Andre Ward relies on mental toughness for bout with Chad Dawson

Andre Ward concedes he faces a weight, height and reach disadvantage against Chad Dawson on Saturday.

But Ward says he has an edge in a category that will win him the fight: mental sharpness.

"My mind-set is my major attribute," Ward said. "It's proven Chad has had mental lapses. It boils down to who wants it more, and I believe with my intensity that I do."

World light-heavyweight champion Dawson (31-1, 17 knockouts) is moving down seven pounds to 168 to fight for the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. super-middleweight belts that belong to 2004 U.S. Olympic gold-medalist Ward (25-0, 13 KOs).

The fight, televised by HBO, will take place at Oracle Arena in Ward's hometown, Oakland.

Dawson, 30, hasn't fought as a super-middleweight since February 2006, but following his majority decision victory over 47-year-old legend Bernard Hopkins in April, a date with recent super-middleweight tournament winner Ward, 28, was the most lucrative and attractive.

Ward was given the home-site advantage in his first fight since defeating Carl Froch in the championship of Showtime's "Super Six" tournament. He agreed to sacrifice the size deficits that include a significant weight disadvantage and a 51/2 -inch reach disparity.

"He can have the extra weight; I'm giving him that," Ward said. "But that doesn't mean he'll walk through me."

For Ward, the 2011 boxing writers' fighter of the year, relying on superb defense, crisp punching and a calculated fight plan orchestrated by 2011 trainer of the year Virgil Hunter is the most effective form of execution.

"The guys that I beat in the 'Super Six,' every one of those fights was tough even if I did dominate some," Ward said. "Dominating a fight is not easy, and Chad poses a different, great challenge for me."

The fight should boost the winner's star power, and for Ward that could include a 2013 date against the winner of a Sept. 15 middleweight title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez.

"My personal goals are to fight and beat the best opponent possible," Ward said. "Chavez-Martinez would be even bigger. Put it on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas and we'll sell the place out. But we all have business to take care of first."

Saturday's card includes a bout between Covina's John Molina (24-1, 19 KOs) and Tijuana's Antonio DeMarco (27-2-1, 20 KOs) for DeMarco's WBC lightweight belt.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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