Ward vs. Kovalev: This Time, All the Pressure is on Kovalev

It was the signature fight of his career. He fought an undefeated opponent in the opponent’s home country. In spite of being undefeated and two years earlier beating the great Bernard Hopkins so decisively that all boxing fans finally knew Hopkins was finished as a championship caliber fighter, he was yet a slight underdog against an opponent who was moving up in weight to challenge him. Yes, I’m talking about former light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev 30-1-1 (26) as he was heading into his first bout against former undisputed super-middleweight champ Andre Ward 31-0 (15) last November.

Prior to facing Ward, Kovalev was winning his fights easily; so overwhelmingly, in fact, that he seldom lost a round. He showed versatility in that he could fight effectively from mid-range and also dominate on the inside. His power and steady aggression immediately forced his opponents into defending and trying to survive, including Hopkins. And in the early going of his bout with Ward, it looked as if that was going to be the case again. Kovalev dropped Ward in the second round with a good right hand, not necessarily the hardest he ever landed, but its impact was blunt enough to have Ward bracing for the canvas on the way down. Ward got up, used the next round or so to clear his head, and fought Kovalev on even terms and out-boxed him the rest of the way to make the ending controversial.

After 12 closely contested rounds, the three judges would have final say…..and all three scored it 114-113 Ward. After the fight, a poll of 63 media members revealed that 46 scored the fight for Kovalev, 16 saw it for Ward, and one scored it a draw. HBO’s Harold Lederman scored it 116-111 for Kovalev and former color analyst Larry Merchant called it a hometown decision, something Kovalev suggested when he was interviewed in the ring after the fight. Of the 16 who scored the fight for Ward, 11 of them only had Andre winning by a point. Conversely, an overwhelming majority of those who saw it for Kovalev had it by more than a point. I scored it 114-113 Kovalev watching it live with the second round knockdown being the difference. The case supporting Kovalev winning is only slightly stronger than the one for Ward and I have no issue with those who saw it for Ward. It was a very hard fight to score and too close for the decision to be considered a robbery. Pacquiao-Bradley I it wasn’t.

With the rematch approaching this weekend, something that hasn’t been debated is how the pressure is on Kovalev to win. Regardless of how much he and his fans believe he clearly defeated Ward the first time they fought, the record will stand forever that he lost. Furthermore, Kovalev, who has been promoted and hyped to be a special fighter, has only faced two marque/great opponents – Bernard Hopkins, who was two months shy of turning 50 when they fought, and Ward. And the record says he’s 1-1 in those bouts and the win was against a fighter who was a decade past his peak.

Legendary champions make their name and build their legacy beating fighters in or near their prime who are seen as their equal, which applies to Ward regarding Kovalev’s career resume. Ward can boast he beat Kovalev and scored the signature win of his career when they fought last year. He’s not under water and fighting the rematch to justify his standing as a great fighter because he’s already done that. His goal heading into the rematch is solely to add another layer of proof that he is the greater fighter and the judges scored the first fight correctly.

Kovalev faces a much more daunting task. For starters, he must win the fight and cannot be 0-2 versus Ward. Beating Ward this time will be even more difficult now that Andre survived the knockdown and excelled down the stretch. The odds are that Ward is going to be the most complete fighter that Kovalev faced during his prime. Great fighters are few and far between, and Sergey, in order to be thought of as being a special fighter, will always be linked to Ward, so it’s imperative that he beats him…….It’s plausible that at some point in the future, it’ll be difficult to mention Kovalev without mentioning Ward.

During the past month Kovalev has said that Ward punches like a girl and how badly he doesn’t want to just beat him, but to knock him out and end his career. That’s a big check to have to cover, especially against a fighter who hasn’t lost in the ring since he was a teenager and was gaining confidence as the last fight was ending. And of the two of them, Ward is the fighter who is more suited to adjusting his style for a second meeting. As good as Kovalev is — and yes he’s a good boxer and not just a “catch and kill” style fighter — he’s relying mostly on his power to turn the fight his way – and Ward knows it.

