Kovalev Must Be Pretty Good Because I’m Not Sure Ward Beats Him

This past June super-middleweight champ Andre Ward 28-0 (15) fought for the first time in 19 months. Ward looked sensational stopping Paul Smith 35-6 (20) in the ninth round of a 12-round 172 pound catch-weight bout televised on BET. Before his 19 month hiatus Ward thoroughly cleaned out the super-middleweight division. Some of the names on Ward’s impressive resume that he compiled in the midst of cleaning out the division read Chad Dawson, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Sakio Bika, Mikkel Kessler and Edison Miranda. And to those with a sophisticated eye, they fully grasp none of the bouts were close nor were they ever in question as to who won.

There was a time when Andre Ward, before his year and a half absence from the ring, was considered no lower than the second or third best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. Only Floyd Mayweather, who turned pro eight years before Ward, routinely out-polled him in the pound-for-pound debate. And the reason for Ward’s high ranking was, he is really that special and can do everything as a fighter in the ring. Andre is a master boxer and technician, and like Mayweather, he doesn’t need much time to figure out what his opponent doesn’t like and what their weaknesses are – and then feeds them a steady diet of it and forces them to do what they don’t want to do.

Ward has a terrific jab to the head and body, and he is tremendously effective using it offensively and defensively. He can step back and counter while allowing his opponent to lead, or at least making them think they are. He knows how to go after runners and movers, and he can fight on the inside and neutralize his opponents while doing so. He’s very strong physically, and his punch resistance and stamina have never been a remote issue for him.

The only “but” when it comes to assessing Andre Ward that you hear is,  he’s not a life-taker when it comes to punching power. However, most writers and fans don’t understand that punching power is overrated. Sure, it’s a great equalizer, but it’s only as good as the delivery system in place to get it to the intended target. Ward, like Mayweather today, Bernard Hopkins, Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes from yesteryear, punch/ed plenty hard enough to win. As we saw in many of their high profile bouts, punching power was never much of a factor in determining their signature bouts during their careers.

That said, as great as Ward looked in his last bout, Paul Smith isn’t an elite fighter, not even close. Ward did exactly what he should’ve and dominated every facet of the fight. In short, he looked terrific. But the cold-water on that is, because Smith was so far out of his league, it’s hard to gauge Andre’s showing and asses exactly where he’s at. Add to that, a new monster has emerged since Ward’s exile, and he’s only a couple pounds bigger than Andre.

His name is Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) and he’s clearly the most formidable and feared fighter in the light heavyweight division. Amazingly, Kovalev’s ascendance has been a little overshadowed by middleweight Gennady Golovkin’s emergence over the same time period. This in all honesty has befuddled me for two reasons. For starters, Kovalev is a more versatile fighter than Golovkin. I know some try and paint Gennady as an unbeatable wrecking machine, but in truth, he’s basically an attacker. Yes, I know he can box, but back him up and he, like most attackers, aren’t nearly as effective. Secondly, Kovalev has clearly beat better fighters and has compiled a more impressive resume than Golovkin.

In his last two bouts, Kovalev stopped the hard punching and former title holder Jean Pascal. Pascal fought Bernard Hopkins to a draw and had him down twice in a title bout. It’s a short list of fighters who can make that claim. Before fighting Pascal, Kovalev won no less than 11 of 12 rounds against Hopkins and managed to put Bernard down. Kovalev adjusted to the rough and shrewd Hopkins at every turn of the fight and bettered him. It didn’t matter what Hopkins tried, Sergey usually got the better of it and he was quite effective with his long game. This had Bernard searching for answers in trying to come up with something he could do so he could gain the upper hand against Sergey. Unfortunately for Hopkins, he never found a single answer and Kovalev basically ran away with the fight. At the post fight press conference, Hopkins told the assembled media not to discount Kovale’v’s showing because of Bernard’s advanced age. In other words, Hopkins showered Kovalev with high praise, something that is not a typical occurrence when Bernard comes out on the losing end of a decision.

Kovalev is scheduled to fight Nadjib Mohammedi on July 25th in Las Vegas. If Sergey wins as he is favored to do, the talk of him fighting Andre Ward early next year will gain traction and escalate. And what an intriguing fight that is to ponder. Neither Kovalev nor Ward has ever faced a fighter like the other. It’s a real tough fight to handicap and pick the winner. And the proof of that is, yes, it’s Andre Ward, and yet I can’t tell you that I would pick him to win. Kovalev’s long game and power will give Ward much to address. Will he, can he? That’s what makes the matchup so compelling and anticipated.

