Andre Ward used his skill, toughness, and own foul tactics to overcome any equally rough Sakio Bika to take a clear, but grueling unanimous decision.
Ward, who bullied his two previous Super Six opponents in Mikkel Kessler and Allan Green, appeared flustered in the beginning by Bika’s rough-house tactics. Ward complained of headclashes up close, and found himself getting thrown around in clinches. Whenever there was space, Ward was able to work the jab on the slower Bika. In the third round, Bika has very nice moment where he raked Ward with five hooks to the body while in a clinch.
Ward settled down by the fourth, and began working his offense from mid-range. A Ward left hook stunned Bika, and the South African mauler responded with a hard right hook. The two men briefly brawled, with both refusing to retreat. In the fifth round, Ward tried to gain further respect by timing a clean right hook. Bika simply walked through it, and crashed home a left hook. The infighting continued to be punishing, with neither fighter gaining a significant advantage. However, Ward nicked the round with a clean 1-2 in the closing 30 seconds.
The sixth went to Bika, who was way more active in the clinches with body shots. The seventh stanza proved to be pivotal for the champion. Andre Ward, cut over both eyes and bruised, began to maul Bika with short elbows and butts. Bika, notorious throughout his career for fouls, began complaining to the ref in vain. While nearly all of Ward’s shots were glancing blows, he controlled the round and prevented Bika from mounting any serious offense.
The ninth round signaled that Andre Ward had complete control. The referee warned Bika for an elbow. Ward showed his savvy by responding with a blatant elbow of his own against the ropes that the referee missed. The foul stunned Bika, and Ward pressed his infighting to take the round.
Sakio Bika was desperate in the championship rounds, but simply didn’t have the offensive arsenal or defense to turn the tide. Andre Ward mixed up his attack with infighting and boxing, leaving Bika tentative and unsure of what was coming next. Each fighter’s face wore the damage of a ugly, foul-filled fight going into the 12th. Both were warned for fouls, a humorous development considering the referee’s stance came too late to have much bearing. Bika was more active in the clinches, but his strong finish came too late to alter the inevitable decision.
Fighting his third consecutive fight in his Oakland hometown, Andre Ward got wider scores than the fight would imply (120-108 , and 118-110 twice for Ward).
Ward acknowledged the bout wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. At the same time, the Oakland native explained what he went through was essential to his development as a fighter.
“Personally, I love to win and look good doing it. But these kind of fights are necessary, fighting a tough, rugged guy like Bika and finding a way to get the job done,” Ward said. “We knew he was going to bring it. But you have to get through this if you’re going to be great. I’m far from it, but I’m trying to get there.”
Next, Andre Ward will defend his WBA super-middleweight title against Arthur Abraham in the Super Six semi-finals. Ward remains the tournament leader with six points, and believes Abraham, who lost badly last night to Carl Froch, has hit a wall regarding his potential to improve this late in his career.
“I think it’s definitely a downside for him, and it may be too late to change that,” Ward explained. “How can you if you’ve done that all these years, and been a champion and been successful? How can you change now? I think he’ll be the same old Abraham.”
Somewhere, Bernard Hopkins was smiling last night. Ward-Bika was the type of fight the Executioner made his name on. When the contest was announced, I wrote a piece talking about how Ward would be tested, and he sure was. Ward was cut over both eyes, and you could see the pain on his face in some of those clinches.
Andre Ward’s style isn’t for everyone. But no one will argue his talent, and now he’s proven he can take the rough-housing as well as give it.