Kessler, Ward are ready!
Story by Bob Hough
Photos by Laura De La Torre
Mikkel Kessler (42-1-0, 32 KOs) and Andre Ward (20-0-0, 13 KOs) are all but done preparing for their November 21 fight, but Ward knows too well, that sacrifices continue.
Ward’s close to his Oakland-area home in a training-camp environment, committed to the point that he missed a father-son activity days before the bout, for Kessler’s WBA super-middleweight title.
“I talked to my wife and she told me he was crying,” Ward, a father of three, said at a recent public workout. “That was tough.”
That’s the focus it takes, Ward believes, to dethrone Kessler in the Oakland, Calif., fight, the last match-up in the first round of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic.
It was Ward’s choice to miss the event, though he has no choice but to sacrifice when it comes to food. Four days before the weigh-in, Ward put his weight at 170 pounds, two pounds above the limit.
“I’m eating great, not eating as much as I’d like, but I’m eating fine and I’ll make the weight, no problem,” he said after working out at King’s Gym, in Oakland, where he’s trained since he was a kid. “I’m doing well on weight, but I am looking forward to the weigh-in; I’ll put it like that.”
Kessler, who spent two weeks training about 100 miles from Oakland, watched the Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto fight and drove to San Francisco, a few miles from Oakland, where he’s spending the last week before his title defense.
It will more be a time of watching movies and doing promotional things than of watching Ward’s fights, said Kessler, who attracted a swarm of Danish journalists.
“I watched some of his fights a couple times and we talked about it,” said Kessler who wouldn’t say what he weighed. “I don’t need to watch someone 500 times. I’m well prepared.”
Ward, too, has seen what he needs to see, and focused on needed improvements.
“I made a few mistakes in the Miranda fight and we feel like we’ve corrected them,” he said. “I got hit a bit more than I would have liked to have been hit, but it was a matter of improving, not transforming my defense.”
Ward’s watched enough of Kessler to believe he “tries to get off in clips, throw three, four, five punches,” and said that’s not going to happen in Oakland.
“I’m not going to let him do that,” Ward said.
Ward, who can sound like he’s preparing for a concert, said little else about his fight plan.
“It’s about going in there and expressing myself,” he said. “There will be times to be elusive, times to step on the gas, a little bit of everything.”
Ward’s Trainer Virgil Hunter, a proponent of focusing on footwork, angles and positioning, suggested Ward can create situations to press Kessler.
“We’ll do a lot of different things, but I’m sure there will be opportunities for aggression,” he said.
Kessler said about nothing of his plan to defeat Ward.
“Everyone will see on Saturday,” the 30-year-old said. “I’ve had great sparring and I think I’ve had the right sparring for someone like him.”
In Ward, Kessler sees someone who’s like he was when he became a champion.
“He’s a great, young fighter,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. I won my first world title at 24, but I’m more experienced in a lot of different ways. I’ve had twice as many fights as he’s had and I’ve had big fights so I think that will help me. I can see that he is hungry, has good speed and good technique. He’s a good fighter and I’m taking him very seriously.”
Ward vows that what Kessler’s seen of him will count for little on Saturday night.
“People are often surprised when they fight me,” he said. “You see one thing and get in the ring and see something different. (Edison) Miranda told me in the locker room after the fight that he thought I would be a lot easier than I was. I’ve heard that a lot during my career, even going back to the amateurs. I have no idea what it is about my style, but they would hear I was the No. 1 guy and see me fight and say ‘that’s Ward?’
“We do it in such a way that it looks easy for them, until they get in the ring with me.”