Carl Froch lost his WBC super-middleweight belt ending the bid to become Super Six champion after Andre Ward was awarded a unanimous points decision in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
For Froch it was always going to be a tough task against Ward, a former Olympian, with no defeats in his professional career. It was important for the Nottingham fighter to start quickly but it was the Oakland man who was fastest out of the blocks establishing his jab early on. Ward caught Froch with a left hook as he punched out of a break then barely took a backwards step as his faster hands punished gaps in the Cobra's defence.
Froch was still struggling to warm up in the second round as Ward skipped in and out of range with dainty footwork. The British fighter failed to close the distance until the last minute of the session when he finally upped his work rate. He forced Ward to the ropes where he was able to land his trademark hooks.
That seemed to give Froch the encouragement he needed as he started the third with more urgency. But his lack of head movement was proving his undoing, time and again Ward racked up points behind his jab and as his confidence grew he planted his feet and landed more hurtful punches. Froch badly needed to change his tactics as he was becoming predictable and struggling to pin down his wily opponent.
He did at least get in range in the fourth as referee Steve Smoger allowed the fighters to punch out of a break. The Cobra wrestled Ward to the ropes where he showed his impressive in-fighting skills and finally had a chance to punish the WBA champion. That seemed to finally swing the fight in Froch's favour and he had a much better fifth round.
For once Froch was the aggressor pushing Ward on the retreat and landing with greater accuracy. It was now the British fighter's chance to show his slick moves as he made Ward punch at air for once. But unfortunately it was to be only a brief respite. In the sixth and seventh the self-proclaimed 'Son of God' was back in control and racking up the points with a left hook that couldn't miss. Froch's reluctance to keep his hands high has followed him throughout his career but previously he had never met a man like Ward who could outspeed his snake-like reflexes.
More alarming for Froch was the fact that he was not able to impose his strength on Ward and bully him at any point. If anything it was the American who had the upper-hand in the clinches and was forcing the Cobra backwards. By the eighth it was looking like a real uphill challenge as Froch had lost the majority of the rounds to the come forward counter-puncher.
By the ninth Froch appeared to have realised this and that only a stoppage could lead to his hand being raised at the end of the fight. He tucked in his chin and marauded forwards hoping to land anything he could on the evasive Ward. He had some success but still had to absorb some painful looking body shots as the former Olympic gold medallist switched the target of his attacks.
The one big shot that had got Froch out of trouble against Jermaine Taylor just wasn't there and as he loaded up he played into the Ward's speedy hands. Punches thrown from unconventional angles kept catching Froch at will but to the Cobra's credit he never showed signs of losing heart. He attempted to walk through Ward's jab but just couldn't find a telling punch that would finally hurt his fellow finalist.
Froch's unbreakable spirit was summed up in the final round, which was actually his best of the fight. He raised his workrate further still and Ward's feet finally slowed as he sensed the finishing line was in sight. But even then he still had too many defensive skills to allow Froch to land cleanly.
Twelve rounds of frustration for the Nottingham man were brought to an end by the final bell and it was no surprise that the verdict was unanimous. Judges Craig Metcalfe and John Stewart seemed at least impressed by Froch's aggression but scored it to Ward by just 115-113.
The English judge John Keane was less charitable and gave it to the Oakland fighter by 118-110.
Courtesy Sky Sports