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Andre Ward deserves credit this time: Weekend Review

Photo / @HBOboxing
18
Jun

A stunning knockout to fill a vacant RING championship and determine the best fighter pound for pound. A crazy ending to the co-feature on the same card. A night on which a respected state commission was far from its best.

Saturday certainly provided some interesting moments.

Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers over the weekend.

BIGGEST WINNER

Andre Ward: The ending was far from ideal.

The final blow or two bordered on low at the very least, which isn’t how any fight should end. And I thought referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight too soon, which deprived Andre Ward and the fans of a more conclusive knockout of Sergey Kovalev on an entertaining Saturday night in Las Vegas.

The writing was on the wall, though.

Kovalev was hurt badly before the final punches landed, the result of a perfect right hand that rocked him midway through the eighth and final round and earlier body shots that seemed to sap Kovalev’s strength and perhaps take his will to fight. The Russian was in bad shape.

I think Kovalev probably could’ve continued but there was no point: Ward had taken firm control of the fight and Kovalev’s demise seemed imminent. Weeks probably saved Krusher from unnecessary punishment when he waved off the fight.

Stunning, just stunning.

Ward is 33, past his prime. He hadn’t knocked out anyone since 2015, a ninth-round TKO of overmatched Paul Smith in his debut at 175 pounds and first fight after a long hiatus from the sport. His days of spectacular victories seemed to be behind him.

And then this. He broke down and then stopped the No. 2 fighter in the world pound for pound – who also was perceived as the bigger man and a much harder puncher – to win the vacant RING light heavyweight championship and become the RING’s No. 1 fighter in the world pound for pound.

It is arguably the greatest victory in Ward’s career at a time when that didn’t seem possible. He certainly deserves the credit that eluded him after his controversial victory over Kovalev in their first fight, a unanimous decision in November.

Indeed, if there was any doubt about whether Ward (32-0, 16 knockouts) is a future Hall of Famer, there certainly isn’t now.

 

BIGGEST LOSER

Sergey Kovalev: Kovalev and his team have the right to gripe. The punches in question were at best borderline low blows.

The reality is that those shots were inconsequential. Kovalev seemed to tire as early as the fifth or sixth round, probably in part because of the body shots Ward was able to land consistently. And it was that big, clean right midway through the eighth round that initiated his swift downfall.

Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) would never admit it but he was a beaten fighter before those final punches. Ward was the better man.

That said, one clear defeat doesn’t leave Kovalev in a dire situation. Remember, he fought the best fighter in the world on even terms for seven-plus rounds. He was initiating the action, he was landing more punches than Ward, although Ward’s were cleaner.

Two judges had Ward leading after seven rounds 67-66 while the third had it 68-65 for Kovalev. I had it 67-66 for Ward. Close fight.

Kovalev obviously remains an elite fighter with plenty of options even if he’ll have to do some rebuilding. I doubt he’ll fight Ward again any time soon even though his promoter said she’s planning to protest the result, based on the low blows.

There are others in a solid division. Adonis Stevenson (if Ward doesn’t fight him)? Artur Beterbiev? The winner of Joe Smith Jr.-Sullivan Barrera? These are just a few of the opponents against whom Kovalev should – and probably will – get back to where he belongs: in the win column.

 

BIGGEST LOSER II

Nevada State Athletic Commission: The commission had one of its worst nights in recent memory.

First came the crazy ending of the Guillermo Rigondeaux-Moises Flores fight, which preceded Ward-Kovalev.  Rigondeaux threw the punch that knocked out Flores after the bell to end the first round, yet the NSAC ruled it a legal punch and awarded Rigondeaux a victory after about five minutes of discussion.

The decision evidently was based in part on the opinion of an HBO producer who had access to the video and audio, as unbelievable as that seems.

Then, a short time after the ruling was made, NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett watched a replay while being interviewed on HBO and realized that a mistake had been made. To his credit, he said Rigondeaux would be disqualified if further review determined that the punch was thrown after the bell.

The problem with that statement was that the most reasonable ruling might’ve been a no-decision, the result of an accidental foul.

In the end, the commission got it right. Officials reviewed the video and determined the punch was indeed thrown after the bell, ruled it accidental and indicated that they would recommend that the commission chairman change the result to no-decision.

