Super Six World Boxing Classic Semi finalists Andre Ward and Arthur Abraham participated in a press conference on Tuesday at Sisley Italian Kitchen in Sherman Oaks, Calif., to formally announce their May 14 showdown at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Ward will defend his WBA Super Middleweight title against the European superstar and former world champion to kick off the Semi finals of the ground breaking tournament. Abraham, who is in the middle of training for the fight, was not able to attend the press conference from his home base in Berlin, Germany and joined via video conference.
The Ward-Abraham winner advances to the tournament Finals against the winner of the Carl Froch-Glen Johnson Semi finals showdown. The winner earns instant bragging rights as the world’s No. 1 168-pound fighter.
The talented Ward (23-0, 13 KOs), of Oakland, Calif., has emerged as the tournament favorite after impressive triumphs in Group Stage bouts over Mikkel Kessler and Allan Green, as well as Sakio Bika.
Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) entered the Super Six as a favorite alongside Kessler. But after emerging from Group Stage 1 as the points leader with a knockout over Jermain Taylor, he is now trying to bounce back from consecutive losses to Andre Dirrell and Froch in Group Stages 2 and 3, respectively.
Also participating in the press conference was a noticeably slimmed-down Chris Arreola. The heavyweight world contender and popular Southern California slugger will try to stay on track for another opportunity of a world championship when he takes on Nagy Aguilera in a non-televised undercard bout.
The event is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions, Antonio Leonard Productions and Sauerland Event and sponsored by Corona.
Below What the fighters, promoters and trainers had to say on Tuesday:
“The Home Depot Center is a great, great venue for boxing. When that place is packed it’s rocking. Tickets go on sale tomorrow and it’s going to be a great event.
“To me, no matter how the Super Six has progressed I think it’s a tremendous concept for boxing. I think everyone learned how tough it is to make great fights amongst the world’s best fighters.
“It sometimes takes years and years to put together a fight that people want to see. It has taken some time but it has been worth it. No fighter has escaped without a tough fight. We have the Semifinals kicking off on May 14 and the Finals later this year.
“No matter the time period we still have the Finals right around the corner. The winner will be a star.
“Last time I saw Chris like this was five years ago. When everything is said and done, I don’t think there is a better heavyweight out there when he’s doing the things he needs to do.
“I always thought the fight with Chris was more outside the ring than inside the ring. You have to be dedicated and willing to push yourself. I wanted everyone to see Chris with their own eyes, not to tell you in a press release. This is the new Chris Arreola.”
“I’m fired up as always. I’m not buying into people saying that Abraham is not the same. I know Arthur and his team are preparing for a storybook ending but it won’t be at my expense. I’m ready to defend my title.
“It’s the same story every time – people doubting me and asking if I’m ready. I think people forget that I have a family to feed. I need to win just as badly as anyone else. I have two more fights before I’m the best super middleweight in the world and I plan on winning both of them. It’s as simple as that.
“In my preparation I’m probably giving him more respect than he deserves. My job is to put him away from the opening bell. My job is to make him feel the same way he felt right after the Carl Froch fight as soon as possible.
“On May 14 we have 12 rounds to get to know each other. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
“I want to be the last man standing. I always knew it was in me to succeed. I didn’t come this far for no reason.
“I had to grow up real fast in this tournament or I was going to go home early. And I didn’t want to go home early.
“It’s great to be on the same card as Chris. He has the heart of a champion.”
“I’m looking forward to May 14 and having a great fight. I am feeling OK. I was a little sick but I just started training again and I should be fine.
“We are getting ready for a good fight. The tune up fight didn’t give me as much as I wanted but it was OK. It was good to get back in the ring and get that feeling.
“You’ll be surprised on May 14. It’s not my style to make big predictions. I want to show you inside the ring.
“I know he is the favorite but that motivates me even more. Over history many favorites have crashed down.
“I don’t want to speak about what went wrong in the past. I want to focus on Andre. I will use my heart, my fists, my body and my hands to defeat Andre.
“I feel confident in my trainer – I’m happy with him. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t still be training with him.
“I look forward to coming over to the U.S. I will give 120 percent. Together, with the Armenian fans, I will win the title and reach the finals.
“The Armenian fans will motivate me. That makes this fight more special for me. I will not disappoint them.
“We will win on May 14 and then we’ll win the final.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to America. But I’m mostly looking forward to returning to Germany with a victory and putting on a great fight.”
VIRGIL HUNTER (Ward’s trainer):
“We’re in full-tilt now in camp. We have a great game plan. More than anything, we want to make sure we make a statement and give you something to write about.
“I’d like to say that Arthur is scared to come here and face Andre face-to-face, but it’s a long trip over here. I understand.”
“I do look a little bit better. The main thing with being 30 years old is you only have a little window of opportunity and it’s time for me to do it. I let everyone down when I showed a lack of dedication to the sport and I look forward to showing myself again.
“The main thing is after my last fight I didn’t go back to living like I used to. I’m a family man now. I’m good and just living the life.
“I can train at home without all the distractions. I’m more focused and dedicated.
“The turning point was around December. I realize that 2010 and 2009 were terrible. It was my fault. Now it’s about what I want and what I’m supposed to do to win. No more games.
“I’m 20 or 30 pounds ahead of the game, so I’m not worried about weight anymore.”
HENRY RAMIREZ (Arreola’s trainer):
“Obviously, you can see that Chris is at a lower weight. The biggest fight with Chris has been outside of the ring. The maturity is finally catching up with the physical ability. The sky is the limit for Chris and the best is yet to come.”