Fighters are measured by who they fought and beat and when they beat them. Kovalev doesn’t get a ton of credit for beating Hopkins conclusively because Bernard was on a steep decline. Some would argue that the Ward that Kovalev is facing this weekend isn’t Ward at his best, and they’re probably right, but Ward hasn’t shown signs of being on the decline. Beating Ward in 2017 is a big deal for Kovalev, and if he does it he will get his due props.

Rivalries in boxing are what fans remember. Yes, Roberto Duran lost two out of three to Sugar Ray Leonard, but Roberto was an established all-time great before they fought. Losing to Leonard doesn’t hurt Duran’s legacy, and he did win the most celebrated of their three fights. Kovalev doesn’t own a resume anywhere near as terrific as Duran’s. As of this writing you can’t mention Kovalev’s name without mentioning Ward. And that will be in play even more so after the rematch.

So if Kovalev were to lose, that is what he will probably be most remembered for. Sure, he can go on and possibly win the cruiserweight title and make a few successful defenses of it, but it won’t erase the fact that he couldn’t beat the best fighter of his generation, Andre Ward, in two tries. If he does prevail, he may get a chance to fight a rubber match, but if he doesn’t, he’ll never see Ward in the ring again and losing to him in consecutive bouts will diminish him historically and always haunt him. That is why Kovalev has more pressure on him. Unlike Ward, Kovalev is not playing with house money this time.

If Kovalev loses to Ward unambiguously, he will never eclipse it. In another close fight, business favors Kovalev getting the nod. The judges are going to be giving him a little more of a gift than in the first fight. So if he winds up losing a decision this time around, he won’t be able to build a case that he got robbed.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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COMMENTS

-amayseng :

I disagree the pressure is on Ward to actually win the fight this time. He got out boxed hen he was suppose to be the boxer. I was a fan of both and felt bad for Ward as he couldn't even keep it close. Holding and pitty pats aren't ****. Anyone not corrupt or bias saw that Kovalev won a clear and easy to score 7 rounds with a knockdown. I had him winning 8 but will defer to 7 -5 with a kd. Just because 3 corrupt lowlife scumbag judges robbed Kovalev does NOT MEAN HE LOST. HE WON. I mean these judges are garbage, who is giving the nod to Canelo drawing with Floyd? Floyd white washed him it was a damn schooling or embarrassing proportions yet a scumbag judge scores it otherwise. **** the corrupt judges. If u think Ward actually won please let me know, I have a bridge to sell you.


-amayseng :

I disagree the pressure is on Ward to actually win the fight this time. He got out boxed hen he was suppose to be the boxer. I was a fan of both and felt bad for Ward as he couldn't even keep it close. Holding and pitty pats aren't ****. Anyone not corrupt or bias saw that Kovalev won a clear and easy to score 7 rounds with a knockdown. I had him winning 8 but will defer to 7 -5 with a kd. Just because 3 corrupt lowlife scumbag judges robbed Kovalev does NOT MEAN HE LOST. HE WON. I mean these judges are garbage, who is giving the nod to Canelo drawing with Floyd? Floyd white washed him it was a damn schooling or embarrassing proportions yet a scumbag judge scores it otherwise. **** the corrupt judges. If u think Ward actually won please let me know, I have a bridge to sell you.


-Radam G :

SOG has this one on lock. Krusher is now like an angry ship that will never get off the dock. His angry has put him in jail. He is no longer the captain of his ship, so he will sink instead of sail. I take SOG by runaway decision or 11 or 12 round stoppage. Holla!


-Kid Blast :

SOG has this one on lock. Krusher is now like an angry ship that will never get off the dock. His angry has put him in jail. He is no longer the captain of his ship, so he will sink instead of sail. I take SOG by runaway decision or 11 or 12 round stoppage. Holla!
Co-sign Russian has become mad Russian. SOG will use that anger to his advantage.Time to confuse Kovalev Lots of butts, elbows, maybe a low blow or two, some cuffing. Time to manhandle the manhandler. Time to bully the bully.


