Kovalev vs. Ward is the Best that Boxing has to Offer

Kovalev vs. Ward – Well, it looks as if boxing is going to realize, at least in my opinion, the most intriguing matchup that could be made in the sport, later this year when WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight title holder Sergey Kovalev 29-0-1 (26) will defend his belts against Andre Ward 29-0 (15) who is the former undisputed super-middleweight champ. Yes, Kovalev versus Ward in late 2016 is really that good. And the reason for that is – it’s impossible to make an unbreakable case favoring one over the other.

With Muhammad Ali recently passing away, many boxing aficionados are reviewing his career and debating the highlights of his unparalleled tenure as the alpha fighter in the heavyweight division circa 1964-78. And when all is said and done, the most anticipated and biggest fight of Ali’s life was his first meeting with “Smokin” Joe Frazier when neither he nor Joe had come close to losing a bout as the defending champion. What made Frazier vs. Ali so special is that it was impossible to envision either one of them as a loser, especially at the hands of the other on the morning of the bout.

No, I’m not saying that Kovalev and Ward are at that level because they’re not. As terrific as they’ve both been since they’ve become world class fighters, it’s not like I can’t imagine them losing. However, the intangibles surrounding them makes a match-up between them better than the pairing of any other two fighters in boxing at the moment.

A little over 13 months ago many fans were unfortunately duped, due to a six-year build up, into thinking that Floyd Mayweather fighting Manny Pacquiao was a once in a generation clash; and oh how wrong they were. By the time Floyd and Manny touched gloves, Mayweather was on the decline and Pacquiao was three bouts removed from suffering the worst loss and knockout defeat of his career. On May 2, 2015, it was not a reach picturing Mayweather being out-worked and out-hustled by a younger opponent, and in regards to Pacquiao, his defense and head movement was all but gone and he was no longer a non-stop attacker who brought the heat and pressure from bell-to-bell.

As a result of the letdown fans suffered after the Mayweather-Pacquiao waltz, they hitched their hopes on believing that a showdown between the universally acknowledged best 160 pound fighter in the world, Gennady Golovkin 35-0 (32), and the new biggest star in boxing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 47-1-1 (33), would be everything that Mayweather-Pacquiao wasn’t. Maybe a meeting between Golovkin and Alvarez would be all that, but I wholeheartedly believe the case favoring GGG over Canelo is overwhelming. In fact it’s really hard to find a path to victory for Canelo. So in my view, other than seeing the names Golovkin and Alvarez paired together on a billboard, I just don’t see where them fighting is such a big deal.

For a fight to be big and loaded with anticipation, especially if neither fighter is a superstar or major personality, it needs the element of intrigue as far as who is going to win or who should be favored. And that’s what Kovaklev-Ward has in abundance. So much so that it’s almost most impossible to give one a decided advantage over the other. Kovalev just turned 33 and looks to be peaking physically and emotionally; his confidence and total belief in himself couldn’t be higher. From a technical vantage point, Sergey has an inside/outside game. He can control his opponents with his long left jab and uses it to steer them where he wants them to go. It’s a hard punch and it keeps his opponent from taking serious runs at him while at the same time creates an opening for his right hand to sneak in behind it. And if his opponent allows him to close the distance and get close, Kovalev can fight on the inside and is very effective getting off with hard and accurate uppercuts and hooks in close quarters.

Andre Ward just turned 32 and hasn’t lost as an amateur or pro in more than 12 years. Ward is a counter-puncher with underrated physical strength. And he just may be one of the most versatile, stylistically that is, fighters in boxing. Throughout the course of a fight, Andre sees what his opponent doesn’t like to do or isn’t good at, and then forces him to fight from his weakness. If Andre’s opponent wants to assert himself and push the fight, he’ll more than oblige him and in the midst counter the hell out of him until he’s dizzy from getting hit with shots he doesn’t see or doesn’t appear to look like much. On the other hand, if he’s in with fighters who want to use the ring and pick their spots, he’s quite capable of taking away the distance and space they need to be effective. To better Ward, you better be more than a puncher, and if you think you can out-box him, he’ll foul you and beat you up to the point to where his foe might think he’s fighting two men at the same time.

