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Near 3,000-mile journey worth it as Ward picks up a victory


It's probably safe to assume the Cayman Islands' renowned beaches and nightlife weren't on Andre Ward's itinerary June 20. No, the only "nightlife" the 2004 Olympic gold medalist had scheduled was his main-event bout against Jerson Ravelo (18-3, 12 KOs) on Showtime's ShoBox: The New Generation.

And in that regard, the Caribbean journey was a memorable trip for Ward, who defeated his 30-year-old foe after eight rounds and moved closer to earning the 168-pound title.

After Ravelo (18-3, 12 KOs) handed Ward (16-0, 11 KOs) a slew of tough strikes throughout the match, it wasn't until the third round that "Son of God" used his technical prowess to his advantage. Ward sent a quick left and a series of heavy rights to Ravelo's head, drawing blood and causing referee Steve Smoger to briefly separate the brawlers.

The Tijuana, Mexico, native, who recorded eight first-round wins prior to Friday, gave Smoger the nod, signaling his desire to say in the ring. But Ravelo's move worked against him as his persistent strikes faded with time and Ward's tenacity gained strength, as indicated by the bout's final minutes.

A torrent of punishing combinations from Ward resulted in Smoger calling the fight and Ravelo's corner simultaneously throwing in the towel halfway through the second minute of the eighth.

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"In my opinion, it was not my best fight, but I had a positive reaction from the media and fans," Ward said. "So, I'm going to go home, watch the tape and hopefully see what they see."

With the victory, Ward took home the NABO title to his wife and newborn in Oakland, Calif., Though a minor title, the belt puts Ward in a top 10 position in the WBO, where Joe Calzaghe sits at No. 1.

Seven-time world champ Hearns (19-0, 15 KOs) lived up to the legacy of his father, Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, proving no match for Gonzalez (12-4-1, 10 KOs). Hearns came on strong and dominated the entire bout before Gonzalez's corner stopped the fight two minutes into the seventh round.

Ruiz (22-5, 7 KOs) defeated former WBC super bantamweight champion McCullough (27-7, 18 KOs), who returned after a three-year hiatus to step in the ring Friday. The Irishman did his best through the first five rounds, but the sixth proved to be his last -- for good. Two of the judges had McCullough ahead at the time of the stoppage -- judge Jose Rivera had it 58-57 and Nelson Vazquez had it 58-56 for McCullough -- while judge Roberto Ramirez had it 56-58 for Ruiz. Following the defeat, McCullough graciously announced his retirement to the small Cayman Islands crowd.

As the originally scheduled co-feature bout, Chambers-Butler was replaced on short notice with Hearns-Gonzalez. But the last-minute move didn't seem to faze Chambers (31-1, 17 KOs) as he unleashed a powerful combination to knock out Butler (31-5, 24 KOs) at the 2:30 mark in the sixth round.

Charles Whitaker (31-12-2, 19 KOs), a Cayman Islands native, knocked out the American, Lowry (27-9, 16 KOs), in the fourth after a primarily one-sided bout in Whitaker's favor.

Barnett (14-0-1, 10 KOs) was too much for Miranda (15-2, 8 KOs), as the Mexican failed to bounce back from a string of rough beatings by Barnett in the third round. Miranda succumbed to a Barnett combination just seconds into the fourth.