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Andre Ward plans to power through Mikkel Kessler

The 25-year-old is fighting the Dane for the World Boxing Assn. super-middleweight title on Saturday night in Oakland.

November 21, 2009|By Lance Pugmire
  • Middleweight boxer Andre Ward arrives at a news conference with daughter Amira in his arms on Wednesday in Oakland.
Middleweight boxer Andre Ward arrives at a news conference with daughter… (Ben Margot / Associated…)

Andre Ward doesn't have half the professional experience of his opponent tonight, world super-middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler of Denmark.

What the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist is banking on are the assets that made him an international champion as an amateur.

"I know it's not going to be easy, but I'm determined," said Oakland's Ward (20-0, 13 knockouts), who'll fight Kessler (42-1, 32 KOs) for the World Boxing Assn. super-middleweight title tonight on Showtime in his hometown Oracle Arena. "I'm prepared to do what it takes to win. At 25, my strength, punching power and stamina are at all-time highs, and I'll need them."

Ward-Kessler is the final first-round fight of Showtime's Super Six tournament of super-middleweights. Last month, Carl Froch defeated Andre Dirrell by decision and Arthur Abraham knocked out Jermain Taylor. Ward will fight Taylor next.

Kessler's only loss is to the retired unbeaten Joe Calzaghe. In venturing from Denmark to Oakland, Kessler's coming to meet Ward, who was warmly greeted by members of the Black Hole at Sunday's Oakland Raiders game and who beat Edison Miranda in the same arena in May.

"I know from the way his team talks they don't believe I can beat him," Ward said. "He can't fathom this, and he's not ready for what he's going to be involved with."

Pacquiao-Cotto TV sales

HBO announced Friday that last Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto welterweight title fight in Las Vegas generated 1.25 million pay-per-view buys, making the bout the most lucrative one-night event in the U.S. this year and establishing record interest for a Pacquiao fight.

The pay-per-view revenue was $70 million, marking the first time since 1999 that two boxing matches in the same year had at least 1 million buys.

The numbers are expected to be an important factor in negotiating an anticipated showdown between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (40-0), whose September victory over Juan Manuel Marquez had 1 million PPV buys. Mayweather's advisor, Leonard Ellerbe, told The Times on Thursday that Pacquiao's big numbers were helped because he had a "dance partner," referring to the popular former world welterweight champion Cotto, a star in Puerto Rico.

The Mayweather camp points to Mayweather's common fights with Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Marquez and argues Mayweather outsold Pacquiao in each. Pacquiao's May fight with Hatton had about 100,000 fewer PPV buys than Mayweather-Hatton in December 2007.

Pacquiao's camp argues the buzz around the Filipino fighter is still climbing because of his thrilling performances in scoring a ninth-round TKO of De La Hoya, his second-round KO of Hatton (Mayweather needed 10 rounds to beat Hatton) and Pacquiao's 12th-round TKO of Cotto.

Ellerbe said he will authorize co-promoter Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions to begin negotiations with Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum in the near future.

Vazquez-Marques at Staples?

Schaefer, chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, said Huntington Park's Israel Vazquez has signed to have a fourth fight with Mexico's Rafael Marquez on Feb. 27 at Staples Center. The super-bantamweight champion Vazquez engaged in two fights of the year with Marquez but endured more than a yearlong layoff after suffering a detached retina in their memorable third fight in March 2008.

Marquez's promoter, Gary Shaw, and Showtime have expressed a strong willingness to make the fourth fight happen, and Schaefer expects it will.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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