Kovalev vs. Ward: The Fight I'm Most Looking Forward To In 2016

BY Frank Lotierzo ON January 04, 2016
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With the turn of the calendar to 2016 the sports world is, at least in the near future, looking towards some exciting sports match ups early in the year. Such as the College Football National Championship between SEC champ Alabama and ACC champ Clemson. As of this morning the Super Bowl tournament is set with the Panthers, Cardinals, Vikings, Redskins, Seahawks and Packers representing the NFC and the Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Chiefs and Steelers representing the AFC.

In those potential match ups the chalk favors Alabama to beat Clemson, although I don't think that's a given because the Clemson offense is the exact type of offense with an athletic quarterback that has always given Nick Saban's Alabama teams fits. In the NFL the chalk favors either the Panthers or Cardinals to come out of the NFC and either the Patriots or the Broncos to win the AFC, although I think there's a case to be made for the Steelers to beat the banged up Patriots and the one dimensional running attack of the Broncos offense. Sure, upsets happen but aside from a Redskins vs Texans Super Bowl I don't think any other match up combination would be much of a shock to anyone who follows the NFL.

In professional sports, especially boxing, nothing is more exciting than a match up when those who are supposed to know can't pick the winner because the match up is so close on paper. I don't believe anything represents the "I can't pick the winner faction" better than the first fight between "Smokin" Joe Frazier 26-0 (23) and Muhammad Ali 31-0 (25) back in March of 1971. Back at that time many including myself were thinking, it's not that I can't pick the winner - it's more of a case that I can't picture either fighter losing. For once the realization of the event lived up to the expectation and it truly was a great fight that Frazier won by a unanimous decision.

As of this writing there are a multitude of interesting match ups that boxing fans are looking forward to hopefully seeing this year....such as Fury vs. Klitschko II, Golovkin vs. Alvarez and Roman Gonzalez vs. Naoya Inoue just to name a few. However, it's not a reach to make the case for one side over the other among those potential fights. And that's why the fight I'm most looking forward to hopefully happening in 2016 is Sergey Kovalev 28-0-1 (25) versus Andre Ward 28-0 (15). Ward is the most complete fighter in boxing with Floyd Mayweather having retired in September of 2015 and Kovalev, 32, is a dangerous hitter with both hands and he can also box. Kovalev vs. Ward is a fight that is the most difficult fight in boxing for me to handicap and give a strong lean to either side.

Yes, Ward, 31, is scheduled to fight a tune up this coming March and Kovalev is fighting a rematch with Jean Pascal at the end of this month. I seriously doubt Ward will lose and I expect Kovalev to stop Pascal again even with supposed miracle worker Freddie Roach in his corner this time.

There was a time when Andre Ward, before his year and a half absence from the ring, was considered no lower than the second best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. Only Floyd Mayweather, who turned pro eight years before Ward, routinely out-polled him in the pound-for-pound debate. And the reason for Ward’s high ranking was, he is really that special and can do everything as a fighter in the ring. Andre is a master boxer and technician, and like Mayweather, he doesn't need much time to figure out what his opponent doesn't like and what their weaknesses are - and then feeds them a steady diet of it and forces them to do what they don’t want to do. And despite what most think, Ward punches hard enough to more than get Sergey's attention.

Andre has a terrific jab to the head and body, and he is tremendously effective using it offensively and defensively. He can step back and counter while allowing his opponent to lead, or at least making them think they are. He knows how to go after runners and movers, and he can fight on the inside and neutralize his opponents while doing so. He's very strong physically, and his punch resistance and stamina have never been a remote issue for him.

The only “but” when it comes to assessing Andre Ward that you hear is, he's not a life-taker when it comes to punching power. However, most writers and fans don't understand that punching power is overrated. Sure, it's a great equalizer, but it's only as good as the delivery system in place to get it to the intended target. Ward, like Mayweather today, Bernard Hopkins, Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes from yesteryear, punch/ed plenty hard enough to win. As we saw in many of their high profile bouts, punching power was never much of a factor in determining their signature bouts during their careers.

Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) is clearly the most formidable and feared fighter in the light heavyweight division. Amazingly, Kovalev's ascendance has been a little overshadowed by middleweight Gennady Golovkin's emergence over the same time period. This in all honesty has befuddled me for two reasons. For starters, Kovalev is a more versatile fighter than Golovkin. I know some try and paint Gennady as an unbeatable wrecking machine, but in truth, he's basically an attacker. Yes, I know he can box, but back him up and he, like most attackers, aren't nearly as effective. Secondly, Kovalev has clearly beat better fighters and has compiled a more impressive resume than Golovkin.

Neither Kovalev nor Ward has ever faced a fighter like the other, not surprisingly because there's not many of them around. It's a real tough fight to handicap and pick the winner. And the proof of that is, yes, it's Andre Ward, and yet I can't tell you that I would pick him to win. Kovalev's long game and power will give Ward much to address. Will he, can he? That’s what makes the match up so compelling and anticipated.

No, Kovalev vs. Ward is not in the same universe as Frazier-Ali I, but it’s the toughest fight in professional boxing to build a strong case favoring one side over the other. And that’s why it is the fight I most want to see!

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Comment on this article

michigan400 says:

Same here! I just hope it happens in 2016 and doesn't get left to "marinate" for 5 or 6 years or until nobody really cares anymore.

Radam G says:

It is on like a good song. The SOG is going to show the doubters and haters how to lay that funny music. Holla!

oubobcat says:

Its a fight I am looking forward to but also see it getting kicked back to around March of 2017. HBO owes both two fights in the interim and Ward's first fight is not even scheduled yet though rumors persist that will happen at the end of March. Barring no set backs, we probably don't see him in the ring again until August/September. So realistically with the time needed to build a PPV it will be hard to pull of under the best of scenarios for 2016. But it should happen and probably more likely the first part of 2017.

Brook-Khan could be very interesting and is looking like a good chance it will come off for May/June. Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg is already set and is the fight I am most looking forward to by a long stretch in the first quarter of the year (that includes if Thurman-Porter comes off as rumored). And one realistic fight I would be absolutely intrigued to see is Lomachencko-Rigondeaux, not out of the question as long as someone can talk Rigondeaux into being more realistic on the purse.

Gabrielito says:

Same here, KK vs. SOG is THE fight. Yesterday it would have been Ward by decision in a tactical firefight he refuses to lose, today it's Krusher by wide UD just like the Hopkins wipeout. holding and mauling did NOT help old man Hops one little bit.

amayseng says:

Same here, KK vs. SOG is THE fight. Yesterday it would have been Ward by decision in a tactical firefight he refuses to lose, today it's Krusher by wide UD just like the Hopkins wipeout. holding and mauling did NOT help old man Hops one little bit.


I think Ward's inactivity coupled with his recent opposition is nothing but detrimental to him against KK.

Two years ago I would favor Ward but as of today I favor KK.

Either way I love both fighters for their gifts and hope we get an exciting 2-3 fights out of them.

Kid Blast says:

Atlas started hating on Freddie when Freddie failed to show for a Peter Manfredo fight years ago. Peter's dad had to fill the gap. Atlas thought Roach had betrayed Peter. But Atlas has always had a bad case of "Engagitis." You know, where he engages his mouth before his brain.

deepwater2 says:

Atlas started hating on Freddie when Freddie failed to show for a Peter Manfredo fight years ago. Peter's dad had to fill the gap. Atlas thought Roach had betrayed Peter. But Atlas has always had a bad case of "Engagitis." You know, where he engages his mouth before his brain.


That is interesting. I never heard about the Roach -Manfredo incident before.

I think Atlas will try and take the high road and keep quiet until he can't take it anymore and he goes ballistic.

deepwater2 says:

I think Ward might not get past his next fight. Ward is going to fight Sullivan Berrera next. A Cuban with power.

I watched Sullivan train under my trainer. I couldn't believe how good the man was when he let his hands go.

Now Sullivan is with trainer ,Abel. He seems to be letting his hands go and being in camp with GGG , is only a benefit.

I will put some money on a win for Sullivan against Ward. He will probably be a 5-1 underdog just like Fury was.

