Bay Area title tilt generating buzz
Author: Mark Ortega
Kessler, Ward weigh-in for tomorrow's Super Six bout
When Oakland, California's Andre Ward vies for his first world title against WBA super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler tomorrow night, it will mark the first major world title fight in the Bay Area in just over eight years. That November 10th, 2001 card that took place at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium featured two somewhat recognizable names in separate title fights both televised by HBO's Boxing After Dark.
That card featured Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in separate title defenses, with Floyd defending a super featherweight crown for the eighth time and Pacquiao defending his recently gained super bantamweight title. To put into perspective how long ago that really was, it was only Pacquiao's second appearance in the United States and his second of what would come to be six* world titles in six different weight classes. Floyd was still defending the first of five world titles he would eventually win. Today, these two are the biggest names in the sport and stand to make the largest purses of all-time if they eventually step into the ring.
Kessler's defense against Ward marks the first world title fight in Oakland in twenty-five years, the last being when Carlos De Leon defended his cruiserweight title with a 12-round decision over Bash Ali in June of 1984.
“Oakland was a fight town in the '80's, and there hasn't been this much excitement in quite awhile,” remarked Ward, who is taking it in stride that he has an entire city strapped on his back. “I'm just thankful to be apart of it, and I feel that it's my time.”
Ward only previously fought in Oakland once, his May 16th bout with Edison Miranda earlier this year happening at the same location as tomorrow night's fight, Oakland's Oracle Arena. The fight drew exceptionally well and proved that there is a market for boxing in the Bay Area.
“You're proud of the city for getting behind him,” says Ward promoter Dan Goossen of Goossen-Tutor Promotions. “In this case, you have a fighter who is, in my eyes, a home team sport. He may not wear an A's hat or a Warriors jersey, but he is as much of a home team than any of those organizations.”
This will mark the second time a Goossen promoted fighter attempts to win the world title as an underdog in the past few months, with stablemate Chris Arreola failing to realize his goal of winning the heavyweight title against Vitali Klitschko back in September. Ward will enter the ring tomorrow night as about a two-to-one underdog, which both fighter and promoter have handled very well.
“It's like every one of our fighters, winning is everything. You only hope that the fighter brings everything he's got. There's no doubt he will do everything he can to have his hand raised tomorrow night, and that is all you can ask for,” said Goossen.
At the weigh-in, Kessler stepped onto the scales and came in at 167 pounds even, while the hometown favorite Ward scaled in at 166.5 pounds.
Tomorrow night's main event will be televised by Showtime, but a four fight undercard will precede the televised action which is scheduled to take place at 7 PM Pacific.
In the bout directly before the main event, an interesting eight-round junior middleweight rematch will take place between Daly City, California's Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield [10-0-1, 6 KOs] and Santa Barbara, California's Francisco “Chia” Santana [11-1, 5 KOs]. The last time these two fought each other on an Andre Ward card back in March of last year, Mayfield walked away with a razor-thin split decision over Santana in a six-rounder. Mayfield was dropped in the fourth round of that fight and held on through the fifth before winning the sixth round big to earn the decision. Mayfield got some sparring with future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley in preparation for this bout. Neither guy has lost since they last met, and this fight promises to deliver fireworks. Mayfield weighed in at 151.5 pounds while Santana came in at 150.5.
In an intriguing super-middleweight bout, former rated contender Jose Celaya [31-5, 16 KOs] of Salinas, California takes on Oakland, California's own Tony Hirsch [9-3, 5 KOs] in a six-round affair. These two were previously set to meet on a card earlier this year at the Playboy Mansion, but Celaya pulled out at the last minute. After weighing in, both guys jawed at each other for an extended period of time before commission officials stepped in and separated the two. Celaya is not the fighter that was led to a #1 ranking at welterweight before being brutalized by Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., giving Hirsch the opportunity to add a good name to his ledger. Celaya weighed in at a flabby 166 pounds while Hirsch came in at a ripped 164 pounds.
Lightweight prospect Stan Martyniouk [7-0, KO] of Antelope, California will take on former super featherweight title challenger and current trial-horse Anthony Martinez [21-32-3, 9 KOs] of Turriabla, Costa Rica in a four-round over the weight lightweight bout. Martinez, 138.5, hasn't won a fight in over three years and has become the ultimate short-notice opponent. Martyniouk, 136, is a fighter who has fought mostly out of Sacramento and has been unable to secure an active schedule since turning professional at the end of 2007.
In the opening fight of the night, Cincinnati, Ohio's Mel Crossty [3-0, KO] takes on Carlos Herrera [2-2, KO] of Oxnard, California in a super featherweight bout. This will mark Crossty's second fight in Oakland as he searches for his first win at the Oracle Arena, with his fight with Jaime Rodriguez being judged a draw. Crossty weighed in at 130 pounds even while Herrera came in a half-pound heavier at 130.5.