The night climaxed with the sixth bout of the bill when Andre ‘S.O.G’ Ward fought for his first pro title, the NABO super-middleweight belt.
Ward was the only gold medallist for the United States at the last Olympics in Athens so has been in the media spotlight far more intensely than other hot prospects discarding their vests.
A wholesome, Christian man, he wants to become an all-time great and at 24 seems destined for that.
He hadn’t disappointed thus far, unbeaten in 15 contests, stopping 10 of them in the process.
Ward faced Jerson Ravelo, a New Jersey-based fighter with an 18-2 record, including 13 quick wins.
Ravelo has Olympic pedigree too, representing Dominican Republic in the 2000 Sydney Games.
This was a step up in class and throughout the build up Ravelo kept his dignity, simmering from the media’s perception that he was only making up the numbers and a Ward win was a foregone conclusion.
Ravelo’s had a torrid time in his pro career and this was his chance to ambush the ratings.
He threatened to do it in the first round too, finding his range quicker and landing stinging shots that tested Ward’s heart, chin and conditioning to the max. Ravelo hadn’t boxed for 15 months and the ring rust didn’t show initially.
Ward found his rhythm in the second, mixing mostly single shots to head and body well and slowly broke Ravelo down. By the sixth, Ravelo was evidently in survival mode as Ward’s extra class and fitness started telling.
Ravelo’s long ring absence couldn’t have helped. A big right in the eighth dropped Ravelo, 30. He rose groggily at the eight count.
Referee Steve Smoger was evidently in two minds as he weighed up whether to stop it. The follow up flurry was all it took for Smoger to jump in just as Ravelo’s corner threw in the towel. It was all over after two minutes 37 seconds.
“My objective was accomplished,” Ward beamed. “It was the old cliché. Don’t rush it, don’t be too anxious. I was telling myself the whole week this was going to be the best performance of my career.’
“We’re not looking for a world title fight yet,” said Goossen. “We’ve been patient and I see no need to rush anything just yet. I could see him being ready for a title shot in a couple more fights.
‘But this was the type of fight that Andre needed, because he was a little hesitant at first, but once he settled down, he controlled the fight.”