The fact that I can’t say for sure that I would pick Andre Ward to beat Sergey Kovalev tells me one thing for certain….I must think an awful lot of Kovalev.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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COMMENTS

-deepwater2 :

There is only 1 way to find out.


-Radam G :

There is only 1 way to find out.
I'm riding shotgun with cha on that one. Holla!


-brownsugar :

Kovalev is a big light heavy, he has the frame of a cruiserweight and he can fight. If they fought in 2015, I'd have to go with Kovalev. Ward's team has said they will move up when Ward can no longer make the 168 lb limit. When and if Ward moves up I'm sure he'll take the challenge after he gets acclimated to the weight.


-Domenic :

Golovkin will almost need to go to 175 with these guys, because the only man that seems willing to fight him between 147-168 is Tim Bradley (and major props to Bradley for his guts and mettle and throwback mentality). I'm leaning Ward over Kovalev, but it's a pick 'em to me. Hope it happens and it should, as neither of these guys are known to duck.


-Froggy :

Golovkin will almost need to go to 175 with these guys, because the only man that seems willing to fight him between 147-168 is Tim Bradley (and major props to Bradley for his guts and mettle and throwback mentality). I'm leaning Ward over Kovalev, but it's a pick 'em to me. Hope it happens and it should, as neither of these guys are known to duck.
I think you are forgetting David Lemieux !


-Domenic :

I think you are forgetting David Lemieux !
No, not at all. Golovkin was begging Lemieux to be his next opponent, but he said no way, they'll do it sometime in the future. Lemieux's in no rush to take the assignment. The only guy on the planet that is eager to meet Golovkin between welter and super middle is Tim Bradley. That's it. The list ends there. There isn't another guy alive that wants to fight him between those weight limits. Seriously, Golovkin will be forced to leap to light heavy for any meaningful fights, as he's being frozen out. He has no future at middleweight under the current set of circumstances.


-DaveB :

Hasn't Ward repeatedly call out GGG at 168? I'm guessing Ward is coming to the reality that GGG will never fight him. I will pick Ward over Kovalev but with the reservation that Kovalev can turn that thing around at any moment. He has an uncanny ability to get his punch in there through out any of the 12 rounds and put some serious hurt on people. I really thought he was going to knock out Hopkins in the 12th round. This makes me nervous in a way a Mayweather fight never does. Not because Mayweather is not a knock out puncher but because Mayweather always stacks the deck. I would like to see Kovalev fight the other Russian dude that keeps calling him out Arthur B. I'm not even going to try to spell that name. I can understand Kovalev not fighting him presently as he is not a big enough pay day right now. Everyone calls the other out, we fans want to see it but if the pay day isn't right for the risk involved it doesn't make sense to the fighter with too much to lose. I can respect that because either way they will end up with the same lumps on their head. Might as well get paid righteously for it.


-Domenic :

Hasn't Ward repeatedly call out GGG at 168? I'm guessing Ward is coming to the reality that GGG will never fight him. I will pick Ward over Kovalev but with the reservation that Kovalev can turn that thing around at any moment. He has an uncanny ability to get his punch in there through out any of the 12 rounds and put some serious hurt on people. I really thought he was going to knock out Hopkins in the 12th round. This makes me nervous in a way a Mayweather fight never does. Not because Mayweather is not a knock out puncher but because Mayweather always stacks the deck. I would like to see Kovalev fight the other Russian dude that keeps calling him out Arthur B. I'm not even going to try to spell that name. I can understand Kovalev not fighting him presently as he is not a big enough pay day right now. Everyone calls the other out, we fans want to see it but if the pay day isn't right for the risk involved it doesn't make sense to the fighter with too much to lose. I can respect that because either way they will end up with the same lumps on their head. Might as well get paid righteously for it.
Ward has mentioned Golovkin's name, but the man was on the shelf for 19 months, then fought Paul Jones or whoever at light heavyweight. 2 years ago, when Ward was still semi active, Golovkin was barely known, so I doubt he was calling him out then. They've had no opportunity to meet at all, until now, and Ward is clearly moving to 175. But yes, I think Ward would fight Golovkin at LH. As for the rest of the planet, there's no one alive that wants Golovkin between 47-68, except for Tim Bradley.


