Kovalev-Ward: A Fight You Won’t Have To Hold Your Nose When You Buy It

Kovalev-Ward – By all accounts, Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward will touch gloves on November 19th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Of all the matchups in professional boxing that we are likely to see this year, this is the best and most difficult to handicap. The winner will make a strong case as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

In case you missed it, former undisputed super-middleweight champ Andre Ward 30-0 (15) won a lopsided unanimous decision over the awkward and unwilling to mix it up Alexander Brand 25-2 (19) on Saturday, August 6th, the fight coming 26 days after WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight title holder Sergey Kovalev 30-0-1 (26) won an equally one-sided decision over Isaac Chilemba 24-4-2 (10).

In an ironic twist, neither Kovaklev nor Ward did anything in their tune-up bouts to sway anyone from one side to the other. I doubt that anyone that favored Kovalev to beat Ward was scared off after seeing Andre fight Brand…..and the same applies on the other side. If you thought Ward had the style and physicality to beat Kovalev before he fought Chilemba, I doubt Kovalev did anything to shake that opinion, despite Sergey dropping him twice.

Today in boxing certain fighters based on hype and reputation automatically warrant their bouts being on PPV, i.e. Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez. Yet nine out of 10 times the outcome is never in question. This is nowhere near the case in Kovalev vs. Ward, and that’s what makes the fight so unique. Sergey Kovalev is a genuine life-taker and Andre Ward is a beautiful boxer with an outstanding boxing aptitude. No doubt by fight night, whoever the favorite is, the odds will be similar to those before the first Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns showdown back in 1981.

Kovalev beat up and knocked around a pretty rugged guy in Chilemba, but he couldn’t score the expected stoppage. In Ward’s case, he controlled every second against a very experienced and awkward fighter in Brand, but like Kovalev, he couldn’t finish him inside the distance. Andre tried for the stoppage a few times after the sixth round, but boxing insiders know you can’t knock out a fighter who refuses to exchange and open up.

My immediate thoughts after seeing Ward Saturday night is does he have the strength and punch to out-box Kovalev? Perhaps Ward was saving himself a little, looking to get in some rounds before facing Sergey, but I’m not convinced he’s the same fighter he was the night he took apart Chad Dawson in 2012. Kovalev has the length and the strength to keep Ward on his heels and fighting uphill.

In regards to Kovalev, everything he does offensively works off his left jab. In order for Ward to out-box Sergey, he’ll have to neutralize his jab, and in order to do that, he’ll have to get Kovalev’s respect early in the fight. I’m not certain he has the single-shot power to do that, but then again he lands so clean and accurately and sometimes clean shots can blunt the aggression of guys like Kovalev. Andre has never been a big puncher, so I think he’ll also have to augment his arsenal with rough tactics that will unsettle Kovalev. If he can mess with Sergey mentally there’s a chance he can unsettle him a little. Chilemba worked the rules at times versus Kovalev and Sergey let him, something Ward will pounce on. If Ward can get Kovalev’s attention or give him an iota of trepidation, inwardly, then Ward will own him. I just don’t know if I’m there in believing that he will.

What concerns me some is that for the first time in Ward’s career, I thought I picked up the beginning stages of him becoming an older fighter. There was a certain stiffness that I hadn’t noticed before. He was never a terrifically fluid fighter, so that’s not what I’m talking about. But there was a little of the rigidity that we saw late in Bernard Hopkins career (albeit at a much older age). Andre’s been fighting for a long time; maybe his body is starting to show it.

There’s no question Ward is the overall superior boxer and technician. Other than being the harder puncher, he does everything better. But Kovalev has the ultimate equalizer in boxing, and that’s his tremendous two handed punching power to the head and body. Add to that Kovalev can hurt Ward both inside and outside simply by fighting his fight and not changing anything up. We know what Sergey is going to be on the night of November 19th; the onus will be on Ward to either take away his jab or do something that makes him think instead of fighting instinctively. That’s a tall order, but then again is there ever a fighter more overrated than a big knockout puncher such as Kovalev in the weeks leading up to a big fight? The answer is no. The boxer is usually a little overlooked because he never seems as scary as the KO master. So I’m trying to keep a lid on that.

