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Sergey Kovalev lashes out at accusations of racism and Team Ward

Photo of Kovalev by Roc Nation Sports/Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos
Fighters Network

LAS VEGAS — Sergey Kovalev was flabbergasted.

Insulted, even.

A racist? Kovalev?

The Russian has stoked racial flames twice with edgy posts on social media, but the query asking for his thoughts on charges he’s a racist seemed to confound and even enrage Kovalev during a media roundtable Tuesday following the fighter’s grand arrival at Mandalay Bay.

The first time he did so was in 2015, when Kovalev tweeted a photo of himself pointing to a T-shirt worn by a little boy where a gorilla is pictured wearing boxing gloves. The caption read: “Adonis looks great!!!!”

It was a shot across the bow at Adonis Stevenson, who at one time was in talks to fight Kovalev in a heavily anticipated bout. Kovalev later deleted the tweet after Stevenson responded, calling the tweet a shot below the belt.

Then in April, Kovalev doubled down with a cartoon posted on Twitter that depicts him having a conversation with Ward where racial epithets are bandied around.

At first Kovalev said “I don’t want to answer this question.” Pressed further, he exploded.

Photo by Khristopher Sandifer/Roc Nation Sports

“It is bulls__t, it’s a stupid question,” Kovalev, who will face Andre Ward in a rematch Saturday for the vacant RING light heavyweight championship, shouted in a thick Russian accent. “They’re trying to break my mind; get me out of my focus. I want to smash his face, punish him for everything he said. He is like a clown, he made a circus for the boxing fans.”

To illustrate that he indeed is not a racist, Kovalev pointed out that he’s trained by John David Jackson and also Don Turner. Both men are African American, and they, Kovalev says, he shows respect to.

Ward, though, is a different matter. Kovalev said he doesn’t respect him at all. He said Ward isn’t a man, but a child. For his part, Ward said “I don’t know if he’s a racist … but he has said and done things with racial overtones. Roc Nation Sports executive Michael Yormark, Ward’s promoter, was less shy and said last month that he was “disgusted” by Kovalev’s racy social media posts.

“I don’t respect his team at all because they’re rude motherf__kers,” Kovalev said. “Nobody wants to work with them.”

Jean Pascal, whom Kovalev twice stopped, also once accused Kovalev of being a racist. That charge wasn’t lost on Kovalev during Wednesday’s media session. Kovalev stopped Pascal in a competitive fight before absolutely pummeling the Canadian in the rematch.

“They are trying to break my mind any way they can,” Kovalev insisted. “I’m going to smash his face. Pascal did the same thing. They are clowns. I don’t respect his team at all. They are rude — nobody wants to work with them.

“This motivates me. (Ward is) a bad man.”

Ward is the bad man after he was on the receiving end of some racially charged language? That’s confusing to say the least.

Kovalev’s team has feigned ignorance on Kovalev’s part and at times blamed both the language barrier and the culture in Russia. Ward says Kovalev knows better.

Is Kovalev a racist? That’s unclear.

What is certain: Kovalev truly hates Ward, and not in the time-tested, build-a-fight-with-animosity sense. No, Kovalev truly wants to hurt Ward, and he’ll have his opportunity Saturday to change the narrative.


Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger