Ward's Mastery Of Barrera Clears Way For Kovalev Showdown

 Sergey-Kovalev-yell-fukuda c4069

By Frank Lotierzo

When pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather retired last September, boxing lost perhaps the most elite boxer in the world. However, all is not lost because the fighter who most considered to be Mayweather's equal as a technician made his light heavyweight debut this past Saturday night. That's right, former super-middleweight champ Andre Ward 29-0 (15) fought as a light heavyweight for the first time in his hometown of Oakland, California against the IBF's number one contender Sullivan Barrera 17-1 (12).

There was a lot of interest in the fight because Barrera wasn't just an opponent showing up for a check. Barrera, a Cuban defector living in Miami, Florida, was looking to build his name and reputation by being the first fighter to beat Ward as a pro and then parlay that into a title bout with either WBA/IBF/WBO title holder Sergey Kovalev 29-0-1 (26) or WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson 27-1 (22). As for Ward, he's already tentatively scheduled to fight Kovalev sometime this year in what would be the most anticipated light heavyweight title bout since the Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver rematch back in 2004. 

Prior to the fight Ward was in a tough spot. If he won too convincingly and took Barrera apart, it would be said after the fight that Sullivan hadn't fought anybody and his undefeated record was the result of careful management looking to land him a title shot. On the other hand, had Ward struggled and absorbed a lot of punches on his way to a one or two point decision win – most would be saying he's lost it as an upper-tier fighter and has no chance to beat Kovalev and capture the light heavyweight title.

As it turned out, it was an easy win for Ward. He jogged to a unanimous 12-round decision in which all three judges scored the fight overwhelmingly in his favor. For the entire bout Ward did whatever he wanted to and had an answer for everything Barrera tried in his attempt to swing the fight in his favor. Ward showed during patches of the bout that he was Barrera's master and could out-box, punch or out-think him on a moment's notice. When it was over, it was clear that Ward and Barrera were fighting on different levels.

After the bout Ward graded his performance a B-minus. I'm not much for giving fighters a letter grade after a bout but here is what I observed…….Ward is fighting more flatfooted now than he did before, but he's just as efficient as ever. He's starting to remind me of Mayweather–in that he only needs to do a few things to dominate his opponent. The fight was one-sided and dull, which served Andre's interests well. Andre jabs, feints, jabs, moves inside and controls the inside, and once in a while will throw a sneak left hook or right lead and he still throws in a little dirty fighting too. He dropped Barrera in the third round with a short left hook that didn't travel more than six inches–a real thing of beauty. Between that and the feints, he kept Sullivan honest. There was a second knockdown in the eighth round that the ref called a low blow (might have been), but even that served to make Barrera a little gun shy.  Ward looked very natural and at ease at the weight and really wasn't challenged. I sensed that if Barrera tried to pick it up and really go after Ward, Andre had another gear and would've raised him one. 

Perhaps the aspect of Ward that stood out the most was his ability to not give Barrera much of a target to hit. His ability to do that stymied Barrera's offense, and with less coming at him, it was much easier for Ward to take his liberties with Sullivan offensively. The mirage-like target which he presented forced Barrera to think his way through the rounds and once that happened Barrera was fighting uphill and it was over.

Now with Barrera out of the way, Kovalev-Ward is closer to becoming a reality. And based on what Ward showed this past weekend, it's really hard to make a case for either fighter being a predominant favorite over the other. Then again, maybe it's not so difficult after all. With the reason being, if Ward isn't too bothered or thrown off his game by Kovalev's aggression and power, Andre will win a decision by controlling the action simply because Sergey hasn't a prayer to out-box Ward. Kovalev's offense is reliant on his jab. Without the jab finding the designated mark, the right hands and short hooks will become less of a weapon.

The question as of this writing is, can Andre Ward neutralize Sergey Kovalev's jab when they finally touch gloves? Answer that and you have the winner!  