It may be an old cliche in boxing, but neither Kovalev nor Ward has shared a ring with anybody like they’re going to see this coming November. For every case pointing to Kovalev, there is a counter one pointing to Ward. Both fighters really want the fight because legacies are on the line and the winner will be the most celebrated fighter in professional boxing immediately after the bout. This isn’t like Mayweather-Pacquiao where the argument before the bout was which one of them had slipped the least. Actually, the biggest unknown pertaining to either fighter is that Ward is coming off a layoff in which he’s only fought two times since 2013. On the other hand, like it was with Joe Frazier before he fought Ali the first time, Kovalev has been fighting and cleaning out the division pretty steadily for the past three years.

Both fighters will fight once more before they meet, Kovalev in July and Ward in August. You can bet your mortgage money on them both winning. And then it’s on to the best fight that can be made in boxing…Kovalev vs. Ward. No, they’re not the biggest stars in the sport, but they are authentically two of the best fighters in it. One of them, Kovalev, is no doubt in his prime and the other, Ward, may be on the slight decline. However, he was so terrific during his prime that even if he lost a smidgen of what he once was, he’s still very capable of winning.

Their names on the marquee don’t have the sizzle that a mantle with Mayweather or Alvarez across it would have, but Kovalev vs. Ward is the best fight between two unbeaten world class fighters that boxing has to offer, and I defy anyone to pronounce that one should be a predominant favorite over the other.

Regarding Golovkin vs. Alvarez, I ask how can a fight be so big and anticipated when virtually everyone agrees who the winner will be? That’s what the case would be if Golovkin fought Alvarez, but this certainly won’t be the situation when Kovalev and Ward finally touch gloves. It won’t be hard finding someone to bet against without giving odds when they meet.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

 

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COMMENTS

-deepwater2 :

Sign the fight already so I can book the flight! This is the fight us fans need and deserve. Maybe shadow can come back to discuss this fight. He has Ward for sure and he might not be wrong. I'm with Krusher and hopefully I can get a good line on him. 2-1, 3-1? Hard to bet against a guy who hasn't lost in 20 years or whatever.


-Kid Blast :

I'm with Ward but I agree with the premise.


-amayseng :

This one is def a toss up for me. Two fantastic boxers/fighters. One at the top of his game while the other, who a prodigy, has been inactive for the last few years. No pick for me, I can see this thing going both ways for these guys. Just happy if the fight pops off.


-stormcentre :

Nice write up Frank. Not sure about the . . . ""neither Kovalev nor Ward has shared a ring with anybody like they're going to see this coming November"" bit though. I was almost going to say that Ward has been in with guys that are as good Sergey.


- As Bika was easily as tough - if not tougher - than Kovalev when Ward fought him; perhaps not as polished though, but not leaps/bounds behind.
- Froch, you could say the same.
- Kessler - when Ward fought him - hit as hard as Sergey, had earned his stripes with similar if not better competition than Kovalev, his long rang game was not too dissimilar either, and he may also have been as skilled as Krusher - if not, then he would not be leaps/bounds behind.

But instead I will say this . . . The gap between whether Kovalev or Ward have shared the ring with anybody like they're going to see this coming November, is demonstrably greater for Sergey; therefore favoring Ward. Read into that metric what you will. Furthermore, (whether you subscribe to it as a metric or not) one can also see from each fighter?s record that Ward has achieved his success against marginally better competition than Sergey has. In fact, from just the above considerations alone one could easily mount a case and say that Sergey has not faced anyone like Ward - but Ward (perhaps weight aside) has Ward has faced guys whom are - if not quite similar to Krusher (and I believe they are) - then easily emulate some of his best traits. All up, and in relation to Frank?s comment about Sergey?s left jab and also him being more than a puncher to better Ward; I?m not sure that Kovalev is that much more than a puncher.


