Friday, March 24, 2023  |



Darnell Boone breaks down Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward


Darnell Boone has fought many of the top fighters between 160 and 175 pounds over the past decade. Having shared a ring with both Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward in that time he’s well placed to pick a winner in this weekend’s intriguing light heavyweight encounter for the WBA, IBF and WBO titles.

Boone, 36, originally from Youngstown, Ohio – where he was a regular sparring partner of Kelly Pavlik during The Ghost’s middleweight title run – now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and sports an unremarkable 23-23-4 (12 knockouts) record.

However, the truth lies deep beneath his .500 mark as the rugged veteran is much better than his ledger would suggest.
The master gatekeeper possesses wins over six previously unbeaten opponents, including Adonis Stevenson and Willie Munroe. He dropped a then up-and-coming Ward in the fall of 2005 and gave Kovalev all he could handle in late 2010, narrowly dropping an eight-round split decision. He met the Russian a second time two years later and was stopped in two rounds.

Boone faced Kovalev and Ward when they were considered prospects and he acknowledges that both have improved immeasurably since he tangled with them.

“There was a big difference (facing Kovalev the second time), (he) actually moved a little more, he was way stronger than the first time I fought him. He’s looking pretty good,” Boone told “(Ward) got overconfident in our fight and it left him vulnerable for me to hit him with something. He over-committed himself. For the most part Ward is still a smart fighter as he’s always been, he’s still as crafty, he still does all the good things that he always has since he started.”

Boone, however, feels Ward’s inactivity – only five fights since winning the Super Six tournament in 2011 – could be the 2004 Olympic gold medalist’s undoing.

“It’s just with these layoffs, he keeps taking these layoffs, they’re diminishing his skills,” explained Boone. “He’s still smart in there but he’s not moving like he normally does, that’s what worries me about him. Now, if he can miraculously conjure up something that he can at least be a quarter of what he used to he may pull this fight off.

“But if he can’t shake the rust… even the fights he’s fought with (Alexander) Brand and (Paul) Smith and (Sullivan) Barrera, those fights were easy but he was getting hit more than he would normally get hit and with moving up in weight to a weight you’re not comfortable with, even though you fought at that weight when you were amateur, the pros is totally different.

“To move all the way up from ’68 all the way up and fight the pound-for-pound king at 175 and still fight those guys to prepare for him, I don’t see how he can gauge what Kovalev is going to do because those guys are not a Kovalev, they’re not punching as hard as Kovalev. Actually, they were C, D level guys and he’s getting ready for an A+ guy.”

Boone says Ward has to box smart, pick his spots and then get away from the heavy-handed Kovalev.

“He’s going to have to move in out,” he said, “being at that weight class, he didn’t seem comfortable at 175, even when he was fighting those guys, he didn’t seem comfortable with that weight on him. He looked slow, he was still slick and sharp but he looked slow. He didn’t look like the Andre Ward I’m used to seeing. It seemed everything has slowed down for him.”

While he sees Kovalev behind Ward in natural talent, he believes The Krusher to be the natural light heavyweight and also the more battle-tested at the weight, with more power.

“Everybody knows he’s a power puncher, he can box and move as everybody saw against Bernard Hopkins but he can get hit, but can Ward make him miss and can Ward’s body take the punishment Kovalev’s going to dish out? Or can Kovalev take the smarts and slickness of Ward?

“This fight is a toss-up on who will win. I would go with Kovalev simply because of the layoffs and what I’ve been seeing in the past fights for Ward and the guys he’s been picking to get ready for Kovalev. If pushed I would say Kovalev by late stoppage.”

Interestingly, Boone doesn’t believe either to be the best talent he’s faced, bestowing that honor to snake-bitten junior middleweight Anthony Thompson.

“He was real good, he didn’t punch very hard but he did everything almost right, he was the total package,” reminisced Boone. “I fought this guy, I fought that guy, I’ve been in camp with this guy and that guy, I can gauge where that guy’s talent was at.”

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at