Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev: Let’s do it again
LAS VEGAS – Andre Ward had his hand raised in victory but, in a sense, everyone was a winner here on Saturday night.
Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev was the matchup of the year, two of the very best fighters in the world doing battle on the biggest stage. That doesn’t happen often. And, in what seems like a rarity these days, the fight lived up to its billing.
Ward rallied after a second-round knockdown to win a close decision, claim three light heavyweight titles and reach the pinnacle of his career after years of frustrating inactivity.
Kovalev came up just short on the cards – all three judges had it 114-113 for Ward, as I did – and he was devastated. He had no doubt that he deserved the victory. “Look at his (bruised) face, look at mine; tell me who won,” he said immediately afterward.
At the same time, he demonstrated that he could match wits and punches with one of the most gifted boxers of this generation. He lost on the cards but he won in terms of how he’s perceived, which will be a boon to his career going forward.
And if anyone ever earned a rematch, the Russian did in this fight. Let’s hope that they do it again as soon as possible. A second meeting will be a lot bigger than the first, meaning everyone involved will benefit financially.
And, finally, the 13,310 fans at T-Mobile Arena – and presumably those worldwide – got their money’s worth. The arena was still buzzing long after the result was announced, which is how it’s supposed to be after a big fight.
The decision didn’t sit well with many of those on hand, which was predictable: At least half the rounds could’ve gone either way.
Ward (31-0, 15 knockouts) went down from a straight right in the second round, a shocking moment for those who have followed the 2004 Olympic gold medalist’s career. It was only the second time he’d been down. He got up smiling, though, perhaps as embarrassed as he was hurt, but one had to wonder whether he was in real trouble.
As it turned it, he was just in a real fight.
And it didn’t matter where they stood in relation to one another. The infighting was brutal but inconclusive, or so it seemed. And from outside they appeared to land single punches tit-for-tat, although not many landed at all and really none did damage. Kovalev outlanded Ward only 126 (of 474 punches overall) to 116 (of 337), meaning they landed only around 10 punches each per round.
I thought Ward became more and more comfortable and did better work as the fight progressed, which was reflected in the official scorecards: Ward won the last six rounds on two cards, five on the third.
That said, I think most people will agree that the fight was very difficult to score, which left everyone completely in the dark as to how the judges might score it. There were cheers when it was finally announced, as the crowd – which chanted Ward’s nickname “S.O.G! S.O.G.! S.O.G” numerous times during the fight – was clearly in the winner’s corner.
However, I imagine even they wouldn’t have been crushed had their man ended up on the other side of the decision. That’s how intense, how compelling, how competitive this memorable fight was.
“I would love every win, every fight to be a shutout,” Ward said. “… You have to win fights like this sometimes. It was a tough victory over a tough guy who people thought was going to knock me out.
“I got up from the canvas and got stronger. I’m happy with the victory tonight.”
Those who care about the sport also have to be happy. Boxing, which seems to swim upstream all too often, had one of its better nights in recent memory.
And, again, hopefully this is only the beginning. Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, said emphatically that the fight contract contained a rematch clause and she plans to exercise it. I would hope that Ward would acknowledge that Kovalev earned a second fight; he obviously did.
The thought of a second fight – and maybe a third – is very appealing. Kovalev deserves it, boxing fans deserve it.