-Chris L :

No, not at all. Golovkin was begging Lemieux to be his next opponent, but he said no way, they'll do it sometime in the future. Lemieux's in no rush to take the assignment. The only guy on the planet that is eager to meet Golovkin between welter and super middle is Tim Bradley. That's it. The list ends there. There isn't another guy alive that wants to fight him between those weight limits. Seriously, Golovkin will be forced to leap to light heavy for any meaningful fights, as he's being frozen out. He has no future at middleweight under the current set of circumstances.
Lara wants to fight him. And I agree with the article, if it was as simple as Kovalev being a aggressive fighter like Golovkin I would say Ward handles him with ease, but he boxed so well against Hopkins it's a pick-em.


-brownsugar :

Golovkin is already what? 32 years old,.... Correct me if I'm wrong. Unfortunately he will never fight at 175 unless he starts eating the wrong foods and suffers prematurely from middle-age cellular inflammation. Its sad that their are so few challengers willing to test Golovkin at 160lbs, that boxing fans have to project two weight classes away just to envision Golovkin in a worthy scrap. Coach Able said that he had to send Kovalev home a couple of years ago when he came to help Golovkin prepare for a fight. He said for some reason Kovalev refused to provide Golovkin any resistance and simply stayed on the outside and refused to engage Golovkin and was summarily dismissed by Coach Able as a result. These guys were part of the amateur system for most of their young lives, maybe they were friends, but I can't imagine why Kovalev, who probably weighed close to 190 at the time would fear sparring Golovkin with headgear on. Under no circumstances could I picture Kovalev extending the same courtesy should they ever fight (for whatever bizaare reason) at 175. As far as Ward is concerned, I doubt he makes any official moves to light heavy before 2016.


-Domenic :

Golovkin is already what? 32 years old,.... Correct me if I'm wrong. Unfortunately he will never fight at 175 unless he starts eating the wrong foods and suffers prematurely from middle-age cellular inflammation. Its sad that their are so few challengers willing to test Golovkin at 160lbs, that boxing fans have to project two weight classes away just to envision Golovkin in a worthy scrap. Coach Able said that he had to send Kovalev home a couple of years ago when he came to help Golovkin prepare for a fight. He said for some reason Kovalev refused to provide Golovkin any resistance and simply stayed on the outside and refused to engage Golovkin and was summarily dismissed by Coach Able as a result. These guys were part of the amateur system for most of their young lives, maybe they were friends, but I can't imagine why Kovalev, who probably weighed close to 190 at the time would fear sparring Golovkin with headgear on. Under no circumstances could I picture Kovalev extending the same courtesy should they ever fight (for whatever bizaare reason) at 175. As far as Ward is concerned, I doubt he makes any official moves to light heavy before 2016.
Right on. 'Official' is the key word. I think with the 172 return, Ward seems on the way to 175. Ward-Kovalev is a great, GREAT fight. Both HBO guys, it makes incredible sense right now.


-brownsugar :

Right on. 'Official' is the key word. I think with the 172 return, Ward seems on the way to 175. Ward-Kovalev is a great, GREAT fight. Both HBO guys, it makes incredible sense right now.
Agreed, I don't see anyone moving Kovalev out of contention for a long time, and I don't see Ward making anything other than gradual moves..but eventually their paths will cross unless SK moves up to Cruiserweight. If the fight happened in 2016 I'd favor SK. If it happened in 2017 I'd favor Ward.


-Domenic :

Agreed, I don't see anyone moving Kovalev out of contention for a long time, and I don't see Ward making anything other than gradual moves..but eventually their paths will cross unless SK moves up to Cruiserweight. If the fight happened in 2016 I'd favor SK. If it happened in 2017 I'd favor Ward.
Yes. I'd be surprised to see SK go to cruiser though, because the division is so stale economically. Holyfield-Quai 1, Toney-Jirov. Not much else in the last 30 years. Agree though man.


-stormcentre :

3G repeatedly bashed Krusher at the Summit gym. One train of thought is that 3G might psychologically have it over Sergey still. Another is that Sergey has grown, matured and arguably fought better recent competition, in the professional game since then. The Ward that beat Smith probably won't take out Kovalev, but the Ward that beat Dawson, Froch, and Kessler probably would; in my opinion. Ward V Kovalev/Golovkin are great fights. :)