Puncher; I mean, despite how refined and effective his style is when in with the guys he?s faced, he?s certainly no technician and/or defensive wizard.

Sometimes, all you need to be to get to (some definitions of) the top is a great puncher, and Sergey (in some ways in a Kelly Pavlik sense) is certainly that.


Jab; As for Krusher?s left jab; I agree it is effective. However, it is slow and often trails low on the way back.

Ward, his superior speed, and right hand/counter - at least whilst Andre is fresh and unhurt - will have a field day with it.



If Ward takes away Sergey?s ability to land at the distance he needs to in order to generate the kinds of force that - after landing - allows Sergey to pick his spots and fight his usual style; I wonder how Kovalev will fare then. And I have (some) doubts that Jackson will be able to find a sparring partner that can emulate Ward and allow Sergey to familiarize with this. Finding a sparring partner like Ward is like trying to find one like Floyd. Conversely, I don?t think it will be too hard for Hunter (or anyone trainer whom has the connections and budget) to to find a sparring partner that can emulate Sergey?s above-mentioned strengths and allow Ward to familiarize with that. OK, that's enough of
Storm's opposing views, I better not continue otherwise I will get a bad reputation. :) Good point about how Frazier V1 Ali was great for all the reasons you mention. Helluva of a fight that one. Agree also, with what you say about how all the highly anticipated fights haven?t eventuated lately, and . . . . . It?s becoming an alarming trend. Almost like all the great rivalries have vanished.
Storm. :) :) :)


-stormcentre :

Nice write up Frank. Not sure about the . . . ""neither Kovalev nor Ward has shared a ring with anybody like they're going to see this coming November"" bit though. I was almost going to say that Ward has been in with guys that are as good Sergey.


- As Bika was easily as tough - if not tougher - than Kovalev when Ward fought him; perhaps not as polished though, but not leaps/bounds behind.
- Froch, you could say the same.
- Kessler - when Ward fought him - hit as hard as Sergey, had earned his stripes with similar if not better competition than Kovalev, his long rang game was not too dissimilar either, and he may also have been as skilled as Krusher - if not, then he would not be leaps/bounds behind.

But instead I will say this . . . The gap between whether Kovalev or Ward have shared the ring with anybody like they're going to see this coming November, is demonstrably greater for Sergey; therefore favoring Ward. Read into that metric what you will. Furthermore, (whether you subscribe to it as a metric or not) one can also see from each fighter’s record that Ward has achieved his success against marginally better competition than Sergey has. In fact, from just the above considerations alone one could easily mount a case and say that Sergey has not faced anyone like Ward - but Ward (perhaps weight aside) has Ward has faced guys whom are - if not quite similar to Krusher (and I believe they are) - then easily emulate some of his best traits. All up, and in relation to Frank’s comments about (i) Sergey’s left jab, and also (ii) having to be more than a puncher to better Ward; I’m not sure that Kovalev is that much more than a puncher.


Puncher; I mean, despite how refined and effective his style is when in with the guys he’s faced, Sergey's certainly no technician and/or defensive wizard.

Sometimes, all you need to be to get to (some definitions of) the top is a great puncher, and Sergey (in some ways in a Kelly Pavlik sense) is certainly that.


Jab; As for Krusher’s left jab; I agree it is effective. However, it is slow and often trails low on the way back.

Ward, his superior speed, and right hand/counter - at least whilst Andre is fresh and unhurt - will have a field day with it.