-Kid Blast :

SOG has this one on lock. Krusher is now like an angry ship that will never get off the dock. His angry has put him in jail. He is no longer the captain of his ship, so he will sink instead of sail. I take SOG by runaway decision or 11 or 12 round stoppage. Holla!
Co-sign Russian has become mad Russian. SOG will use that anger to his advantage.Time to confuse Kovalev Lots of butts, elbows, maybe a low blow or two, some cuffing. Time to manhandle the manhandler. Time to bully the bully.


-KO Digest :

I'm picking Ward by DQ in 10 down on points.


-oubobcat :

There is pressure on both fighters in this one. First of all to amayseng's point, Kovalev won the first fight. I had him up comfortably as did most people it seems who watched this fight. The look on Ward's face when the decision was announced tells everything. Going into the second fight, some factors to consider. While not everyone may like Ward's style, he is a smart fighter and has the perfect trainer to assist him in Virgil Hunter. Ward did have success in the second half of the fight. Kovalev did also slow down (from fatigue it appears). Ward has a blueprint he can now follow and a trainer to help him assist following the blueprint. He won't care what people think, if he has to fight smart and conservatively to win he will do just that. My concern for Kovalev is two fold. First, he seems to want to ko Ward in the worst way. Has Ward maybe gotten under his skin? When fighters swing for the fences, they get away from what got them to that point. Yes Kovalev could land. But the odds of hitting a home run decrease when someone is trying to hit the home run in game action. But sticking to the consistent swing that got you to this point would be well advised. I think Kovalev may try to hit the home run to hard and leave openings that Ward will exploit. Two, from talking to writers in Canastota this weekend it seems the friction in camp between Kovalev and John David Jackson is real. As one told me, "it was close to a done deal for Jackson to switch camps but ultimately the money was just not quite right for him to make the move." John David Jackson is an excellent trainer. But think about this, is he the right guy for Kovalev. Kovalev is an offensive minded fighter. That is far and away his biggest strength. He needs an offensive minded trainer to help coach him along. JDJ is a brilliant defensive minded trainer. But he is not an aggressive minded trainer but cautious and careful. That works for a lot of guys but not Kovalev. I sense Kovalev is uncomfortable with JDJ and that has led to some friction. By the way, know who would have been the perfect trainer for Kovalev? Emmanuel Steward. Right now, I am leaning Ward by decision. I picked Kovalev in the first and yes now looking at flipping. But even if Kovalev recklessly goes for the ko, he is dangerous. I am just saying by doing so drastically reduces the odds he actually gets it.


-oubobcat :

There is pressure on both fighters in this one. First of all to amayseng's point, Kovalev won the first fight. I had him up comfortably as did most people it seems who watched this fight. The look on Ward's face when the decision was announced tells everything. Going into the second fight, some factors to consider. While not everyone may like Ward's style, he is a smart fighter and has the perfect trainer to assist him in Virgil Hunter. Ward did have success in the second half of the fight. Kovalev did also slow down (from fatigue it appears). Ward has a blueprint he can now follow and a trainer to help him assist following the blueprint. He won't care what people think, if he has to fight smart and conservatively to win he will do just that. My concern for Kovalev is two fold. First, he seems to want to ko Ward in the worst way. Has Ward maybe gotten under his skin? When fighters swing for the fences, they get away from what got them to that point. Yes Kovalev could land. But the odds of hitting a home run decrease when someone is trying to hit the home run in game action. But sticking to the consistent swing that got you to this point would be well advised. I think Kovalev may try to hit the home run to hard and leave openings that Ward will exploit. Two, from talking to writers in Canastota this weekend it seems the friction in camp between Kovalev and John David Jackson is real. As one told me, "it was close to a done deal for Jackson to switch camps but ultimately the money was just not quite right for him to make the move." John David Jackson is an excellent trainer. But think about this, is he the right guy for Kovalev. Kovalev is an offensive minded fighter. That is far and away his biggest strength. He needs an offensive minded trainer to help coach him along. JDJ is a brilliant defensive minded trainer. But he is not an aggressive minded trainer but cautious and careful. That works for a lot of guys but not Kovalev. I sense Kovalev is uncomfortable with JDJ and that has led to some friction. By the way, know who would have been the perfect trainer for Kovalev? Emmanuel Steward. Right now, I am leaning Ward by decision. I picked Kovalev in the first and yes now looking at flipping. But even if Kovalev recklessly goes for the ko, he is dangerous. I am just saying by doing so drastically reduces the odds he actually gets it.


