By Jeff Aranow: Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) gave himself credit for stopping Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) in the 8th round last Saturday night in their rematch. Ward denies hitting Kovalev low with 3 consecutive low blows in the 8th. Ward says Kovalev was merely acting like the shots were low, but they were really legal punches. Ward also gives referee Tony Weeks credit for a job well done in working the fight. Weeks appeared to blow the call in scoring it a knockout after Ward’s 3 low blows.
The final moments of the Ward-Kovalev 2 fight showed Ward appearing to hit Kovalev with three rapid fire low blows while he referee stood close by and watched. The last low blow Ward threw appeared to be very low, coming from down at the knee level and traveling upwards to land in the groin area of Kovalev.
Referee Tony Weeks stepped in and stopped the fight after Kovalev was doubled over from the final low blow. The way that Kovalev was holding himself, it had the appearance that he’d been hit low. Referee Tony Weeks wasn’t having any of it though, and he immediately stopped the fight. The stoppage occurred at 2:29 of the 8th.
The unfortunate part about the referee’s decision to stop the fight after 3 low blows by Ward means that Kovlalev can complain about the stoppage, and Ward gets very little credit from unbiased boxing fans, which just wanted to see a good fight and didn’t care which guy one. Many of Ward’s boxing fans are giving him a pass on the low blow. A lot of them are saying that Ward was going to win the fight anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal that he hit Kovalev 3 straight times with low bows. Some of Ward’s fans deny that he ever hit Kovalev low despite the slow motion replay showing punches from Ward appearing to hit Kovalev in the groin one after another in the 8th.
“I think it was plain to see that I broke him mentally and physically,” said Ward in talking about his controversial 8th round TKO of Kovalev. ”At a certain point and time, you got to give a person their just do. What’s next? Cruiserweight? Heavyweight? I dream big. Anything is possible.”
Kovalev was indeed broken by Ward, but it was from low blows, not from punches to the head or the body. Kovalev wasn’t broken mentally going into the 8th. Kovalev looked fine and in charge of the fight going into the 8th. I didn’t see any indication at all that Kovalev was breaking down physically or mentally as round 8 begun.
Ward hurt Kovalev with a right hand during the 8th. Kovalev attempted to move around and hold Ward to make it out of the round. That’s when Ward hit Kovalev with 3 low blows that caused the fight to end. Kovalev was never given a chance to take a knee to recover from the low blows, because referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight before he could get a chance to recover. You can argue that Kovalev should have been given a 5 minute rest period to recover from being hit low. That didn’t happen. The referee stopped the fight and gave Ward a tainted victory.
“I was disappointed in the stoppage,” said Paulie Malignaggi to Fighthype in discussing referee Tony Week’s decision to halt the Ward-Kovalev 2 rematch in the 8th round. “You don’t stop a fight like that. I don’t know what he was doing. The last thing I thought he was going to stop it. Kovalev is not supposed to complain. If the referee is not helping you out, you don’t complain. It was a little bit partisan performance by Weeks. You got to give at least one warning for Ward. That was one of the weirdest stoppages I’ve ever seen,” said Malignaggi.
Malignaggi is right. It was a VERY weird stoppage by referee Tony Weeks. There weren’t any warnings given by Weeks to Ward for his low blow in the 7th or the 8th. It’s as if Weeks forgot that part of his job is to control low blows. Earlier in the fight, Ward had hurt Kovalev with a low blow. Tony Weeks then told Ward to keep the punches above the waist. Unfortunately, that was the last time that Weeks gave Ward any warnings. He didn’t warn Ward for his low blow in the 7th or his low blows in the 8th.
Ward has been given credit or plenty of his victories in the past, but it’s a different story when you look at last night’s victory for him over Kovalev. It’s looked like Ward was fighting dirty at the end of the fight. Ultimately, no one will ever know why referee Tony Weeks decided to stop the fight when he did in the 8th. Kovalev didn’t look hurt to the point where the fight needed to be stopped. He did look like he needed a breather to shake off 3 low blows. Kovalev had the look of someone that he been fouled with punches that had hit him low. Referees aren’t to give knockout wins for fighters that are fouling their opponents. It’s unclear why Tony Weeks stoppage the fight.
”When Weeks got in between them, I really thought he was taking a point away from Andre for low blows,” said Malignaggi. ”The last thing I thought he was doing was stopping the fight. That was the weirdest stoppages ever, because Ward was even more hurt in the first fight [after getting knocked down in the 2nd round]. Sergey was hurt, but he was NOT ‘stop the fight hurt.’ It was a weird stoppage. It was like he was just dying to stop it,” said Malignaggi in talking about referee Tony Weeks.
Malignaggi’s comments echo the same comments that many boxing fans are saying today about the Ward-Kovalev 2 fight. The last thing that many of the fans thought when referee Tony Weeks came in between Ward and Kovalev was he was going to stop the fight rule it a knockout. The fans thought Tony Weeks was going to penalize Ward one point for the low blow, because he’s thrown 3 in a row, and he’d also hurt Kovalev with a low blow in the 7th and in the 2nd round. There were 5 low blows from Ward during the fight that hurt Kovalev each time. The replays appeared to show that they were low blows thrown by Ward. Referee Tony Weeks should have been taking a point away from Ward by the 8th round instead of him stopping the fight. That was the really strange part about the fight. Tony Weeks gave Ward a victory after 3 consecutive low blows.
“It was so weird. It gave him [Kovalev] the ability to complain about it. You robbed this guy. There was no reason to stop it,” said Malignaggi.
Ward probably would have won the fight had the referee not stopped it when he did. Ward didn’t need Tony Weeks to step in and halt the fight, because he looked like he might have been able to finish Kovalev off with head shots. Kovalev was that hurt. What Tony Weeks should have done after Ward’s 3 low blows in the 8th round was stop the action, take a point away from Ward, and give Kovalev 5 minutes to recover. If Ward was correct about him having broken Kovalev physically and mentally, then he wouldn’t have needed to hit him with repeated low blows to get the win.
Ward could have broken Kovalev down with body shots and blows toi he head to get the win. But with Ward’s mistake of hitting Kovalev with one low blow after another in the 8th, it took away the shine from the victory. Tony Weeks stopping the fight after the low blows made the fight look shady in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans. If you’re Ward, you don’t want to have your fights look like you’re being given special treatment by the referee, especially when you’re last fight saw you winning by a controversial decision over the same fighter. The last thing that Ward needed last night was to have the referee stopping the fight after he’s hurt Kovalev with 3 low blows thrown in a rapid fire way.
“Tony Weeks did a good job. When I hit him he was acting like I hit him low,” said Ward.
The replays of the low blows Ward threw in the 7th and 8th round tell a different story. Those were not shots that hit Kovalev to the body to cause him to act like he’d been hit low. Kovalev was actually hit low by Ward. It’s not a big deal for a fighter to occasionally hit his opponents with low blows. It’s a big deal when the referee decides to stop the fight after the fighter has been hit by low blows. Tony Weeks didn’t seem to see what the boxing public saw in watching the fight.
“Basically what happened today, Ward got away with fighting dirty, said Kovalev’s manager Egis Klimas. ”The referee did not do what he was supposed to do. If a bank robber goes to the bank and steals $1 million dollars and knows he can get away with it, guess what? He will continue to do it. He got away and we don’t have a beef with Ward. We have beef with the referee.”