Ward beats Smith in long-awaited re­turn

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOSH DUBOW

As soon as An­dre Ward found his stride fol­low­ing his lengthy lay­off, the fight quickly came to an end.

Ward made a tri­umphant re­turn to the ring and de­lighted his home crowd when he stopped Eng­land’s Paul Smith in the ninth round Satur­day night in a non­ti­tle fight.

“It took some time to get the ring rust off,” Ward said. “I started with the jab. I wanted to come out big bang and get a first round KO but I have a great coach and he told me to take my time and the knock­out will come.”

Ward (28-0, 15 knock­outs) was fight­ing for the first time in 19 months be­cause of a pro­tracted le­gal dis­pute with his for­mer pro­moter, the late Dan Goosen.

He dom­i­nated from the start against the for­mer Bri­tish cham­pion Smith (35-6), win­ning ev­ery round on all three judges’ score­cards. Smith’s cor­ner threw in the white towel to stop the fight in the ninth round with Smith’s face cov­ered with blood.

“I know there’s another level I can be at where I’m not think­ing about any­thing,” Ward said. “There’s another level of sharp­ness and be­ing crisp that I have. ... I felt like I did good tonight but I know I have bet­ter.”

Smith spent most of the fight in de­fen­sive mode, try­ing to block Ward’s many punches in­stead of throw­ing many of his own. Smith did stag­ger Ward with a big right hand in the sev­enth, but Ward re­sponded with a flurry and Smith was cut late in the round.

“I know what he was try­ing to do,” Ward said. “He was try­ing to lure me in then hit me with the big right hand. He hit me with a cou­ple of good shots but he didn’t hurt me.”

Ward landed more big punches in the eighth as blood started drip­ping down the left side of Smith’s face. The round ended with a stare down be­tween the two fight­ers to the de­light of the par­ti­san crowd of 9,016.

Another cut opened in the ninth as Smith’s face was cov­ered with blood be­fore the fight was called at 1: 46 of the round on a tech­ni­cal knock­out af­ter trainer Joe Gal­lagher threw in the towel.

“Smith was tak­ing un­nec­es­sary pun­ish­ment,” Gal­lagher said. “An­dre kept cut­ting open that cut over his eye. Blood was pool­ing over his eye. It was a war we didn’t want to con­tinue.”

Smith said he thought he broke his nose on Ward’s fi­nal com­bi­na­tion be­fore the fight was stopped.

“The towel couldn’t have come soon enough,” Smith said.

Ward had not fought since win­ning a lop­sided unan­i­mous de­ci­sion against Ed­win Ro­driguez to de­fend his WBA su­per mid­dleweight ti­tle in Novem­ber 2013. The ab­sence from the ring stemmed from the dis­pute with Goosen, who died in Septem­ber 2014.

The fight was just Ward’s sec­ond since beat­ing Carl Froch in De­cem­ber 2011 in the Su­per Six su­per mid­dleweight tour­na­ment fi­nal. Ward also dealt with a shoul­der in­jury that forced him to the side­line be­fore the dis­pute with Goosen.

Af­ter Goosen’s death, Ward reached an undis­closed set­tle­ment with the pro­moter’s fam­ily and signed with Jay Z’s Roc Na­tion Sports. He was us­ing the fight against Smith as a tuneup to work off some of the rust that had ac­cu­mu­lated.

“I’m just so happy to be back in the box­ing ring,” Ward said. “It’s been a long time. It was creep­ing up on two years.”

Smith weighed in for

the 172-pound fight at 176.4 pounds on Fri­day. ESPN re­ported Smith’s weight was 184.4 pounds at a sec­ond weigh-in Satur­day.

“It was a gen­uine mis­take,” Smith said. “I apol­o­gized to the team. My fault.”

The bout brought out some big names, in­clud­ing NBA MVP Ste- phen Curry, who car­ried Ward’s ti­tle belt into the ring be­fore the fight. Curry got a thun­der­ous ova­tion a day af­ter the Golden State War­riors’ cham­pi­onship pa­rade. Seat­tle run­ning back and Oak­land na­tive Mar­shawn Lynch, boxer Miguel Cotto and San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick also were on hand, although Kaeper­nick was booed loudly by the East Bay fans who usu­ally back the Raiders.

The co-fea­ture be­tween ju­nior feath­er­weights An­to­nio Nieves ( 12- 0- 1) and Stephon Young (13-0-2) ended in a split draw.

AP

(Left) An­dre Ward cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Paul Smith in a cruis­er­weight box­ing match in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, Satur­day, June 20. (Right) An­dre Ward, right, punches Paul Smith dur­ing the fifth round of a cruis­er­weight box­ing match in Oak­land, Satur­day.

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