Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a fight televised live on HBO Pay-Per-View, Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), the master boxer from Oakland, California, dug deep into his bag of tricks to eke out a razor thin unanimous decision over reigning and defending WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs), the formerly undefeated knockout artist from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, by way of Kopeysk, Russia.
All three judges scored it 114-113 in favor of the challenger.
Ward, the former unified super middleweight champion, got off to a slow start. He was taking the measure of the man opposite him, lost the first third of the fight, and was dropped by a jab in round two.
Kovalev’s power was proving to be the great equalizer. After forcing Ward to the canvas early, it looked like it was a matter of time before the rangy Russian caught Ward and got him out of there.
But Ward is no ordinary challenger. If Plan A wasn’t working, Plans B, C and D were in the wings, ready to be deployed.
Kovalev is no less ordinary than Ward. He can punch, but he can also box, and used both arsenals to good effect on his way to what looked like a decision or early stoppage.
But Ward knew he was losing on the outside, his Plan A, so he took the fight inside and did his damage there.
Inside fighting is something of a lost art, but it is not lost on Andre Ward.
Negating Kovalev’s advantages in power and reach, Ward closed the gap, got in close and worked downstairs, where he got as down and dirty as the rules and referee would permit.
By the middle rounds the effect of that body work was beginning to show, which can be summed up by Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, between rounds six and seven.
“Think he’s wearing down, huh?” he asked Ward. “Don’t let him breathe or get off.”
Kovalev couldn’t make the necessary adjustments, at least not with the single-minded ferocity of Ward making his adjustments. He won a few rounds in the second half of the fight to maintain his lead, but it was close, it down to the wire, and could have gone either way.
After the fight Ward said, “I was not surprised when I heard the decision. I know it was a close fight. The crowd you can hear they thought I won. I have been a champ before. I knew it was going to be a tough fight. It was the first time in my career I was dropped. He did everything I expected him to do. He started to show up as I expected. My coach did a great job. It’s hard for me to call myself great, but at the end of the day I am a two-weight division champion.”
Kovalev saw it differently.
“It’s the wrong decision,” he said. “I don’t want to say my opinion. The witnesses are here. They saw it. It’s my job. It was a fight of my life. I am disappointed in the judges’ decision. He got maybe a few rounds. I agree with that. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds the whole fight.
“Of course I want a rematch and I will kick his ass. I want to show good boxing. I am against here, it is the USA, and all the judges were from the USA. He is a boxer. It’s a sport. Don’t make it politics; it is a sport and I won the fight.”
Some agree with Sergey Kovalev. Some agree with Andre Ward.
It was that kind of fight and warrants a rematch.
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.