-wilyty :

Ward by decision. only 1 fair judge this time : steve weisfeld


-amayseng :

Demeanor demeanor demeanor Have u guys ever played sports or boxed ? Good Lord. You know your CAN get mad and angry with Determiation without thinking Kov is going to turn into a raging 2 year old. Kovalev will channnel his anger into devastating tunnel vision of determination and fury. When I played football as a safety, I got clipped in the back which injured me by this shitty cheap full back who was 220lbs to my 180lbs. Down the road we played them again and I was FUCKING FURIUS with anger and determination. Instead of cheap shotting him back or cutting his knees and ruining his life forever I instead recorded 16 tackles and every time I saw him in the open field I hit him 110 mph. Ya maybe 180lbs but I ran a 4.5 forty and I hit that motherfukr so hard for 4 quarters that by the end of the game he was running away from me. I wasn't penalyed once, I was furious with determination and my intensity was off the charts but never lost my cool. I told him all game long after the game I was gonna whip his *** in front of his parents as he was getting back on the bus. Point being, I was 18 years old, far from a world champion boxer yet I was able to compose my anger and fury into intense determination. iT can be done. Don't be so ridiculous about a fighter being pissed off he was robbed in plain sight. Sometimes u need a little fire.


-amayseng :

Demeanor demeanor demeanor Have u guys ever played sports or boxed ? Good Lord. You know your CAN get mad and angry with Determiation without thinking Kov is going to turn into a raging 2 year old. Kovalev will channnel his anger into devastating tunnel vision of determination and fury. When I played football as a safety, I got clipped in the back which injured me by this shitty cheap full back who was 220lbs to my 180lbs. Down the road we played them again and I was FUCKING FURIUS with anger and determination. Instead of cheap shotting him back or cutting his knees and ruining his life forever I instead recorded 16 tackles and every time I saw him in the open field I hit him 110 mph. Ya maybe 180lbs but I ran a 4.5 forty and I hit that motherfukr so hard for 4 quarters that by the end of the game he was running away from me. I wasn't penalyed once, I was furious with determination and my intensity was off the charts but never lost my cool. I told him all game long after the game I was gonna whip his *** in front of his parents as he was getting back on the bus. Point being, I was 18 years old, far from a world champion boxer yet I was able to compose my anger and fury into intense determination. iT can be done. Don't be so ridiculous about a fighter being pissed off he was robbed in plain sight. Sometimes u need a little fire.


-KO Digest :

Pressure is on Ward. To defend his titles. To avoid being dropped again. To actually WIN a fight we all know (he must know) he lost.


-amayseng :

Pressure is on Ward. To defend his titles. To avoid being dropped again. To actually WIN a fight we all know (he must know) he lost.
The fact Ward actually thinks he won shows he son trouble. No humility equals no realism. kov going to the body early and hard. Unless he has a terrible twos tantrum that every non athlete here predicts hahahaha


-amayseng :

Pressure is on Ward. To defend his titles. To avoid being dropped again. To actually WIN a fight we all know (he must know) he lost.
The fact Ward actually thinks he won shows he's in trouble. No humility equals no realism. kov going to the body early and hard. Unless he has a terrible twos tantrum that every non athlete here predicts hahahaha


-wilyty :

bad stoppage and the low blows ...............