ATLANTIC CITY - Andre Ward might or might not be the best 168-pounder boxer on the planet. In some people's eyes, that has yet to be determined.
But what is unquestionably true after his domination of Carl Froch is that the 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Oakland, Calif., was the best super middleweight in the Showtime-televised "Super Six World Boxing Classic" that drew to a close Saturday night in Boardwalk Hall.
Ward's 12-round, unanimous decision over Froch - by scores of 118-110 and, curiously, a pair of 115-113 margins that were much closer than the action in the ring indicated - enabled the WBA champion to annex Froch's WBC title and, just maybe, slide into the favorite's position to be named 2011 Fighter of the Year.
The Daily News card had Ward running away with it at 118-111, which was more in keeping with the scorecard submitted by British judge John Keane than the nailbiters turned in by Canada's Craig Metcalfe and South Jersey's own John Stewart.
"That's interesting," Ward, 27, said when informed that the judge who looked upon his performance most favorably was the one from Froch's home country of England.
What's also interesting is that the tournament, which was laboriously pieced together more than 2 years ago by then-Showtime boxing boss Ken Hershman, failed to produce the desired result. The grand experiment, marred by three in-progress defections and two additions to keep things moving along, failed to produce a winner whose place at the top of the heap in his division is beyond any shadow of doubt.
But Ward's latest bravura effort might be considered only a semifinal victory, given that the Super Six field did not include Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KOs), the IBF champion who was among the announced crowd of 5,626, and has yet to throw down with the Super Six winner.
Bute was on Ward's mind at the postfight news conference, but Ward wasn't interested in calling him out just yet.
"He's been sitting back, waiting, while we've been fighting for the past 2-plus years against top competition," Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) said of the Montreal-based Romanian southpaw. "I don't have to go to Lucian Bute.
"He has to fight an A-level guy. You can't sit back and take your time when everybody else is working hard, and then expect to get equal money. It don't work like that."
Uh, well, sometimes it does. Remember, Michael Spinks declined to participate in the heavyweight unification tournament won by Mike Tyson in the mid-1980s. Instead of getting a $5 million payday to fight Tyson then, Spinks got $13.2 million for taking on Tyson on June 27, 1988.
Ward suggested that Bute prove his worthiness by testing himself against Froch (28-2, 20 KOs). Considered a bit of a longshot when the Super Six launched, Ward now has the luxury of being the hunted instead of the hunter. While in the catbird seat, he plans to keep alive a winning streak that extends back to when he was a 12-year-old amateur working with the same trainer (Virgil Hunter) he has now.
"This is not the end," Ward said of the Super Six's conclusion. "It's really the beginning for us. We're going to get better. Believe it or not, you guys haven't seen the best Andre Ward. I'm still growing. I'm still a young fighter. I've still got a long way to go."
Ward, as presently constituted, was plenty good enough against Froch, who landed only 156 of 683 punches (23 percent) to 243 of 573 (42 percent) for Ward, according to statistics furnished by CompuBox. How consistent was the winner? He landed 42 percent of his jabs (107 of 252) and 42 percent of his power shots (136 of 321).
"I was in against a very slick, very awkward, very good fighter," Froch, his face as lumpy as day-old oatmeal, said in tribute. "I take nothing away from Andre Ward. He's very good at not getting hit, very good at keeping himself out of harm's way. He's like a slippery eel at times . . . He was too quick for me."