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Comment on this article

COMMENTS

-Kid Blast :

"The mirage-like target which he presented forced Barrera to think his way through the rounds and once that happened Barrera was fighting uphill and it was over." Bingo


-SouthPawFlo :

This is a fight in genuinely excited about... I'm leaning towards Ward because he has better head movement, overall defense, ring smarts and he doesn't know how to lose... Kovalev is a tall order, but I can see this being a Repeat of the Kessler Fight.... Ward Constantly changes range, looks and postures and makes guys have to "think" about what to fire at him and he's sharp with his sneaky and quick counters, he has a way of "neutralizing" his opponents...


-SuperLight :

I think Kovalev is no slouch with head/upper body movement. He tends to hold his hands low, but he certainly uses the edge of range, and bobs back a fair bit. I see Ward slicker at evading Kovalev's jab and working his own. As you guys have pointed out, Ward's head movement and flexibility are superior to most fighters'. Frank is spot on about Ward's being damned either way with pre-Kovalev opponents. And about hooks and rips not needing to travel far to do the job =)


-stormcentre :

I have a few caveats in relation to this post/comment. And they relate to how - at this stage - it's still a bit early to solidly do the analysis and also make any kind of prediction yet for various reasons. Some of those reasons include how Ward clearly beat Barrera whilst Ward was obviously not performing to his best capabilities. Other relate to how Kovalev is in better shape than Ward for a fight of this nature/weight. Additionally, I'm not going to lay all my above-mentioned caveats out right here/now, either. As - at this stage - it's good enough that I mention them here, and also offer the following link as to what my pre Ward V Barrera thoughts were


->http://www.thesweetscience.com/forums/showthread.php?25585-TBC-Looks-Last-Minute-At-Andre-Ward-vs-Sullivan-Barrera&p=95492#post95492

However, right now . . . . . Kovalev;

A) Has not faced adversity at a championship level yet. B) Relies too much on landing big power; typically the right hand. C) Doesn't have the speed. D) Has a concerning (if not appalling) active lack of defence; particularly when attacking. E) Usually (predictably) relies on distance to generate the requisite "force" and momentum required for winning and/or knockouts.

Please note (especially those whom may have thought my scientific breakdown of how boxers/fighters punch was without substantiation, relevance, or purpose) that the punch that Ward used to drop Barrera with - within the early stages of the fight - was a close range supinated hook.


->http://www.thesweetscience.com/forums/showthread.php?12265-One-Significant-Technical-Origin-Of-GGG-s-Power&p=39567&viewfull=1%20-%20post39567
->http://www.thesweetscience.com/forums/showthread.php?19995-An-Algorithm-For-A-Real-Time-Boxing-Prediction-Machine-Or-Perhaps-Just-Something-Meaningless-To-Just-Address-The-Elusiveness-Of-Performances-Within-Boxing-Too-Hard-%96-Tell-Me-Why

Check the fight video; there's a slow motion replay that shows it. I am sure 3G has not missed this point. Nor other aspects of Ward's dominating performance. :)

F) Has just a little more than minor balance issues; therefore they can be exploited. G) Simply makes too many mistakes.

To beat a Ward that;


- Is in top shape.
- Has had a few fights under his belt before he faces Sergey.
- Has appropriately dealt with all the caveats that I lay out here and/or later.

Now, as an adjunct . . . . Just imagine if either guy - Ward or Kovalev - has to face Beterbiev in-between facing each other. Speaking of other, and in between, matchups . . . Fonfara is probably a good in between "practice" fight for Ward. Finally; nice write up Frank. Cheers,
Storm. :) :) :)


-stormcentre :

Whoops . . . . Forgot to add my (usual) little tune and "personalisation" to the above post.

Lovely tune (and beautiful girl) that one. :) :)


-Gabrielito :

Ward was marked up pretty good by Barrerra, and I think people try to put Krusher into the "guy who relies on power" category. Kovalev defies categories much like GGG does. Nobody who relies on power comprehensively dominates Bernard Hopkins. Remember kids, Hopkins lost every single round, and probably should have been stopped in the 12th round. Great fight, but Krusher gets the nod at this point.


