Last November, Andre Ward (31-0 15 KO) defeated Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1 26 KO) in a very close fight. All three judges scored the fight 114-113. Standing-8 didn’t score the fight initially and had thought Kovalev had done enough to win especially with the 2nd round knockdown.
After scoring the fight I uncharacteristically had the same score as the judges, 114-113 Ward, giving him rounds 1,4,5,7,8,9, and 11.
There were cries of robbery and most boxing writers and media personnel had Kovalev as the winner, some by a wide margin. Again, the fight was close but it was far from a robbery.
Kovalev took to social media to vent his displeasure and got downright nasty with his posts on several occasions calling out Ward for a rematch and questioning his victory.
On the other end of the spectrum was Ward. About a month after the first fight with Kovalev, Ward stated this to http://www.fighthype.com/
“The rematch with Kovalev is definitely something I’m interested in, it’s definitely something we’re entertaining, but I’m the champion now,” said Ward. “If it’s not right and it doesn’t make sense, you know, absolutely, that may be a sign that it’s time to leave the sport and walk away and do some other things in my life. “I have to be fair to myself. I’ve put in a lot of hours, a lot of time, not just in these fights, but in this gym, my whole life, so it would be unfair to me to get into a ring at any point in time in my career moving forward if I’m not happy with the terms.”
Wow, really? Retirement? This is not the first time Ward has not been happy with the sport. Prior to the November fight with Kovalev, Ward had only fought three times in three years, a direct result of a promotional squabble. It has been suggested that Ward had wasted some of his peak years in the sport during the layoff but he returned to do what he always does..win. That said, at times in his career he has had an attitude that when it comes to boxing, he can take it or leave it.
You can never question his heart in the ring but you can question it when it comes to his desire to continue in the sport. To talk retirement after posting such a big win with statements that there could be signs that it’s time to walk away from the sport is enough to question his desire going forward.
Is Andre Ward all in? If he is, he wins the rematch. Ward has more tools in his tool belt and one of the best Ring I.Q.’s in the game. Give him seven months to review tape of the first fight and the execution of his game plan this time around is most likely to be much easier.
Ward will utilize his jab more in the rematch and will look to work the body early and often as he did in the first fight, while building upon the changes that he made in the second half. He’ll keep Kovalev at distance and look to counter him while tying Kovalev up when he rushes in with power shots. It also would not be a surprise to see Ward have to surivive an early onslaught by Kovalev. He has tasted Kovalev’s power so unless he gets careless he should be able to handle the big shots from the Russian.
Yes, Kovalev is a destroyer, wants redemption, and will look to knock Ward’s block off but his aggressiveness may be his downfall. Ward is the quicker fighter and the better counter puncher, sleep on his speed which is power and learn a rude lesson. It is not entirely out of the question that Kovalev tastes the canvas this time around on a flash knockdown due to his overaggressiveness.
There are reasons Kovalev did not move in for the kill throughout the first fight after having Ward down in the second. He tasted Ward’s underrated power, had to respect his quickness, and found the defense to be different from what he expected. Ward was able to adapt and find ways to change his strategy and steal rounds.
Kovalev has stated that he gave Ward too much respect the first time around and that he overtrained which affected the power of his punches. He has vowed to not make the same mistakes again but maybe we’ve seen signs of decline on some level from him in the past.
Before the first fight with Ward, Issac Chilemba gave him hell. That was the best damn Chilemba that we’ve seen in some time, or was it? And remember the first fight with Jean Pascal? Although he stopped the game Canadian, Kovalev was hit more than a pinata. Against a 49-year-old Hopkins? Kovalev rattled him early but couldn’t stop the legend while eating counter rights and lefts from the beaten future Hall of Famer the rest of the fight.
Ward is at his best when he is the underdog and when he feels disrespected. He proved it in the Super-Six Tournament and time and time again after coming back from long layoffs in the sport. There are many who do not believe he won the last fight and although he will enter the ring as a slight favorite, it doesnt feel that way in boxing circles.
Kovalev is hungry after the loss and retirement is not in his vocabulary, Kovalev is all in.
On Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay In Las Vegas, we’ll find out if Ward is.