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November 23, 2009

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Ward takes Kessler's WBA crown as bout halted

AMERICAN Andre Ward claimed the WBA super middleweight title from Denmark's Mikkel Kessler on Saturday in a bout that had to be stopped early, leaving the ex-champion's camp complaining of dirty tactics in Oakland, California.

Ward (21-0, 13 KOs) added his first world championship belt to his Olympic gold medal with an upset victory in his hometown.

A ringside physician stopped the fight midway through the 11th round after looking at a growing cut on Kessler's face, which was caused by a head butt.

Sweden's Mikael Hook favored Ward 97-93, while South Africa's Stanley Christodoulou and California's Steve Morrow both scored it 98-92 for Ward.

It was a surprise defeat for Kessler (42-2), the WBA champion for most of the past five years and the early favorite to win the Super Six super middleweight tournament.

"Right now, I'm dreaming," Ward said. "I can't compare this to winning the gold medal, because it's going to take a while for it all to sink in."

Ward acknowledged there were two head butts which contributed to Kessler's injury, but said they were accidental.

"I'm not a dirty fighter, everybody knows that," Ward insisted.

However, Kessler was angered by his opponent's tactics, and adamant he could have fought on.

"He was the better man tonight, but I would have liked the fight to go another minute," Kessler said. "I knew I could have continued. I was cut, but the cuts weren't that bad.

"He threw a lot of elbows, and there were a lot of head butts, and he never got any warnings. I don't want to sit here and complain all the time, but I wasn't happy with the referee."

Kessler had won his past three fights since his only loss to Joe Calzaghe in 2007, briefly relinquishing the WBA title he has held since 2004. The Dane was the favorite in the tournament matching six of the world's top super middleweights, and he was confident enough to fight stateside for just the second time.


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