If Ward takes away Sergey’s ability to land at the distance he needs to in order to generate the kinds of force that - after landing - allows Sergey to pick his spots and fight his usual style; I wonder how Kovalev will fare then. And I have (some) doubts that Jackson will be able to find a sparring partner that can emulate Ward and allow Sergey to familiarize with this. Finding a sparring partner like Ward is like trying to find one like Floyd. Conversely, I don’t think it will be too hard for Hunter (or anyone trainer whom has the connections and budget) to to find a sparring partner that can emulate Sergey’s above-mentioned strengths and allow Ward to familiarize with that. OK, that's enough of
Storm's opposing views, I better not continue otherwise I will get a bad reputation. :) Good point about how Frazier V1 Ali was great for all the reasons you mention. Helluva of a fight that one. Agree also, with what you say about how all the highly anticipated fights haven’t eventuated lately, and . . . . . It’s becoming an alarming trend. Almost like all the great rivalries have vanished.
Storm. :) :) :)


-brownsugar :

Good post Storm, I just lost a lengthy post I was writing on this thread and I can't redo it unless I sacrifice my Darksouls3 playing time. (Lots of invasions to avenge tonight). But I will say that Kovalev incorporates a lot of technique in his simple looking style. His gift is that he makes a complex collaboration of skills look easy and routine but it requires a bit more forethought than it appears to. Kovalev made beating BHop look like child's play. But by the same token, Ward will land, he will find a way to breach Kovalev's offence. As you said it's his specialty. The question is,..... how does he respond when he gets hit? Great comments. How often is a fight so important and so expected by the network and the high quality contestants that the contract is already signed 8 months in advance while both fighters still have to face a stiff interim opponent just so they can tune up for each other? Chelimba is no joke. And Ward's opponent (recently announced) although not rated as highly as Chelimba is a similarly solid opponent. It's unheard of.


-stormcentre :

Good post Storm, I just lost a lengthy post I was writing on this thread and I can't redo it unless I sacrifice my Darksouls3 playing time. (Lots of invasions to avenge tonight). But I will say that Kovalev incorporates a lot of technique in his simple looking style. His gift is that he makes a complex collaboration of skills look easy and routine but it requires a bit more forethought than it appears to. Kovalev made beating BHop look like child's play. But by the same token, Ward will land, he will find a way to breach Kovalev's offence. As you said it's his specialty. The question is,..... how does he respond when he gets hit? Great comments. How often is a fight so important and so expected by the network and the high quality contestants that the contract is already signed 8 months in advance while both fighters still have to face a stiff interim opponent just so they can tune up for each other? Chelimba is no joke. And Ward's opponent (recently announced) although not rated as highly as Chelimba is a similarly solid opponent. It's unheard of.
Not sure if you know this or not; but even if you lose your work in this TSS dialog box - which is kind of the same as (but far less safer than) opening "notepad" in Windows (open the start menu and type "notepad" in the search box there) and working in there until you're ready to post . . . . You can just start another TSS reply/post session and then - when it completes the webpage build - just push the restore auto saved content button (bottom left hand corner in the reply/post dialog box) and you should get back (some of) what you worked on. The notepad idea is better/safer though as - for basic text entry only - it has pretty much the same "engine" behind it as this forum application. Hope that helps. I agree that Kovalev incorporates a lot of technique into his style. I know he's good. But, to me at least, he still fits the definition of a puncher; just a very competent one. There's nothing wrong with that. As punchers can be stylists/technicians nemesis - just as stylists/technicians are often that for punchers. If you get a chance, take a look at how Beterbiev beat Kovalev in the amateurs. I think Ward will pose some of the same issues. As - even now - I don't see how/where Sergey has improved on the liabilities that would be required in order to say otherwise. Agree also, it will be interesting to see how Ward responds to getting hit by Sergey. I can't recall how he handled Kessler's best shots, but he must have. That said; personally, I think - if anyone is, then - Ward is the type of guy that can take away some of Sergey's "power". No matter which way you look at it, it's a great fight and - as Frank pretty much says - one that we all need given all big fights that have not been made lately. Oh finally, yes . . agree . . Chelimba (whom looks like Bika) appears to be a much greater threat than whom Ward is fighting for his bout previous to Kovalev. I still think Sergey will mow through him though. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-brownsugar :