-Radam G :

Ward was marked up pretty good by Barrerra, and I think people try to put Krusher into the "guy who relies on power" category. Kovalev defies categories much like GGG does. Nobody who relies on power comprehensively dominates Bernard Hopkins. Remember kids, Hopkins lost every single round, and probably should have been stopped in the 12th round. Great fight, but Krusher gets the nod at this point.
How wrong will you be? SOG is going to beat him easier than SOG destroyed the big bad booger bear Barrera. Holla!


-amayseng :

Ward was marked up pretty good by Barrerra, and I think people try to put Krusher into the "guy who relies on power" category. Kovalev defies categories much like GGG does. Nobody who relies on power comprehensively dominates Bernard Hopkins. Remember kids, Hopkins lost every single round, and probably should have been stopped in the 12th round. Great fight, but Krusher gets the nod at this point.
I agree, the guy boxes and displays attributes in every category and seems to be sharpening his tools every outing. I see a close and highly competitive fight and can see both guys winning or losing. I love both fighters and will enjoy it thoroughly and hope that it is competitive enough for a rematch, then rubber match.


-stormcentre :

Ward was marked up pretty good by Barrerra, and I think people try to put Krusher into the "guy who relies on power" category. Kovalev defies categories much like GGG does. Nobody who relies on power comprehensively dominates Bernard Hopkins. Remember kids, Hopkins lost every single round, and probably should have been stopped in the 12th round. Great fight, but Krusher gets the nod at this point.
Good post. You may be right, and I have not discounted the fact that you could be. However, before an absolute decision is made on that front; I offer the following points to consider.


1) Triple is a boxer/puncher of Eastern Bloc style and background.

I think he neatly fits into that category quite well. Furthermore, the 2nd and 3rd links within my above post #5 also seem to offer reasonable support to that view.


2) Kovalev is (also) a boxer/puncher of Eastern Bloc style and background.

When Kovalev fought Bernard . . . within the early rounds where he rocked Hopkins . . . it was the delivery of "power" (on Sergey's behalf) that changed the course of the fight for Bernard. From that point on - save for a few brief passages of the fight - Bernard was even more defensively minded than he otherwise may have been; which, whilst that made it relatively easier for Kovalev to win (as Bernard disregarded the kind of offence/defence output ratio that wins fights) a "points fight" - it also meant that it was much harder for Kovalev to land the power that he usually relies upon to conclusively win.

As an adjunct; there were a few - not a lot, but a few - fighters and commentators that (in hindsight) actually thought Kovalev's inability to dispose of Bernard whilst he fought so defensively and survived in this way was a weakness in itself. However - whilst that may well be evidence of the puncher/boxer style category that Sergey occupies - I have not quite stated that yet.





Anyway, the above points (including the fact that Kovalev {unlike Ward} usually relies on landing power) and their discussions are evidenced by both;


A) The *absence of any real *slick moves on Sergey's part (whilst in with a slick/defensive boxer) within the remaining rounds of the Kovalev V Hopkins fight, whether or not they be related to offsetting what Hopkins was doing (and actually did) in order to;


- Survive.
- Prevent Kovalev's reliance on power from having a greater (or absolute) impact on the fight's outcome.

* Goes to being a puncher/boxer.
B) Bernard's greater interest in not losing by KO - as opposed to just not losing. Which, in turn, then led to a fight where Bernard did not allow Sergey to "engage" and/or "exchange" with him enough for Sergey's usual tactics - including his reliance on delivering power - to be conclusively effective.

And, this, is how Sergey appeared to dominate Bernard whilst he still possessed a reliance on power that he could not effectively use. Furthermore, the fact that Hopkins - at his age - still managed to do this to Sergey (after being seriously rocked and almost knocked out) and still survived for the entire fight, in itself stands as testament to the fact that Kovalev's reliance on power, both;


- Coexists with his other positive/negative boxing traits.
-
And is also predictable.





Kovalev fights a good long range fight, often delivers "power" both in that way and also whilst out of harm's way - then he moves in for the kill when required. He uses the jab and long right hand in quite a thoughtful manner. And - whether it be from an economy of motion and/or counterpunching viewpoint - he also understands the value of not throwing too many punches/combinations without purpose.

