by Paul Magno
Every top prospect or talented newcomer has to eventually face that one special fighter who stands between him and the world class stage- A tough gatekeeper who is able, and more than willing, to beat back the challenge of the kid and send him back to the land of wannabe stars and “coulda been” contenders.
Manny Pacquiao had his Agapito Sanchez, Kelly Pavlik had his Bronco McKart, Miguel Cotto had his Cesar Bazan…even Vitali Klitschko had his Herbie Hide.
Some fighters fail these mid-term exams and get sent back to the drawing board. Most recently, the names Andy Lee, James McGirt Jr., Ronald Hearns and John Duddy come to mind. It’s possible to come back and have a successful career after failing the mid-term (For example: Wladimir Klitschko’s solid “F” against Ross Purrity), but more often than not, that first real loss against their first real challenge puts a certain taint on the rest of their career, regardless of what successes come next.
Andre Ward is facing his mid-term this Saturday, the 16th, in the form of trash-talking Colombian slugger, Edison Miranda. The pressure will be extra heavy on Ward’s shoulders for this one because, not only is he facing the threat of his first live opponent with legit one-punch KO power in both fists, but he’s also carrying the burden of being America’s last Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist. The expectations are extra high for medal-winning Olympians, but they go through the roof if that medal is of the gold variety. Anything short of a dominant, explosive win will be seen as a let down to the fans who are expecting the world of a fighter talented enough to bring home the gold. After all, its become somewhat of a tradition, from Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard to Oscar De la Hoya, for American fighters to transition from Olympic glory to legendary status.
You can’t help but be reminded of another young Olympic Gold Medalist who came into his first big fight with similar pressure: “The American Dream” David Reid.
Reid was the defending WBA Jr. Middleweight champ as he met the challenge of Welterweight titlist, Felix Trinidad. Expectations were high for Reid; He had been handed a very lucrative contract by HBO and rumors were rampant about him fighting everyone from Oscar De la Hoya below him to Roy Jones Jr. above him. But, first, he had to get by Trinidad- a fighter that Reid’s camp felt had been somewhat exposed in his previous bout against De la Hoya. The Olympian’s people felt that Reid would be easily able to outbox the Puerto Rican slugger and, even if Trinidad were able to reach him, the naturally bigger fighter would be absorb the power.
Reid boxed well in the first half of the fight, even dropping Trinidad in the 3rd, but “Tito” eventually began to grind the kid down and, by the end of the bout, he was putting an epic beating on the Gold Medalist from Philadelphia. Reid was dropped once in the 7th and three tmes in the 11th. Trinidad ended up winning an easy unanimous decision and Reid went into a personal tailspin.
“The American Dream” came back for three insignificant wins, but was eventually KO’d by club-level fighter, Sam Hill. Trinidad may not have been the last man to defeat Reid, but he was the one who, not only beat him up physically, but took his heart and very identity away from him. The David Reid that existed after the Felix Trinidad loss was a mere shell of the young man who had dreams of gold.
Edison Miranda wants to be the Tito Trinidad to Ward’s David Reid. He would like nothing better than to resuscitate his own lagging career with a win over a highly-touted Olympian like Andre Ward. Similar to most veteran fighters in the same situation, Miranda smells fresh meat in the form of a fighter who’s had it relatively easy so far in his pro career. Miranda’s been around the world and, while he hasn’t always won, he’s always gone down slugging. This Saturday’s bout is make or break for Miranda.
Some may find fault in the Reid/Trinidad, Ward/Miranda comparison in the fact that Edison Miranda is, most definitely, no Felix Trinidad.
Well, until Andre Ward beats someone as strong and as tough as Miranda, one can also say that Andre Ward is no David Reid.
The beautiful thing is that we’ll have our answers to all pending Andre Ward questions this weekend. Hopefully, Ward isn’t expecting an easy “A”… I hear Edison Miranda is a very tough grader.