This is how it went in the light heavyweight match-up of arguably the two best men in the sport, who ascended to those spots by facing each other in a close fight a year ago that Ward won controversially: Kovalev started better. In the eighth round Ward rocked Kovalev with a right to the head hurting him. “When I hit him with the last one he didn’t react”.
Russia’s Sergey Kovalev is out to regain his WBA, WBO, IBF titles that he lost to Andre Ward in Las Vegas last November. [Ward] punched me low blow already a few times during the fight. “Kovalev fought a good fight but once I compute a fighter in my brain and have him in there, I know what I need to do the next time around”.
Ward enters the fight with an unblemished 31-0-0 record (15 knockouts), while Kovalev carries a 30-1-1 mark (26 knockouts) into the bout.
“It felt like I was up (on the scorecards), but a championship fight starts after the sixth round”, Ward said. Ward then began pounding Kovalev to the midsection again, and Kovalev bent over helplessly. “I was empty in the first fight”.
As I complete the requirements for my AFRAM 30 class, I’m keeping a People’s Eye Photography and SF Bay View newspaper eye on the events leading up to what promises to be one of the greatest rematch fights in boxing history. For both fighters, Saturday’s rematch is a chance to move beyond that controversial match, with Kovalev believing he was robbed of a victory and Ward believing he didn’t get enough credit for the win. “He’s a great fighter”, Ward said. I knew I had him. But Ward, 33, of Oakland, California, made the cards irrelevant with his surprising TKO in the eighth round, after which Hunter and Kovalev trainer John David Jackson got into a heated discussion in the ring.
Nevada boxing officials huddled for several minutes and watched the replay before ruling the punch was legal.
And Ward emphasized that he was dealing with as much remorse as Kovalev was. They are among the best pound-for-pound fighters and have a lot in common. Whether the punches that came right before the end of the fight were low or not can be discussed. But although Ward earned the victory, it did not come without a cloud of controversy, with many scorers claiming that Kovalev should have in fact been the victor.
Kovalev said he doesn’t know what happened and can’t explain why he was stopped by the referee. “The fight should have continued”. “I saw Sergey’s (protective) cup going up from the back during that whole sequence”. Referee Tony Weeks stepped into stop it along the ropes as Kovalev was folded in half against them. “He didn’t hurt me”. Ward right to the body. I had to give him different looks.
“That’s always been a dream of mine and that’s something me and Virgil [Hunter, Ward’s trainer] talk about”.
After the fight, Ward gave Kovalev his credit and admitted he was the most hard opponent of his career.
Ward could pursue lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, who owns the fourth sanctioning body belt, but there are promotional and television network issues there, so don’t count on seeing it. Who he fights next?