Wards floors Molina in second round

Updated: December 18, 2004, 11:04 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward made a successful professional debut Saturday night, stopping Christopher Molina at 40 seconds of the second round.

The bout, scheduled for four rounds, was part of the undercard before the Antonio Tarver-Glen Johnson light heavyweight fight at Staples Center.

Referee Jose Cobian stopped the fight after Ward sent Molina reeling with a shot above the right eye.

"It was a blessing -- it's a wonderful thing," Ward said of his first fight. "I figured he'd come out and try to maul me. They look at my physique and they misread me. He wanted me to slug with him and I wouldn't do it. It would have been downhill for him if the referee would have let him continue."

The 6-foot-1 Ward, from Oakland, Calif., weighed 165 pounds. He won his Olympic gold medal last summer in Athens at 178 pounds, but said his future is in the middleweight division.

"Middleweight won't be a problem. That's where I want to be," he said.

Ward is the only American boxer to win an Olympic gold medal since 1996.

Molina, of Odessa, Tex., weighed 165{ pounds. He had won his previous two professional fights.

Two days earlier, at the pre-fight news conference, Molina said he was honored to fight the Olympic gold medalist and added: "When I was locked up for the last five years, I was dreaming of this."

"He dreamed of this for five years, I dreamed of this for 10 years," Ward said. "I had the upper hand on him. I'm looking for bigger and better things."

Ward floored Molina with a straight left to the head late in the first round, and Molina slipped twice in the final seconds of the round.

"The second round, I settled down," Ward said. "I didn't lunge at him so much."

Ward said he planned to fight again Feb. 10 at a site to be determined.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press