Photo Credits David Spagnolo- Main Events
In Standing-8’s fight preview for Ward-Kovalev 2, we asked the question, “Is Andre Ward All In?
On Saturday night, Ward (32-0 16 KO) provided the answer with an exclamation point by stopping Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1 26 KO) in the eighth round.
Like the first fight, there were a lot of close rounds. Kovalev started fast and was the aggressor but Ward was gauging the distance and creating angles. It was all in his master plan. Prior to the fight, there were rumblings out of Ward’s Camp that they believed they could stop the former champion with the Ivan Drago type of persona. After the fight, Ward’s Trainer Virgil Hunter confirmed just that.
” I have only trained Andre for a knockout twice, the first was Chad Dawson [in 2012], and the second was tonight. And they laughed at me. But I knew what was going to happen, because he was healthy. Now we have quieted all those who were whining and thought we didn’t get it the first time.”
Through seven rounds it was close but you could feel that it was Ward’s fight to lose. Throughout the fight, Ward’s body work was setting the tone; however not met kindly by Kovalev who had complained to Referee Tony Weeks several times.
In the eighth, Ward hit Kovalev on the belt line which caused Kovalev to stop and move away thinking Weeks would give him a few minutes to recover from what he thought was a low blow. Weeks signaled for Kovalev to continue causing Ward to reinstate his onslaught. Ward hit Kovalev with a big shot to the body and followed it with a powerful thudding right hand that rocked the challenger.
Credit–David Spagnolo Main Events
Seeing that Kovalev had buckled, Ward jumped on his prey and worked high and low with shots from all angles as Kovalev fell into the ropes. One of Ward’s body punches did land on the belt line which caused Kovalev to slouched down on the ropes and bend over. It appeared that Kovalev thought that Weeks would jump in and stop the action due to a foul. He was right on one account, Weeks did jump in; however, it was to stop the fight.
It would be a controversial stoppage. The opinion here is that Weeks should have afforded Kovalev a standing eight count at a minimum. Not that it would have mattered, Ward was breaking down the former champion so it was only a matter of time but deservedly so in such a close fight and all that was on the line in a rematch.
In Ward’s defense, Kovalev was bent at the waist so any punch to his mid section would hit both the stomach and just below the belt line and clearly a result of the body position rather than ill intent. It was Weeks’ job to jump in while Ward was hitting Kpvalev to the midsection if Weeks felt they were fouls, he did not, so Ward did what he was supposed to do.
Credit David Spagnolo-Main Events
At the time of the stoppage, Ward was up 67-66 on two cards and down 68-65 on the third. Ward also had a clear advantage in power shots which was always Kovalev’s strength.
After the fight Ward stated “He’s a great fighter, not a lot of people are going to beat him. When you fight great fighters you got to raise your game to the next level”
Ward continued, “When I saw him react to the body shots that were borderline, I knew I had him. I hurt him with a head shot”
Kovalev had complained about low blows several times in the fight which he discussed in his post fight interview.
“Both of us were better this fight. I didn’t feel like I was hurt by legal punches, only low blows” “I don’t know why they stopped the fight. I could have continued. I wasn’t hurt, He didn’t hurt me. I continued to fight, I want to fight him again and kick his ass”
Kovalev had said that he tired out in the first fight and would not allow that to happen again but he looked fatigued several times over the last several rounds and his power appeared to be non-existent.
Ward imposed his will landing the harder shots while meeting the aggressive Kovalev head on. Ward implemented and executed a systematic break down of his adversary and left no doubt this time around. At times, Kovalev looked beaten and almost like he wanted a way out.
In our fight preview, we questioned if we had observed, on some level, a decline in Kovalev over his last few fights. His performance in this one has added to the conversation.
As for Ward, he spoke about going up to cruiserweight or even heavyweight at some point down the road. When asked about a fight with Adonis Stevenson, Ward said if it makes sense it may happen; however he made it known that when he moved up it was to face the top guy in Kovalev, something Stevenson had a chance to do but never did implying that Stevenson didn’t warrant an opportunity.
While we were on record in our fight preview that Ward wins the rematch easier the second time around, we did question Ward’s commitment to the game that, if not fully commited, would contribute to problems in the rematch. That said, this performance and listeneing to him in the post fight press confrence ended all doubt here.