Which is why you often see him rely on single (and - as stated in this post, and also above within my post #5, ""powerful"") shots quite a lot in his fights.

This is (one aspect of) Sergey's boxer/puncher style. Additionally, Kovalev punches in a manner that is - if you know how to recognise and categorise his style - not entirely dissimilar to many other Ukrainian or Russian trained boxer/punchers; which is not surprising because that is exactly what Sergey is. Kovalev usually possesses superior cardiovascular fitness than his opponents (he relies on this), and he also executes his punches (from an offensive perspective) quite well too. But, as stated above, from all this it is also quite clear that Sergey and his style/tactics also relies on landing big power; typically the right hand. However, with all that said . . . . . . Just because Kovalev (usually) relies on landing big power to win that doesn't mean he's not good. As the game is also about hurting and stopping opponents too; and Sergey does that quite well against non-elite opponents. However, the flip side of the coin is that . . . . .

Because Sergey does actually rely upon landing big power, that - combined with his average footwork (which allowed Hopkins to survive), average speed, poor defence, and a few other liabilities - will almost always make him;


A) Not only, predictable.
B) But also, very vulnerable.

To a guy with Ward's skills and abilities.

Especially if Ward settles into both ring-activity and light heavyweight a bit more. Happy to hear where and what my oversights are with respect to this post and its claims; no sarcasm intended, as I love learning. Kind regards,
Storm. :) :) :)


-stormcentre :

Ward was marked up pretty good by Barrerra, and I think people try to put Krusher into the "guy who relies on power" category. Kovalev defies categories much like GGG does. Nobody who relies on power comprehensively dominates Bernard Hopkins. Remember kids, Hopkins lost every single round, and probably should have been stopped in the 12th round. Great fight, but Krusher gets the nod at this point.
Good post. You may be right, and, truth be known, I genuinely have not discounted the fact that you very well could be. However, before an absolute decision is made on that front; I offer the following points to consider.


1) Triple is a boxer/puncher of Eastern Bloc style and background.

I think he neatly fits into that category quite well. Furthermore, the 2nd and 3rd links within my above post #5 also seem to offer reasonable support to that view.


2) Kovalev is (also) a boxer/puncher of Eastern Bloc style and background.

When Kovalev fought Bernard . . . within the early rounds where he rocked Hopkins . . . it was the delivery of "power" (on Sergey's behalf) that changed the course of the fight for Bernard. From that point on - save for a few brief passages of the fight - Bernard was even more defensively minded than he otherwise may have been; which, whilst that made it relatively easier for Kovalev to win (as Bernard disregarded the kind of offence/defence output ratio that wins fights) a "points fight" - it also meant that it was much harder for Kovalev to land the power that he usually relies upon to conclusively win.

As an adjunct; there were a few - not a lot, but a few - fighters and commentators that (in hindsight) actually thought Kovalev's inability to dispose of Bernard whilst he fought so defensively and survived in this way was a weakness in itself. However - whilst that may well be evidence of the puncher/boxer style category that Sergey occupies - I have not quite stated that yet.





Anyway, the above points (including the fact that Kovalev {unlike Ward} usually relies on landing power) and their discussions are evidenced by both;


A) The *absence of any real *slick moves on Sergey's part (whilst in with a slick/defensive boxer) within the remaining rounds of the Kovalev V Hopkins fight, whether or not they be related to offsetting what Hopkins was doing (and actually did) in order to;


- Survive.
- Prevent Kovalev's reliance on power from having a greater (or absolute) impact on the fight's outcome.

* Goes to being a puncher/boxer.
B) Bernard's greater interest in not losing by KO - as opposed to just not losing. Which, in turn, then led to a fight where Bernard did not allow Sergey to "engage" and/or "exchange" with him enough for Sergey's usual tactics - including his reliance on delivering power - to be conclusively effective.

