Friday, March 24, 2023  |



Is Andre Ward in Sergey Kovalev’s head days before rematch?

Photo of Ward by Tom Hogan/Roc Nation Sports

LAS VEGAS – Roberto Duran. Sonny Liston.

Those two all-time greats, Andre Ward opined Tuesday, are on an exclusive list of men able to harness true anger in the ring. Few boxers, no matter how skilled they may be, no matter how much power they may pack, can truly fight well when emotions get the better of them.

It’s the very reason psychological warfare has been a staple of boxing since the age when John L. Sullivan reigned as heavyweight champion. The great Bernard Hopkins transformed mind games into an art. And now, it appears, Ward is in Sergey Kovalev’s head in advance of their rematch Saturday for the vacant RING light heavyweight championship.

“I want him angry; I want him steamed,” Ward, 33, said during a media round table Tuesday following his grand arrival at Mandalay Bay. “I want to be a surgeon in there…I plan on him not liking me even more after Saturday.”

If Kovalev’s fight-week mood – ornery, agitated and emotional – translates to fight night, Ward plans to use the Russian’s aggression against him. The Bay Area native said he harbors no “dislike” for Kovalev and added he’s “always tried to be careful with that.” It’s a prudent choice, given Ward’s well-crafted opinion on fighting angry (assuming the fighter who keeps everything close to the vest is being honest). That doesn’t mean Ward exactly likes Kovalev, though.

“It’s not personal; that man has a family. I hope he gets out of that ring and gets home to his kids just like I wanna get home to mine,” Ward (31-0, 15 knockouts) stated. “I don’t like a lot of his ways. I don’t agree with him – things I’ve heard, things I’ve seen, the way he treats people. But that’s not personal hate.”

Kovalev’s distaste for Ward stems from a myriad of occurrences. Chief among them is the belief that Ward received a gift decision following their November meeting. Fan sentiment favored Kovalev but it was Ward who suffered a knockdown, yet won a close unanimous decision via identical scores of 114-113.

“Krusher” resorted to calling Ward “Son of Judges,” a play on the fighter’s “Son of God” moniker. Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) continued to complain about the decision Tuesday and is hellbent on exacting revenge and bringing his belts home.

“When I see his face, I want to punch him,” Kovalev, clad in a black “Krusher” hat, said flatly. “I will get this opportunity. He knows himself that he didn’t win the fight. He’s just a guy who got a present from the judges. He is not a man; he’s just like a kid that got his belts.”

Even though Kovalev, 34, isn’t shy about his hatred for Ward, the former champion promises he won’t gun for the knockout. Doing so, he admitted, would be foolhardy and would likely work against him.

It also isn’t lost on Kovalev that Ward is trying to get into his head. It’s possible, though, that Ward already has carved out real estate in Kovalev’s cranium, if the fighter’s emotional responses Tuesday are any indication.

“They’re trying to break my mind, get me out of my focus,” he expressed. “I will smash his face and punish him for everything he said.”

The idea he was robbed in the first fight is fueling Kovalev. He wants to right wrongs. Ward just wants to prove he was the rightful winner in the first place, that he is, and always was, the better man.

“He believes everything he’s saying. He believes he was robbed. He believes it was an injustice,” said Ward, who insists he knew he would be declared the winner in the first fight, a fist raised valiantly in the air before the decision was announced. “I have to change his mind in this fight and then the physical part – the body part – will follow.

“My goal is is to make a statement; I’m here to make a statement and to remove any question marks that may be on the table.”

Ward may have already won the fight before the fight. Or maybe Ward has ignited a flame in the power-puncher that has yet to be revealed in the squared circle. Just maybe Kovalev can fight angry, too.





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




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