Two things that I can’t get out of my head are 1) in a big fight that’s such a close call like Kovalev-Ward, the fighter who’s been more active, in this case Kovalev, has the edge….and 2) I can’t escape the glowing praise that Bernard Hopkins exudes when he speaks of Kovalev. Bernard believes that every decision that went against him was a gift to his opponent, yet when he speaks of Kovalev, he does it with such reverence. And that’s because Kovalev is the only fighter that defeated him who came close to actually beating him up. There’s a lot to be said for that even though Bernard was almost 50 years old.

It’s too soon to make a pick on a fight that’s three months away. It’s definitely a great match-up, but it’s hard to know whether it’ll be a good fight. It could easily be a dud, which would favor Ward. Unfortunately, Kovalev-Ward won’t be a financial blockbuster. Yes, hard core fans and boxing purists wouldn’t miss it for anything, but the gate may underwhelm because there’s no bad guy involved. Both Sergey and Andre are first class fighters and professionals. They’ll shower each other for the next three months with high praise and respect. Neither guy will take a verbal cheap shot or attempt to denigrate the other. They know that talk and hype will have no bearing on the fight. The only thing Kovalev and Ward care about is what’ll unfold for the 36 minutes or less inside the ring on November 19th, and what a welcome change that will be — perhaps a little boring, but still welcome.

Photo courtesy of HBO, Kovalev-Ward by Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

COMMENTS

-brownsugar :

I rewatched Brand fight Badou Jack in an 8 round fight in 2012. Brand, the veteran of 432 amateur fights and the former holder of two super middleweight Latin intercontinental championships fights a lot like the drunken master himself (Augustus Emanuel). Against Jack, Brand could have easily been awarded the victory if the fight took place in his hometown or a more neutral location. Brand fought with his hands at his sides using nonstop lateral movement while implementing an off tempo attack by leaping in and out unexpectedly.... beating Jack to punch with blows flung from the hip while targeting the head and the body. Steve Farhood commented, "How do you fight a guy like Brand?" ....The co-announcer said, "Brand is really putting on a show". Coach Eddie Mustafa was clearly frustrated ..." This guy is nothing " he kept yelling at Jack, while trying his best to not sound as annoyed as he really was. When I tuned into the Ward/Brand fight, the second round was just starting .... "Ward looks as ordinary as Mikey Garcia did in his comeback fight" I thought. In contrast, when Ward was a supermiddleweight, he never looked like Sugar Ray Leonard, or Roy Jones, his style was without much flash because he's so practical and business like, he doesnt draw that type of comparison as far as entertainment value.......he's hard to appreciate until really you take notice of everything he does combined... Which usually involves movement, counterpunching and a taking advantage of his opponents lapses of concentration. That's when you gradually realize Ward is a beast in the ring. He strikes so fast from an initially pedestrian looking stance that viewers only catch the after image of his opponents head snapping back and the grimmace of shock on their faces. At this point of the fight frustration sets in and the distinct feeling of loss seems to descend upon his opponents. Virgil Hunter said its a positive situation to be able to fight a guy who is similar to the guy you're facing next. But he also says that's not a guarantee that your opponent won't change tactics. Virgil says fighting a guy who is unpredictable, wild and awkward is also a huge benefit because it keeps Ward's senses trained for the unexpected.... and fighting opponents who are too dangerous can leave a good boxer in worse condition than he was in before the fight. I never heard an announcer give Chelimba his due credit... Chelimba could have had a belt by now if he wasn't avoided so much. They keep talking about what was wrong with Kovalev instead of how good a motivated Chelimba came be... I mean the man chased Eddie Chambers back to the heavyweight division. Kovalev gets credit for being a good boxer but in fact he's a very good boxer.... nobody ever made beating BHop look so easy and I can't remember the last time he was ever on the canvas. Kovalev was able to negate BHop's traps and he didn't get caught up in BHop's web of deception, where he gets foes infuriated and emotional due to his subtle fouling techniques. The only question I have is....at what range does Ward fight Kovalev? Kovalev fights great at long range, and he completely destroyed Nathan Cleverly at close to mid range. If the Russian has a notable weakness, I have yet to discover what it is. This will be Ward's primary mission .... and its an assignment that he's already enthusiastically accepted..good luck.


