By Allan Fox: Tonight, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev intends on making Andre “SOG” Ward pay for all the trash talk he’s given him in the last month as the two have prepared for their rematch at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A very angry Kovalev wants to make Ward pay for his talk and for the victory that he was given by the judges that worked their previous fight on November 19 a year ago. Kovalev is angry and he’s going to beat Ward like he beat Jean Pascal in their second fight when he was angry at him.
“He will pay for everything,” Kovalev said. “I promise you.”
Kovalev fully believes he won the first fight with Ward, believing that he won 8 rounds to 4. Kovalev thinks the judges gave the fight to Ward because he’s from America like them, and he won a gold medal for the U.S in the 2004 Olympics. Kovalev, 34, is from Russia, and he doesn’t have the same cache behind his background as Ward. Kovalev didn’t win a gold medal for Russia, and he didn’t fight in the Olympics either.
It’s been a lot tougher for Kovalev to get to the top, and unfortunately, he lost his title to Ward under questionable circumstances last November. Kovalev knocked Ward down and appeared to put 6 rounds in the bank quickly. That should have been enough for Kovalev to be given the win, but the judges gave Ward the victory instead.
Kovalev won 5 of the first 6 rounds, but then the judges gave Ward all the rounds in the 2nd half of the fight. That’s the thing that doesn’t sit right with a lot of the boxing fans that won the fight. They feel that Ward deserved 3 to 4 of the last 6 rounds, but NOT all 6 rounds. That just seemed out of place for the fight that the fans witnessed.
The judges for tonight’s Ward-Kovalev 2 rematch are all Americans. Kovalev’s promoter Kathy Duva was unable to negotiate to get at least one judge from Europe to work the fight. That’s unfortunate, because the judges that scored the first Kovalev-Ward fight for Ward were from the U.S. If Ward wins another controversial decision tonight, it’s going to look like he’s being given home country decisions in the eyes of some boxing fans. You hate to see that kind of thing, which is why it’s important to have some balance among the judges.
“I was empty one month before the November fight,” Kovalev said. “Ward fought an empty Kovalev. This time I will not be empty — Ward will be fighting Krusher. I had pushed myself so hard in the beginning of training camp that one month out I was empty.”
Ward, 33, doesn’t buy Kovalev’s excuses from the first fight. He thinks that he wore him down with his pressure and body attack. In looking at the fight, Ward didn’t land a lot of body shots in the first 6 rounds. It looked more like Kovalev faded from having to wrestle Ward on the inside after the referee failed to break them. The referee wanted the fighters to fight out of the clinch, but when that failed to happen, it was the referee’s responsibility to separate them. He didn’t do that. He was just standing and watching. Needless to say, it made the fight very slow. If you want to point a finger to one thing that caused Kovalev to tired, it wasn’t body shots. It was the wrestling from Ward, and the inaction by the referee to separate the two. Tonight’s Ward-Kovalev 2 rematch will be shown on HBO PPV, so hopefully the referee does his job, because the boxing fans are paying to see a fight, not 12 rounds of Ward nullifying Kovalev with holding.
“We respect Kovalev on what he has done and what he’s capable of doing,” Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter said. “And it’s a healthy respect, but it’s not a respect that’s going to stop him from getting smashed June 17.”
Ward isn’t a big puncher. Kovalev wasn’t marked up for the first fight with Ward. Unless Ward was holding back his power the last time they fought I believe we saw the best that Ward can do when it comes to him smashing Kovalev. I don’t think it’s a good idea for Ward to try and get in the pocket with Kovalev and slug with him tonight. That would be playing into Kovalev’s hands.
Ward is not that kind of a fighter. In Ward’s fight with Carl Froch in 2011, Ward stayed right on his chest in hugging hi for much of the fight. When Ward was on the outside, he would jab Froch and then fall forward into a clinch. There were very few punches thrown by Ward on the inside. He was mostly just holding and keeping Froch from throwing his big shots. Froch would look at the referee every now and then to see if he would step in and do something to warn Ward for his holding, but it didn’t happen. Like Kovalev, Froch was out there on his own against Ward without the help of a referee.
Hunter went on to say, “I will save my fighter if I have to,” in talking about him potentially throwing in the towel if Ward gets in trouble.
Ward expects to show a lot more in this fight than he did in the previous fight. He felt that he wasn’t at his best in the first fight. If Ward is going to show more in this fight than he did the last time, it’s going to require that he fight more and hold less. The boxing fans weren’t too thrilled at the slow pace of the first fight between Ward and Kovalev, largely because of the holding that Ward was doing. To become a PPV star, you’ve got to entertain to make it exciting for the boxing fans. You can’t talk your way into becoming a PPV star and you definitely can’t hold your way there either. The fans expect to see some fighting, especially when they’ve paid money to see you fight on PPV.
“Some people thought I won, some people thought I lost,” said Ward. ” So let’s do it again. That’s the beauty of rematches in this sport.”
If Ward and Kovalev put on a show tonight, a real show, then perhaps the boxing world will be open to seeing a third fight between them. I just don’t know if that’s going to be the case or not. It seems like Ward is going to take the fight to the inside and keep it there for as long as he needs to for him to win a lot of close rounds like he did the last time he fought Kovalev.
The interest in the second Ward and Kovalev fight hasn’t been to the level of the first fight. While some feel that the midweek announcement of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor is to blame for that, I don’t think that’s the reason. Even before the Mayweather and McGregor fight was announced, there wasn’t a lot of interest in the Ward and Kovalev fight from the boxing public.
It could be that the fans might have felt burned by the controversial decision of the first fight, and they probably aren’t eager to see a second controversial fight. If you don’t trust the judges, then you’re not going to be excited about seeing a rematch between the same two guys. Further, the Ward and Kovalev fight was a dull one due to all the holding that Ward did. How do you get excited about seeing a rematch if all you can picture is Ward grabbing Kovalev from the word go and not letting go of him until the end of the fight.
I’m not sure that Ward can do a better job in the rematch than he did in the first fight. Ward was holding on like mad in the first fight. If that’s all Ward can do in the rematch, then it’s going to be the same fight. I don’t think Ward can hold any more than he did last time without making the referee look bad for letting him do it.
“He’s getting paid by one guy, who for some reason is willing to put out extraordinary amounts of money to watch him fight,” said Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva. “Good for him.”
Ward is getting a guaranteed minimum purse of $6.5 million for the rematch. Kovalev chose to take a percentage of the gate and pay-per-view. It’s a good payday for Ward. Let’s see if he can earn it tonight by putting on more of a show than he did last time. Anybody can hold for 12 rounds. Let’s see if Ward can actually fight this time to make it exciting for all the boxing fans that are paying to see the fight on HBO PPV.
”I don’t have any more patience remaining left. I just want to kick Ward’s [backside],” said Kovalev.
Kovalev isn’t going to inflict a lot of punishment on Ward unless he can do it on the inside, because that’s definitely where most of the fighting is going to take place tonight. Ward is not going to fight Kovalev from the outside, because he’s got the better range, power and counter punching ability. Ward got in trouble when he tried to fight Kovalev from the outside last time. I don’t see him wanting to fight him this time around. It’s too dangerous.