That was a wild ride.

And then there was the main event. Weeks decided that the punches near or below Kovalev’s belt line were not low enough to be ruled fouls, including one or two during the final flurry.

Some say he screwed up, especially on the last punch of the fight. Think about it: If he had ruled that shot low, Kovalev would’ve received as much as five minutes to recover. That might’ve been enough time for him to regain his strength and get back into the fight, although that’s speculation.

I’m not saying I would’ve ruled it that way – I think there was enough doubt to let it go – but one could argue that Weeks made a mistake.

I believe Weeks also stopped the fight too soon. He could argue that Kovalev, doubled up against the ropes, was badly hurt and not defending himself at the time of stoppage. I don’t think he was in danger of serious injury, though. I would’ve let it play out at least a few seconds longer.

All in all, the NSAC officials will have a lot to talk about on Monday.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Ward expressed some grandiose plans after his victory, including a possible move up to cruiserweight or possibly heavyweight. He wouldn’t even dismiss the name Anthony Joshua when it was mentioned. That was just talk amid the joy of victory. I’m guessing he’ll stay right where he is for the time being. I’d love to see him fight Stevenson, which would make for entertaining promotion and generate a lot of money, but I question the Canadian’s will to fight another top light heavyweight. There are other intriguing possibilities out there but none would be as compelling as Ward-Stevenson. It will be interesting to see how Ward and his handlers play their hand. … I find it interesting that so many are certain that Flores (25-1, 17 KOs) faked the knockout against Rigondeaux (18-0, 12 KOs). It’s possible. He wouldn’t be the first boxer to use his acting skills in an attempt to claim a DQ victory. But Rigondeaux landed a hard punch, one that would hurt most fighters. I, too, wonder whether it was enough to flatten Flores but no one except the Mexican knows with certainty. … I won’t shed tears if Rigoneaux is DQ’d. The final blow was set up by the Cuban holding Flores behind the head and punching him — a brazen, blatant foul. And the knockout blow was initiated after the bell. I don’t see how one can argue otherwise. …

Light heavyweight contender Dmitry Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs) fought a pushover in Cedric Agnew (29-3, 15 KOs) on the Ward-Kovalev card but it wasn’t difficult to see that the Russian has a bright future. Bivol toyed with the reluctant Agnew before stopping him in the fourth round, displaying a wide range of skills in the process. Can’t wait for him to face a legitimate opponent. … Luis Arias (18-0, 9 KOs) looked like a solid middleweight contender on the Ward-Kovalev card, stopping Arif Magomedov (18-2, 11 KOs) in five rounds. Magomedov, a Russian based in Los Angeles, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. … Junior welterweight Fidel Maldonado Jr. (24-3-1, 19 KOs) improved his hopes of climbing into title contention by defeating veteran Pablo Cesar Cano (30-6-1, 21 KOs) by a split decision Saturday in Frisco, Texas. I thought Cano might’ve turned the tide in his favor when he put Maldonado down in the fourth round but the Albuquerque fighter overcame that obstacle. Maldonado is 5-0-1 since he was stopped by Amir Imam in 2015. Cano had high hopes after coming off a victory over Mauricio Herrera.

  • Turner Wednesday
    • DougWilsonFan

      He needs the WBC to be unified. And about 50 lbs to be heavyweight. Where did that screenshot come from?

      • Doob13Ashstray

        Unified is holding more than one belt. Holding all of them makes you Undisputed.

      • Turner Wednesday

        HBO.

        And to be unified, you only need 2 belts. All of them makes you undisputed.

  • Charlie U.

    Sergey is not complaining about the low blows, Kathy Duva is. He’s upset about the early stoppage. Sergey knows that the borderline low blows were largely inconsequential. He was beaten and he knows it, even though he’ll never admit it.

    • Raymond Strang

      You cant say the low blows were inconsequential. Kovalev will probably be urinating blood for days where those punches landed. I cant imagine it is too easy fighting Ward fully fit so how on earth is the guy to cope with his lower gut in agony. He got hit a low blow-complained to the Ref (who did nothing)- then gets whammed by the big right – game over at that point regardless of further low blows.