-stormcentre :

Great post BS. Don't agree with it all, especially Kovalev having no notable weaknesses. But hey, when you lay it all out like that and state your pre-fight case . . . I guess we can agree to differ. Agree also with your comments about how Brand can be best utilized as match practice for Sergey too. Whilst I have my strategies about what I think would work (don't I always) against Sergey, I can say this . . . . . It will be interesting to see how and at what distance Ward fights Sergey. But - due to Ward's superior, speed, and defence - I won't be too surprised if (for some portions of the fight) the distance doesn't matter too much. It's also going to be interesting to see how Ward holds a clean (full) power shot from Kovalev too; if that happens.
Storm. :) :) This is a great and relatively new trance tune . . check it out !!!


-brownsugar :

Nice tune Storm.... I agree that if Ward gets comfortable in there, its all over for Kovslev, he'll clinch, grapple and pummelled the head and body with one hand...holding with the other..... then slip out to midrange, and potshot, controlling the tempo, setting the pace, etc...etc...etc... But Sergey is good at hitting the target and he will make contact unlike Froch who had his entire offence and rythym effectively amputated by Ward. At the least Kovalev will shoot enough punches to keep Ward feeling wary of diving in as much. .... that's how I see it. Yep Kovalev isn't perfect,...no fighter is, but what flaws are you referring to? What do you see? SK is a lanky fighter but he's not exactly helpless against mobile boxers with a good sense of timing. I appreciate other peoples perspectives.... I could be totally wrong.


-ArneK. :

It's smart, insightful (and civil) discussions like these that give TSS the best boxing forum on the world wide web. Thanks guys.


-DaveB :

I think Ward is smart. Lately I've noticed is that he has not been holding as much as he normally does. Ward has been saying I've got to figure out a way to deal with what ever his opponent has put before him. I think he realizes Kovalev could be too strong or even more so could anticipate him trying to hold and punch him with a good shot to the head or body. Brand was an awkward fighter who was looking for the homerun or could have possibly butted and cut Ward so both things were very much on Ward's mind. I know a knockout would have been exciting but actually I think going 12 rounds was beneficial given Ward's inactivity over the last two and a half or three years. I do remember Kovalev getting knocked down early in a fight but it was a flash knockdown. Kovalev will have a good game plan and he can punch hard through all 12 rounds so Ward nor the fans can get complacent. If Ward could equal Kovalev's power this fight would almost totally favor Ward but he doesn't and that makes things so interesting. Plus Kovalev is no slouch as a boxer. Will he come close to figuring out Ward?


-stormcentre :

