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Ward, Dawson on collision course

Andre Ward will be defending more than just his super middleweight championships on Sept. 8. He’ll also be defending his home turf.

At 25-0 with 13 knockouts, Ward will return to the Oracle Arena in his hometown of Oakland to face his biggest challenge yet – literally and figuratively – reigning light heavyweight champ “Bad” Chad Dawson.

Billed “World Champions – Made in America,” the highly anticipated WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine title fight will headline HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” telecast, which airs live at 9:45 p.m. Pacific Time.

Both fighters visited King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland on Tuesday to give their thoughts about Saturday night’s bout.

Ward, whose nickname is “S.O.G.” (Son of God), said he is excited to fight on his home turf once again:

“I’m excited because once again they don’t see it coming … They’ve done a lot of talking and we’ve purposely shut our mouths and kept working and we’ll see what’s being said when it’s all said and done.”

Dawson (31-1, 17 KO), who began his career at super middleweight, will move back down in weight for the fight.

He said everything is going as planned and he is not concerned about weight:

“Taking this fight with Andre Ward in his backyard, coming down to his weight class, fighting for his world title is proof that I’m a throwback fighter that doesn’t care about the situation. I’m willing to fight the best on any given day.”

Ward, whose arm length is 71 inches, is aware of the risk he is taking by fighting Dawson, who will enter the ring with a 76 ½ inch reach:

“You’ve got me who’s taking on a bigger man … I’m putting up everything (and) I’m bringing all my belts in the ring and they’re all on the line … So I’m risking a lot and in this sport you can’t afford to lose.”

The 28-year-old Ward unified the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles this past December by dominating Carl Froch in the finals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic from Atlantic City, N.J.

He also won The RING Magazine super middleweight title that night, which he said meant the most to him:

“The RING Magazine belt I think solidifies any questions about who is the best in the division. You can no longer be called a titlist if you hold The RING Magazine belt. You’re a champion.”

Despite entering the tournament as a relative unknown in November 2009, Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, opened many eyes by dominating heavy favorite Mikkel Kessler to win the WBA title via 11th-round technical decision.

He went on to defeat Allan Green, Sakio Bika and former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham. The win over Froch, however, ultimately solidified Ward’s transition from rising star to one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters.

Dawson, also ranked among the pound-for-pound elite, rose to prominence – and realized his childhood dream – in February 2007 when he annexed Tomasz Adamek of the WBC light heavyweight title.

He considers the win the most fulfilling moment of his career so far because he got to share the victory with somebody very close to him – his father:

“That win was so gratifying to me because my dad (former boxer Rick Dawson) had always told me that I could become a world champion some day and I finally made it happen for both of us. I can’t describe the feeling I had when I saw the look on my father’s face after that belt was strapped around my waist.”

Dawson vacated his WBC title in 2008 and went on to defeat former light heavyweight title holders Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver twice, winning two more championships in the process. He recently defeated ring legend Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins in Atlantic City to win The RING Magazine title and also regain the WBC title on April 28.

Dawson’s only loss came in August 2010 to Jean Pascal in a WBC and IBO unification bout via 11th-round technical decision, which Dawson considers the worst memory of his career so far:

“When I saw Pascal’s hand raised after the fight, the feeling in my mind, body and soul was demoralizing. I knew I had to get back in the gym and prove to the world that I had an off night and work my way to get back on top.”

As was the case in the Pascal fight, Dawson is travelling to his opponent’s backyard in an attempt to become the universally recognized super middleweight champion.

In fact, if Dawson wins on Saturday night, he will be the universally recognized champion of both the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions – a feat that was last achieved by Welshman Joe Calzaghe in 2008.

Despite such circumstances, Dawson believes he will rise to the occasion on fight night:

“On Sept. 8, in Oakland, Calif., where the crowd will be rooting against me, you’re going to see a true warrior put it all on the line and bring home that world title, and that warrior is me.”

Ward, however, isn’t willing to relinquish his titles without a fight:

“I’m not angry but I feel a little mean. I feel like I’m ready to go to war. I’m getting ready to put my life on the line.”

The fight week festivities continue on Thursday morning as the two fighters hold their final press conference at Faz Restaurant at 1111 Broadway in Oakland.

The Oakland City Center will host the Ward vs. Dawson Countdown FanFest on Friday, Sept. 7 at noon, culminating with the official weigh-in at 2:30 p.m., hosted by “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon.

Admission to FanFest is free and fans are encouraged to arrive early.

For more information on Ward vs. Dawson, visit the Oracle Arena’s website or Ticketmaster online.

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