pick than they are to fourth place in their division. 

“Don’t Stop Believin’” survived the 2013 season. It survived 2015 and the second half of last year. Nothing can survive this season.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — A few hundred, maybe a few thousand, stayed to watch the Giants late Friday night. The Giants did not make it worth the effort. 

Conor Gillaspie’s two-out homer in the ninth sent the game to extras, but the Giants lost 12-9 in a game that lasted nearly five hours. The Giants had trailed by three with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. They tied it. Instead of carrying that momentum over, they suffered yet another demoralizing loss. 

They have dropped both games of this series and they trail the Padres -- who had 20 hits -- by six games in the race for fourth place. Those are facts. Here are five more, mostly from earlier, when a young man harbored dreams of leaving a ballpark before 1 a.m. … 

—- Hector Sanchez took Jeff Samardzija deep to lead off the fourth, and at this point it’s flat-out hilarious. Sanchez has seven homers this season and three have come against his former team. He hit two homers at AT&T Park in 296 plate appearances as a Giant, and the fourth-inning blast gave him three in 11 plate appearances as a Padre. He also doubled in a run and singled. It’s an all-time revenge tour. Just go along for the ride. 

—- There were a ton of scouts on hand to watch two starting pitchers who could move in the next 10 days, and they left disappointed. Trevor Cahill gave up six earned on seven hits and four walks and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. Jeff Samardzija gave up eight hits and five earned in 4 1/3 innings. 

—- I dunno man, it’s really hard getting to five of these every night. Sam Dyson was good again. 

—- Gillaspie's pinch-hit homer was the sixth of his career. He's a hero around these parts, but perhaps Bobby Evans should see if a team out there was watching Friday and remembers his October run. Gillaspie could help a contender. 

—- When MLB inevitably introduces a pitch clock and pitchers start complaining, this will be the game I tell them to sit down and try to watch start to finish.