Nice tune Storm.... I agree that if Ward gets comfortable in there, its all over for Kovslev, he'll clinch, grapple and pummelled the head and body with one hand...holding with the other..... then slip out to midrange, and potshot, controlling the tempo, setting the pace, etc...etc...etc... But Sergey is good at hitting the target and he will make contact unlike Froch who had his entire offence and rythym effectively amputated by Ward. At the least Kovalev will shoot enough punches to keep Ward feeling wary of diving in as much. .... that's how I see it. Yep Kovalev isn't perfect,...no fighter is, but what flaws are you referring to? What do you see? SK is a lanky fighter but he's not exactly helpless against mobile boxers with a good sense of timing. I appreciate other peoples perspectives.... I could be totally wrong.
Yep, that tune is a favorite of ours at the moment. Immediate thoughts (continuing on from what I have previously said) on Ward V Kovalev are . . . . I think Sergey will have some problems with; *movement, the fact that he can't (easily) intimidate Ward, Ward's superior speed/defence, and with the fact that his approach to fighting (whilst effective) is not that hard (for a guy like Ward) to evaluate. This is all top-level championship level critique here; just so we know. I think Sergey can be made to overreach and/or reset with relative ease. I think he can be walked into (leading right hand, and a few other) shots as you retreat. And I think that (like many KO artists) Kovelev is both careless in how he throws (and particularly how he retracts) punches. As a result he may not be as adaptable as he may need to be; as he is somewhat set in his ways. Also, I am not sure whether Krusher possesses enough speed on the jab (or other power-shot counters) to meaningfully be able to deceive and disrupt Ward, make him pay; and that could mean that Sergey may not necessarily be able to dominate the fight at any given (linear) distance either. Well . . . according to me anyway. :) Additionally, I think Kovalev displayed signs of championship rounds fatigue against Chilemba (whom is not as technically good as Ward, but probably as tough) and that could impact how Sergey spends energy when in against Ward. I think Ward has seen Kovalev's style before in the professional ranks, but I am not sure the same can be said for Kovalev. Finally, I can't see how Krusher can win and/or outpoint Ward unless he delivers a significant amount of his power shots, but this not only makes Kovalev's game-plan approach similar to many other guys that try to beat Ward - it also makes Sergey somewhat one dimensional. Still, as you say (or have said previously) we are yet to see how Ward copes with the power that Sergey can bring. Perhaps it is that it is overrated when in against a guy like Ward. Or, perhaps it is that I have underrated Sergey in this and other respects. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-stormcentre :

I think Ward is smart. Lately I've noticed is that he has not been holding as much as he normally does. Ward has been saying I've got to figure out a way to deal with what ever his opponent has put before him. I think he realizes Kovalev could be too strong or even more so could anticipate him trying to hold and punch him with a good shot to the head or body. Brand was an awkward fighter who was looking for the homerun or could have possibly butted and cut Ward so both things were very much on Ward's mind. I know a knockout would have been exciting but actually I think going 12 rounds was beneficial given Ward's inactivity over the last two and a half or three years. I do remember Kovalev getting knocked down early in a fight but it was a flash knockdown. Kovalev will have a good game plan and he can punch hard through all 12 rounds so Ward nor the fans can get complacent. If Ward could equal Kovalev's power this fight would almost totally favor Ward but he doesn't and that makes things so interesting. Plus Kovalev is no slouch as a boxer. Will he come close to figuring out Ward?
Hey DB, Where you been? You have been on this site for years, but recently not posting as regularly. What's going down? Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-oubobcat :

Love the posts and the piece from Frank. First, Frank is correct and this fight is a must buy. No doubt I will be purchasing and doing so gladly. Second, maybe I am biased (I try not to be) but I have liked Kovalev since he seeing him knocking out Lionel Thompson from Buffalo and thought at that moment this guy was something special. I have no doubts he beats Ward for many reasons and as we get closer am sure will be having some fun discussions on here both before and after the fight.


-brownsugar :

LOL...I am thoroughly and completely bias... But its not the blinded kind of bias....Kovalev has been very fearless in the pro ranks, its hard to find a guy who wants to fight the best because (as Serge says) " I want to test myself ". He said this to Adonis Stevenson several years ago when be expressed his desire to make the fight. He never said he would beat Adonnis, and if he took a loss it wouldn't be the end of the world, it would just be a learning experience. (This is before Stevenson took the low road) Spoken like a true athlete in the spirit of sportsmanship... you have to respect that about the Krusher. Storm... I can appreciate your analysis. Most of Kovalev's opponents keep a respectful distance at the end of end of Kovalev's crushing power, its like they're playing Russian Roulette while hoping they can land something before the chamber is loaded and the Krusher lands one of his power shots. His fights usually play out with the opposition sitting right at the end of his greatest advantage, while he patiently and inexorably closes the show. Chelimba dared to close the distance enough to make it a physical, moment to moment encounter where SK had to reset frequently .... forcing SK out of his comfort zone like you said. Kovalev handled himself well enough, he showed he can get down and dirty if necessary. but not too many fighters can look fluid when the fight gets real and is being fought in the trenches... where Ward excels. So no argument there. Ward is at his best when he's trying to negotiate hostile territory, At a time when his opponent is diligently trying land something. But he's never had to cope with an offence this potent and dangerous. In Ward's defense, he's one of the most confident and resolute fighters I have ever seen, in and out of the ring...his accomplishments are inspirational... and even now, he still seems to have enough of the skill set to compliment his self assuredness. We will see...


