Hafthor Björnsson vs. Steven Ward Exhibition Fight Recap

“The Mountain” stepped into the ring for the first time. Here's how it went.

The 2018 World’s Strongest Man champion Hafthor Björnsson has officially competed in his first boxing match — an exhibition bout against Steven “Quiet Man” Ward. The fight took place on Jan 15. 2021 in Dubai, but was streamed for free on Jan. 16, 2021. Because this was an exhibition, neither man was declared a winner or loser. This was simply a showcase of both men’s skills, though all eyes were on Björnsson for this one.

That’s because on Sept. 18, 2021, Thor and 2017 WSM winner Eddie “The Beast” Hall are duking it out in Las Vegas in what’s being billed as “the heaviest boxing match in history.” The fight was streamed on CoreSports as well as on Björnsson’s YouTube and Twitch channels, and on the IFL TV YouTube channel. You can check out the stream below, courtesy of Björnsson’s YouTube channel.

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Before the fight, Björnsson spoke about why he wanted to do an exhibition at this point.

“I want to be able to analyze my mistakes before the fight [with Hall],” Björnsson said on the stream. “I want to feel the excitement and get that out of the way before the fight in September. I want to do this a few times before September…I want to learn from this. I want to get better. Even though it’s an exhibition, we’re both going to show our skills.”

The Tale of the Tape

The difference in size between Björnsson and Ward is profound. The Icelandic native stands 6’9″ and weighed 156.2 kilograms (344 pounds). Ward, a former European Light-Heavyweight Champion with a record of 13-1, weighed 98.6 kilograms (217.4 pounds) and stands 6’2.” That is a difference of seven inches and 127 pounds. Ward is an orthodox fighter (meaning his left hand was forward) and Björnsson assumed a southpaw (or right-hand forward) stance.

Of course, finding an opponent that pairs up evenly size-wise with Björnsson is probably no easy task. It should also be noted that this is the lightest Björnsson has weighed in a very long time. When he pulled the all-time heaviest deadlift of 501 kilograms back in May 2020, he tipped the scales at 192.7 kilograms (425 pounds).

Björnsson vs. Ward Highlights 

Corner men for both fighters and the referee all wore masks to maintain health guidelines and standards. The fight consisted of three three-minute rounds. Ward wore black shorts with white lettering, and Thor donned blue, red, and white shorts that resembled the Icelandic flag.


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A post shared by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (@thorbjornsson)

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Round One

In the first round, Thor’s reach advantage became quickly apparent. He threw a few jabs at a very loose and comfortable Ward. Björnsson attempted to crowd Ward by charging in, but the veteran boxer would circle away or tie-up with the behemoth. Björnsson threw some wild punches — and his hands appeared to drop — throughout the round. MMA legend and commentator Bas Rutten did note that Björnsson’s footwork looked good for a beginner. Ward landed a few shots, but “The Mountain” appeared unphased. 

Round Two

This round saw Björnsson connect with a left jab followed by a wild right hook that connected with the back of Ward’s shoulder. Though he didn’t hit Ward’s head, Björnsson’s power sent Ward toppling over. Ward — who was more active this round, throwing lots of feints — landed a clean right hand to Thor’s jaw. Björnsson responded with a hook to the body. Again, the takeaway of this round was Björnsson’s ability to cut angles and circle around Ward, even making him miss at times. 

Round Three

Ward started round three by working with a left jab, but only one of those shots connected. He did catch Björnsson with one shot to the nose that drew a little blood. The two fighters got tangled up a few times, which forced the referee to separate them. Ward then backed Björnsson against the ropes and worked him over with body shots. Björnsson scored with a good right hand but didn’t follow up. Ward responded with a right of his own that sent Björnsson to the ropes. The fight finished with them trading jab attempts.

Post Fight Interviews

After the fight, Ward expressed praise for Björnsson’s speed considering his size. Björnsson had an unexpected answer to how he felt about being punched in the face for the first time.

“It feels great. I love this,” Thor said. “This was great, and I can’t wait to get back home and get back to training…I love this sport and have huge respect for it, huge respect to the athletes.”

Björnsson also had a message for Hall, who, again, he will be facing on Sept. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas, NV.

If you’re not taking this seriously, I’m going to knock you out in the first round. Start taking this seriously.

Björnsson vs. Ward Undercard 

The event in its entirety featured six matches, including the main event. All fights were exhibitions, so no winners or losers were determined, and all of the fighters’ records were untouched. The exhibitions that took place before Björnsson and Ward’s encounter are below.

  • Stephane Fondjo vs. Rohan Date
  • Ali Bassam vs. Colm Murphy
  • Iurii Nepliuiev vs. Vladen Babic
  • Timur Umarov vs. Stephane Fondjo
  • Jamie King vs. Aaron Bickerstaff

Stephane Fondjo actually took part in two matches due to a fighter not making the event. Also of note, organizer Aaron Bickerstaff competed as a substitution for another competitor who couldn’t fight.

The Babic/Nepliuiev bout had to be stopped due to Babic delivering a hard punch to Nepliuiev’s liver area in the first round. 

Featured image: @thorbjornsson on Instagram