Not sure if you know this or not; but even if you lose your work in this TSS dialog box - which is kind of the same as (but far less safer than) opening "notepad" in Windows (open the start menu and type "notepad" in the search box there) and working in there until you're ready to post . . . . You can just start another TSS reply/post session and then - when it completes the webpage build - just push the restore auto saved content button (bottom left hand corner in the reply/post dialog box) and you should get back (some of) what you worked on. The notepad idea is better/safer though as - for basic text entry only - it has pretty much the same "engine" behind it as this forum application. Hope that helps. I agree that Kovalev incorporates a lot of technique into his style. I know he's good. But, to me at least, he still fits the definition of a puncher; just a very competent one. There's nothing wrong with that. As punchers can be stylists/technicians nemesis - just as stylists/technicians are often that for punchers. If you get a chance, take a look at how Beterbiev beat Kovalev in the amateurs. I think Ward will pose some of the same issues. As - even now - I don't see how/where Sergey has improved on the liabilities that would be required in order to say otherwise. Agree also, it will be interesting to see how Ward responds to getting hit by Sergey. I can't recall how he handled Kessler's best shots, but he must have. That said; personally, I think - if anyone is, then - Ward is the type of guy that can take away some of Sergey's "power". No matter which way you look at it, it's a great fight and - as Frank pretty much says - one that we all need given all big fights that have not been made lately. Oh finally, yes . . agree . . Chelimba (whom looks like Bika) appears to be a much greater threat than whom Ward is fighting for his bout previous to Kovalev. I still think Sergey will mow through him though. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)
Thanks for the tips, even though I have to use a keyboard to make a living reviewing claim adjustments, I only post from my cell phone, the old fashioned way, one character at a time, the slower pace allows me to think about what I'm going to say..... so losing a long post can be heartbreaking lol... And the overly aggressive spell checker sometimes rewrites whole sentences and phrases like its in competition with me... The tips provided will help. Anyway.... Even though I obviously can't be in the ring fighting on Ward's behalf, as an ardent fan I cannot allow myself to relax and accept any scenarios that casually suggest an easy win for Ward despite the fact that Ward has an erie way of doing the near impossible multiple times in the past. This challenge is different. A challenge of this magnitude dictates that every speculative scenario about the fight has to be arduously complex, and sprinkled with edge-of-the-cliff indecisiveness. The prediction must also be full of humility, devoid of braggadocia and absent of any bias.....except the purist kind. And if I believed in luck, the wearing of lucky hats, lucky socks and the use of luck accoutrements would be mandatory. (Of course I never did any of that for the Cleveland Cavilers and they still came back from a 3-1 deficit and won). Could Andre Ward be boxing's equivalent of LeBron James?.... of course not, that would be too much to ask for. Wouldn't it? For the time being I will hold out the very tentative hope for Ward to pull out a very closely contested win....err possibly. And personally, I don't even want to think about the beast known as Beiterbiyev right now. He still has about a years worth of dues to pay anyway.(and hope that his body doesn't revert back to being a cruiserweight) Ward does have a nationally ranked amateur cruiserweight that he spars with.... which explains why Ward looked so comfortable against Barerra. Hopefully his next fight will reveal more of clue of what we can expect from Ward.