And, this, is how Sergey appeared to dominate Bernard whilst he still possessed a reliance on power that he could not effectively use. Furthermore, the fact that Hopkins - at his age - still managed to do this to Sergey (after being seriously rocked and almost knocked out) and still survived for the entire fight, in itself stands as testament to the fact that Kovalev's reliance on power, both;


- Coexists with his other positive/negative boxing traits.
-
And is also predictable.





Kovalev fights a good long range fight, often delivers "power" both in that way and also whilst out of harm's way - then he moves in for the kill when required. He uses the jab and long right hand in quite a thoughtful manner. And - whether it be from an economy of motion and/or counterpunching viewpoint - he also understands the value of not throwing too many punches/combinations without purpose.

Which is why you often see Sergey rely on single (and - as stated in this post, and also above within my post #5) ""powerful"" shots, quite a lot in his fights.

This is (one aspect of) Sergey's boxer/puncher style. Additionally, Kovalev punches in a manner that is - if you know how to recognise and categorise his style - not entirely dissimilar to many other Ukrainian or Russian trained boxer/punchers; which is not surprising because that is exactly what Sergey is. Kovalev usually possesses superior cardiovascular fitness than his opponents (he relies on this), and he also executes his punches (from an offensive perspective) quite well too. But, as stated above, from all this it is also quite clear that Sergey and his style/tactics also relies on landing big power; typically the right hand. However, with all that said . . . . . . Just because Kovalev (usually) relies on landing big power to win that doesn't mean he's not good. As the game is also about hurting and stopping opponents too; and Sergey does that quite well against non-elite opponents. However, the flip side of the coin is that . . . . .

Because Sergey does actually rely upon landing big power, that - combined with his average footwork (which allowed Hopkins to survive), average speed, poor defence, and a few other liabilities - will almost always make him;


A) Not only, predictable.
B) But also, very vulnerable.

To a guy with Ward's skills and abilities.

Especially if Ward settles into both ring-activity and light heavyweight a bit more. Happy to hear where and what my oversights are with respect to this post and its claims; no sarcasm intended, as I love learning. Kind regards,
Storm. :) :) :)
As with the boxing language and some folk whom post here; underground trance is mine and (if you want) yours/our language. Take the time to listen and understand it; it really makes life happier and/or better.


-gibola :

Ward-Kovalev is an absolutely necessary fight, but it isn't going to be a very entertaining fight, just like Pacquaio-PBF wasn't. Ward is fantastic at what he does, it's a marvel to behold the mix of feints, defence, head movement, clever clinching for a few rounds - but it's dull as dishwater once Ward has control of a fight. You want Ward to go and assert himself once he has proven his superiority, but he invariably doesn't. He's got so much in common with PBF in that he neutralises people, disarms them and as long as he isn't getting hit, he's happy to land occasionally and win rounds. I can't blame him for that - I'd do the same. I hope Kovalev gets to Ward and makes it fun but I'm not expecting it to happen. I think it's a points decision to Ward in a very dull fight with lots of close rounds and very few clean punches landed, lots of clinches and lots of Krusher standing at the edge of range and not landing. It'll be a marvellous fistic accomplishment to disarm Kovalev but I think Ward will win landing a minimal number of punches (just like PBF does). In one sense I'm delighted that the fight appears to be happening (in terms of the best fighting the best) and I give Ward massive credit for taking (and I feel winning) the fight. I almost feel guilty for saying this as a huge boxing nut but am I really looking forward to it? Did I enjoy Ward-Barrera after 4 or 5 rounds? Truth is I didn't, really. Ward seems like a really good guy, I admire him, he's a credit to the game in so many ways and why on earth should he take risks he doesn't have to? Sadly, I think Ward will frustrate the hell out of Kovalev (and me after a few rounds) and win a fight that has to happen but will not linger in the memory.


-stormcentre :

Good post.


-deepwater2 :

Ward showed a lot against Sullivan. He really mixed it up in there and was nasty in there. Sullivan is no joke and wax outclassed most of the way. That said. Ward was hit more than I expected in the second half. If Krusher lands like Sullivan in the second half, how does Ward handle it? Can Ward stand in front of Kovalev and exchange? If Ward can do those two things then he can win.