Monday, May 11, 2009

Andre Ward vs Edison Miranda Preview

Michael Nelson previews this Saturday's Shobox main-event.

The baby-step development of Andre Ward finally ends Saturday night when he faces Colombian knockout artist Edison Miranda.

Following his gold medal performance in the 2004 Olympics, the lofty hopes boxing fans had for the amateur superstar came crashing down to Earth in only his second professional bout when unheralded Kenny Kost badly staggered him early in the fight. Ward dominated the rest of the way, but critics were already calling him a soon-to-be bust. Five fights later, their suspicions were nearly confirmed, as Darnell Boone dropped Ward and came close to stopping him in November 2005. Andre managed to hold on to earn a 6 round unanimous decision.

Since then, Ward's career has been a slow - very slow - reclamation project. His team has sought to rebuild his confidence, along with the aspirations fans had for him coming out of the Olympics, through careful matchmaking. And to his credit, Ward has handled business, hardly losing a round (if any) since his scare against Boone. He's also stopped 9 out of 11 during that time frame.

He feels he's ready to take the arm floats off and jump into the deep end. Though one might question how deep the water actually is.

After all, Edison Miranda hasn't been setting the world ablaze since getting brutally stopped in his violent encounter with Kelly Pavlik in May of 2007. His shining moment since was a KO of the year candidate in early '08 against David Banks, before getting blown out in four rounds in his highly anticipated rematch against Arthur Abraham. In a light heavyweight bout two months ago, he got caught several times en route to overpowering Joey Vegas in London.

Nevertheless, Miranda still has plenty of lead in his right hand and questions still swirl around how well Andre can take a punch. Ward will no doubt put his superior foot speed to good use and circle away from that hand as much as possible. In the process, he'll look to keep Miranda at the end of his jab - and he possesses an excellent one - while periodically dropping his own right hand to see how dented Edison's chin is after two bad knockout losses.

Miranda will spend much of the fight trying to time a right hand over Ward's jab. If his recent fights are any indication, he'll use the first couple of rounds to get a handle on Ward's speed and movement. The bombs will be released shortly thereafter.

Unless Miranda is capable of applying effective pressure on a boxer as quick and talented as Ward, we may be looking at an uneventful fight. Ward didn't push the pedal against the slow and relatively harmless Henry Buchanan in February; it's doubtful he becomes uncharacteristically aggressive against a dangerous puncher.

But if Miranda's able to cut the ring off, we'll have fireworks, and Ward's four year old boom-or-bust questions will finally begin to be answered.

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