-stormcentre :

Yep, can see where yawl are coming from. I like Kovalev too. All your reasons about why/how he is good are pretty fair too. Ward is pretty special though; with a few unique traits thrown in there. And, I am just not sure (at this level) whether Sergey genuinely brings anything truly unique to the table. Or, if Sergey does (bring anything unique to the table) . . I'm still not sure it goes too far beyond "power." I also think Kovalev is in a reasonably gifted light heavyweight time right now. Not a lot of the top crop of light heavyweight's (and also Sergey's competition) are fresh, similarly skilled, and have the amateur background that Sergey has. Of course that's not all Kovalev's fault either. But, (for instance) had Beterbiev's rise not been so delayed, I think this would have probably has some effect on Sergey's current status. I think Beterbiev causes all kinds of trouble for Kovalev, and possibly Ward too.

As both a side and humorous note, imagine if Oleksandr Usyk could starve down to make the weigh in for light heavyweight. He would probably turn the entire weight division into boxing's version of a slow motion train wreck. That, or a Freddy Kruger (serial killer/thriller) horror movie.

Actually, I also think that if Stevenson and Kovalev did ever fight, Kovalev would want to ensure he didn't get hit by that left cross. Stevenson looks like he has real serious power - at least at, if not above what Sergey has - and it's not like Sergey has a great defence; let alone one for strong/long southpaws. There's so many great potential fights in light heavyweight. Imagine any combination of Artur Beterbiev, Isaac Chilemba, Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Eleider Alvarez, and Andre Ward . . . etc. Still, I love Kovalev's style looking for all the best fights though. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-stormcentre :

Yep, can see where yawl are coming from. I like Kovalev too. All your reasons about why/how he is good are pretty fair too. Ward is pretty special though; with a few unique traits thrown in there. And, I am just not sure (at this level) whether Sergey genuinely brings anything truly unique to the table. Or, if Sergey does (bring anything unique to the table) . . I'm still not sure it goes too far beyond "power." I also think Kovalev has come up in a reasonably gifted light heavyweight time. And, whilst that is now starting to change; not a lot of the light heavyweights that have formed Sergey's competition were top level operators, fresh, similarly skilled, and had the amateur background that Sergey has. Of course that's not all Kovalev's fault either. But, (for instance) had Beterbiev's rise not been so delayed, I think this would have probably has some effect on Sergey's current status. I think Beterbiev causes all kinds of trouble for Kovalev, and possibly Ward too.

As both a side and humorous note, imagine if Oleksandr Usyk could starve down to make the weigh in for light heavyweight. He would probably turn the entire weight division into boxing's version of a slow motion train wreck. That, or a Freddy Kruger (serial killer/thriller) horror movie.

Actually, I also think that if Stevenson and Kovalev did ever fight, Kovalev would want to ensure he didn't get hit by that left cross. Stevenson looks like he has real serious power - at least at, if not above what Sergey has - and it's not like Sergey has a great defence; let alone one for strong/long southpaws. There's so many great potential fights in light heavyweight. Imagine any combination of Artur Beterbiev, Isaac Chilemba, Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Eleider Alvarez, and Andre Ward . . . etc. Still, I love Kovalev's style looking for all the best fights though. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-brownsugar :