Skibbz says:

I think Ward might not get past his next fight. Ward is going to fight Sullivan Berrera next. A Cuban with power.

I watched Sullivan train under my trainer. I couldn't believe how good the man was when he let his hands go.

Now Sullivan is with trainer ,Abel. He seems to be letting his hands go and being in camp with GGG , is only a benefit.

I will put some money on a win for Sullivan against Ward. He will probably be a 5-1 underdog just like Fury was.


nice tips D2 but boy is this fight gonna be a stinker. Barrera can box and has good power but I feel Ward will be too fast with his hands and his feet, and his left hand will be too smart for Barrera and still work him to him with moderate ease from the start. Not saying it's a cake walk for Ward but he will find it straight forward enough to spoil the 12 rounds.

Still I'm looking forward to watching Ward in the ring again should be a good show.

deepwater2 says:

nice tips D2 but boy is this fight gonna be a stinker. Barrera can box and has good power but I feel Ward will be too fast with his hands and his feet, and his left hand will be too smart for Barrera and still work him to him with moderate ease from the start. Not saying it's a cake walk for Ward but he will find it straight forward enough to spoil the 12 rounds.

Still I'm looking forward to watching Ward in the ring again should be a good show.


Hey Skibbz, Happy New Year Man.

If Barrera lets his hands go ,Ward will have to work hard for the win. Barrera is levels above Ward's last couple opponents.

I'm just happy to see Ward fight a live guy.

oubobcat says:

I admittedly doubted Barrera before his fight with Murat. Deep stated he was a good fighter who showed a lot of skills in the gym. If only he would let his hands go...Well Barrera fought more aggressively against and looked great. He is a live opponent against Ward if the fight goes off (Ward took to social media today saying no opponent has been finalized despite the rumors).

One thing about Ward fights that needs to be pointed out, especially when he fights a live body, is the importance of how the referee handles the fight. I could see Abel Sanchez, Barrera's trainer, making a huge deal before the fight about the holding Ward does in the ring and reinforcing that point in the pre-fight meeting with the referee. If a referee starts early and warns Ward for excessive holding, things could get interesting. Ward has thus far in his career been allowed to get away with a lot of clinching particularly in fights in California (well the Froch fight too in Atlantic City). If he is warned early and often, how would that effect his strategy and his opponents game plan? An aggressive fighter who lets his hands go may start having success and pushing Ward.

stormcentre says:

Ward - if in proper shape - will own Barrera and nothing Sanchez does/says with the referee (hey OBC, how's things?) will change that.

Although I agree that if I was Sanchez I would probably also - bring Ward's infractions and how they're a part of his style to the authorities' attention, and - try and limit what Andre does, so my guy can win.

Ward V Kovalev would/will be a great fight.

deepwater2 says:

Its Ward vs Barrera in March.

Like I said earlier, Barrera is a live dog against Ward. Ward is not the same fighter he was before all the inactivity and move up in weight. Fighting that last bum probably did more harm than good for Andre Ward.

Sullivan is Kovalevs mandatory and is risking it all and going after Ward. This is do or die for the Cuban. He will not lie down like the last few opponents did.

This is a real fight and Ward will have to use all his skills to come out on top.

oubobcat says:

Its Ward vs Barrera in March.

Like I said earlier, Barrera is a live dog against Ward. Ward is not the same fighter he was before all the inactivity and move up in weight. Fighting that last bum probably did more harm than good for Andre Ward.

Sullivan is Kovalevs mandatory and is risking it all and going after Ward. This is do or die for the Cuban. He will not lie down like the last few opponents did.

This is a real fight and Ward will have to use all his skills to come out on top.


Barrera is definitely a live dog. He is extremely athletic and showed in his last fight that he has made tremendous improvement under Abel Sanchez. This is not a gimme fight for Ward at all.

deepwater2 says:

Barrera is definitely a live dog. He is extremely athletic and showed in his last fight that he has made tremendous improvement under Abel Sanchez. This is not a gimme fight for Ward at all.


I hope the bookies think it's a gimme for Ward. I will put a few on Sullivan for sure.

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