Wards floors Molina in second round


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

"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