-stormcentre :

Thanks for the tips, even though I have to use a keyboard to make a living reviewing claim adjustments, I only post from my cell phone, the old fashioned way, one character at a time, the slower pace allows me to think about what I'm going to say..... so losing a long post can be heartbreaking lol... And the overly aggressive spell checker sometimes rewrites whole sentences and phrases like its in competition with me... The tips provided will help. Anyway.... Even though I obviously can't be in the ring fighting on Ward's behalf, as an ardent fan I cannot allow myself to relax and accept any scenarios that casually suggest an easy win for Ward despite the fact that Ward has an erie way of doing the near impossible multiple times in the past. This challenge is different. A challenge of this magnitude dictates that every speculative scenario about the fight has to be arduously complex, and sprinkled with edge-of-the-cliff indecisiveness. The prediction must also be full of humility, devoid of braggadocia and absent of any bias.....except the purist kind. And if I believed in luck, the wearing of lucky hats, lucky socks and the use of luck accoutrements would be mandatory. (Of course I never did any of that for the Cleveland Cavilers and they still came back from a 3-1 deficit and won). Could Andre Ward be boxing's equivalent of LeBron James?.... of course not, that would be too much to ask for. Wouldn't it? For the time being I will hold out the very tentative hope for Ward to pull out a very closely contested win....err possibly. And personally, I don't even want to think about the beast known as Beiterbiyev right now. He still has about a years worth of dues to pay anyway.(and hope that his body doesn't revert back to being a cruiserweight) Ward does have a nationally ranked amateur cruiserweight that he spars with.... which explains why Ward looked so comfortable against Barerra. Hopefully his next fight will reveal more of clue of what we can expect from Ward.
Good post. Love it. I love it when someone pushes back on me and states there reasons for doing do. Even if they have to slightly overstate my case for me and assume I say it will be easy for Ward (and I don't say you are or are not doing that) to justify it. Regardless of how I pitch me case for the win/loss of either fighter, it won't hurt me to get it wrong; so fire away. I really like it when someone presents an opposing view to something I may think, and in doing so makes me think more than otherwise might be the case. Just remember though, as I stated here . . .
->http://www.thesweetscience.com/forums/showthread.php?21165-Time-for-GGG-to-call-out-Lil-Floyd&p=99553&viewfull=1#post99553 I am still officially undecided about the winner, as I haven't had a chance to have a good look at Kovalev recently. So all I say is upon the caveats of;

A) Not only how both guys look after their next fights. B) But anything I see and/or am told in between now and after both boxer's next fights

Right now I think quite a few people are going to be surprised at how Ward disarms Sergey. I am not saying it will be easy, but I think we're going to see Sergey closed down in areas he usually isn't seen shut off in. Love the fact that you're a bit opposed to me, and both excited and passionate about it, as;

1) It's a pretty good fight. 2) Usually if I am wrong about a fight, you have been right about it; Gamboa V Crawford. 3) I am always confident, and it's good fun to see someone else that is too.

Good stuff.
Storm. :) :)


-King Beef :

A true toss up fight, its hard to find good reasoning to bet against either one.


-Radam G :

A true toss up fight, its hard to find good reasoning to bet against either one.
My stateside home is Cali. So is Kovalez, and Ward is Cali born and bred. Kovalez resides in SoCal, and Ward resides NoCal. I have residents in both places. So for the time being, I saying the bout will end in a rare three-judge draw. Holla!


-Domenic :

This is a true pick 'em. I could check bovada for the odds, and will be real curious where Vegas sets the line at. I'm leaning Kovalev right now, based on recent activity, opposition, hunger, and he's more seasoned at 175, but it's really tough to bet against Ward. This is an outstanding superfight, truly one of the biggest match-ups for bona fide boxing fans in years. As the author points out, this is far superior to Golovkin-Alvarez, where a small minority of folks truly believe in CA, and the Vegas odds will reflect a blowout.


-stormcentre :

OK - I will go out on a limb here just as I did MayPac. I am not saying Kovalev or Ward is not good/bad and/or will/won't win yet; please see my caveats on the fight in other posts. But . . . . Please, someone - anyone - tell me technically what it is that Kovalev does (footwork, hand-speed, defence, speed, "power", et al) that is so different/better to other light heavyweights before him? Go on give it your best shot. And remember, if you cant put it down, then the chance increases that whatever percentage of hype Sergey is (and that percentage exists for every fighter at the top) also increases.
Storm :) :)