Good comments Storm.... Beterbiev is the scariest light heavy I've seen lately... But is he healthy getting down to 175, like Spence he has hardly no body fat and he's getting close to the age where "nature" automatically adds 10-25lbs to a mans frame. Plus he's been injury prone. A fully healthy Beterbiev is a beast. However how many more career interruptions will he have? Hopefully he can get back on track soon. Gvorzdyk was somewhat of a disappointment when I first saw him several weeks ago. I think thats because he was built up to such mythic proportions, and then he comes out looking self conscious and green. ..while suffering a flash knockdown from mediocre competition. I understand being relatively new to the scene and wanting to impress can hamper a young fighters performance, but I think he'll look a lot better next time. He's long and lanky, likes to through combinations and gives away his height, he'll be more focused next time but the potential is hard to miss. Gvordyk will definitely be in the conversation when the training wheels come off. Alvarez is good, but that Australian journeyman pulled an Alex Brand on him in his last fight... I want to see him in with someone good who wants to win. He would have been a solid opponent for Ward but I'm sure he doesn't fight for peanuts. These are all good fights you mentioned but no one is really in position to make the fights except for Alvarez ....and he's not my first choice when I think about being entertained. Lol I have to agree though, there is new life in the light heavy weight division... and more dangers on the horizon than the Krusher. How about Ward vs Superman? All these power punchers believe they have an advantage against Ward...(and to some extent, they do) Ward claims he wants to win a title at heavyweight... if that's not ambition I don't know what is. I can see it now...Ward outboxes Anthony Joshua in a thrilling upset ...Lol. Good post.


-brownsugar :

Anyway its back to more women's volleyball at Rio.


-KO Digest :

I say you still need to hold your nose. This is not a fight for THE undisputed world championship. But maybe this IS a fight featuring the two best LH's out there. OK, great. Not every time that happens do we need to PAY PPV $$$s tho. This Kovalev-Ward bout is akin to Chavez-Taylor in 1990 on HBO. And with Ward in the ring, it could be an awful stinker. #CaveatEmptor


-deepwater2 :

I'm looking to buy my tickets that were supposed to be on sale last week. I set up my days off at work. My friends place in Vegas is all lined up for me that weekend. If this fight doesn't come off in the next two weeks I'm canceling the whole thing. These two camps better not mess this up. In the past Kovalev has done his work wherever the opponent was so I don't see team Krusher making a fuss about the venue. Ward couldn't beat up and stop a 100-1 underdog recently so I don't know why this fight is being delayed. Get your stuff together.


-stormcentre :

Someone needs to put a call through to Jay Z and tell him to stop dragging his knuckles around the floor of his office and get down to work then? Deep? You're a connected guy. How bout you retrieve Jay Z's number from your phone, distill that post into a quick discussion, and fire it through to Jay? Tell him to let his poor azz take a break from shagging that Beyonc? so it can get out of bed and into gear wiv making dis fight.
Storm. :) :)


-deepwater2 :

Ah Jay z is all an act. He talks like a MBA from Harvard when in private. I've met him a few times, his bodyguards won't ruff me up but he sure as hell would never call me. That dummy better get this fight made already. Who is running his outfit? The Barclays guy? I don't think Jay z pays much attention to boxing.


-oubobcat :

Unfortunately, more and more rumors are swirling about this fight and it is not positive at the moment. I have seen some in the know say that there is now about a 75% chance that things actually come off as planned. From 100% certainty down to 75%, something is going on behind the scenes. This was the one fight that I was most looking forward to in this sport. It would be a huge let down if this somehow someway falls apart.


-brownsugar :

Virgil says as far as he is concerned the fight is a go and Ward is in training, but he also told the podcast host today to talk to RocNation. If RocNation or Ward allows this event to fail over something simple like demanding to fight at the Oracle or getting greedy with the allocation of personal tickets, they will both do irreparable harm to their brand. As long as the promoters aren't in the press airing their dirty laundry I believe the fight is a go. Please keep the ego out of it promoters.


-oubobcat :

Worries are officially over, fight is set for November 19th a T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.


-wilyty :

thank God ! cant wait for the fight of the year