Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev is like the young kid who saves his allowance all year to go to the state fair only to get his pocket picked before he reaches the midway.
I’m not saying Kovalev was actually robbed or mugged in his fight against Andre Ward last November. Nobody wore a mask, pulled a gun or threatened a bank teller. No safes were cracked, no money was stuffed into a bag and no one was driving a get-away car.
But it took three American judges, a flash knockdown, several flip-of-a-coin rounds and a late-fight rally by Ward to find a winner and take away Kovalev’s belt collection. It was a close fight with all three judges scoring it 114-113 in favor of Ward. And if Kovalev thinks he won the fight, well, I’ve never met a fighter yet worth his sweat who didn’t think he won a close fight. It’s one of the privileges of the sport. You can get knocked on your butt five times over ten rounds and still claim you won even if the judges were giggling when they scored the fight. Boxing isn’t like football or baseball where you can smile, point up to the scoreboard when it’s over and walk away. It’s more like a beauty pageant. If a judge likes brunettes over blondes, guess who wins the tiara.
But that’s enough about that first fight. It’s already gathering dust. The hard reality is that Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) won it and Kovalev, the former WBO, WBA and IBF light-heavyweight champ out of Russia, lost it. And it’s time to move on to what is commonly referred to in the fight game as a “rematch,” or, as Kovalev calls it, a chance “to kick (Ward’s) ass.”
No hard feelings here.
The announced “ass kicking” promised by Kovalev is set for June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas (HBO Pay-Per-View).
Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) is coming into the rematch with a sizeable handicap. It’s a chip on his shoulder the size and weight of a bowling ball. Lug that thing around the ring for 12 rounds and see where it gets you.
But the thing about carrying a chip on your shoulder is that sometimes it brings you a second wind. Sometimes it just balances there on your shoulder just right until you need to call it up and use it. A little personal rage can go a long way.
“I don’t like this guy (Ward) and I want to punish him because he puts his nose really up right now and he knows that he lost,” Kovalev said at a recent press conference. “I don’t care if he shows me respect or not. I know only one thing. I will kick his ass. I want to destroy him. I want to destroy this guy as a boxer and as a champion. For me, he is not a champion, he’s a fake champion.”
It’s a chip all right.
So why is Ward a fake champion?
Kovalev said it’s because he never really won the championship belts that were once the property of Kovalev.
“I don’t give him any respect,” Kovalev said. “He doesn’t deserve the belts.”
While Kovalev still claims he won the first fight, he has a new game plan for the rematch. He’s not going to burn himself out before he gets to the fight. He said in the first fight his tank was empty by the later rounds.
Over-training is not a myth. Prior to that first fight with Ward, Kovalev said he was working out three times a day and instead of running five miles a day, he was running eight. In true boxing lingo, you might say he left his fight in the gym. He’s backed off a little for the second fight.
But according to his trainer, John David Jackson, Kovalev has already seen the best of Ward.
“There’s not much more (Ward) can do in this second fight,” Jackson said. “Can (Ward) improve? Not really. Any adjustments he makes will be small adjustments.
“I think Sergey won the first fight hands down,” says Jackson, “but we just have to move on and prepare for the second fight. In the first fight I think Sergey proved he’s a better fighter and a bigger puncher than Ward. All Ward did was survive. Sergey hit him with a punch that wasn’t Sergey’s best shot and he still dropped Ward. They better have a better plan for this second fight.”
I’m guessing they already have it.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.