      • Giuseppe

        Kov also complained and overacted about a body shot he was hit with earlier, that was completely legit. He clearly made a decision to try and make mor eof it and it backfired. Should have just concentrated on fighting Ward. It;s a FIGHT. Punch him in the balls, too! Kov was going in with his head and rabbit punching all night. I think he even smashed up his own face because of his ‘head work’. The low blows aren;t the story of this fight, Kovalev’s mental weakness is. He crumbled. In his last three fights, including the Chilemba one here, he has looked uncomfortable when he doesnt dominate.

      • Donald Williams

        Sore loser. Kovalev quit

    • Chris Stans

      His fans and wards detractors will never admit it either

      • ceylon mooney

        im a fan and i admit it. im a bigger ward fan tho, and im happy to admit
        that kovalev clearly won the first fight.

        • Chris the trite

          Yeah I agree about that. I’m not a fan of either guy that much but I think that Ward does get deprived of credit. I loath his style but he did break Kov down this time (low blows not included)

        • David Stubbs

          I thought Kov won the first fight but I wasn’t unhappy with the decision b/c I saw that the fight could have gone either way. To say clearly he won when he did not means you thought the outcome was a robbery. That was no robbery.

          • ceylon mooney

            robbery? yea. not as bad as gonzales beating the crap out of the thai terminator but bad enough.

            those scores showed at least 2 of the judgements were rigged. in fact, 2 decisions on that fight card were
            rigged–hookers wide loss to perez was fraudulently scored a draw, but u could see that comin a mile away. i was truly surprised by the judging being rigged in favor of ward. giving EVERY close round to one fighter is a measurable bias.

    • Giuseppe

      That’s right. He didn;t pick up the protest line until Max Kellerman tried to amp the narrative. All the talk of the low blows in the finishing sequence (two punches out of about 20) take away the great work that started with Ward’s thudding right hand… then looming over Kov as he reeled about the ring going to head, body, head… Kovalev GRIMACING like his lifeforce was flooding out of his arse… retreated to the ropes, Ward landing to the head and three body shots. the first one – perfectly leagl, on the belt — the next two low, on Kovs bladder (not his cock as seems to be the story), mainly because he was folded in hald, sitting on the ropes.

      Kov didn’t end Ward’s career. Ward, who looked brilliant in Round 8, ended Kov’s aura as a badass.

      • Turner Wednesday

        “not his cock as seems to be the story”

        This line made my day :). Thank you.

  • Guy Grundy

    Doug’s mailbag in the morning should be white hot…..

    • disqus_EewaFe3EB6

      It’s gonna be white, that’s for sure

  • Abraham E. Hernández

    No crusier let alone heavyweight move please. He isn’t big enough to KO low tier LHWs. Any decent crusierweight would murder him.

    • Jay

      Even though he ko the 2nd best LHW last night lol!!!!

      • Abraham E. Hernández

        My favorite CW (Crazy ass Usyk) would decapitate him worse than Ser Ilyn Payne chopped Ned Stark’s head off.

        • ceylon mooney

          uh uh

          my favorite CW too tho

    • Pete

      Ward v Bellew at Cruiserweight for Bellew’s WBC title? How do you see that going?

      • Abraham E. Hernández

        Now that you say it, it would be a nice matchup. Ward by UD since he is the far better boxer…but weight disadvntage is too much so it’s nice.

      • ceylon mooney

        in 18 months after 2
        warmups at cruiserweight, ward winning comfortably

        buuut…hes too old to move up to 200 and be the success heda
        been if he did this at 26 or 27.

        • Giuseppe

          i’d say its not worth moving up to have bellew on his resume. even given the weight diff, i wouldnt be that impressed! He should unify against stevenson if that deal is politically possible and maybe retire. what a craeer that would be. Best SMW of his generation and unified LH champ. hard to carry on after that. Unless he met GGG at a catchweight for the final fight of his career,

          • Tramadol Jack

            Not a huge fan of Wards but if that scenario came to fruition then he would truly be an ATG.

          • ceylon mooney

            hmn…i think stevenson has a better chance of fuckin ward up that kov did, but i dont see stevenson takin the fight.

            man i stopped givin a damn about kovalev-ward ages ago. if it
            got made id be thrilled, but…hmn…part
            of me wants to say golovkin has no chance of winning. i cant really say that with any conviction, but its thenfirst thing comes
            to mind.

          • Giuseppe

            as much as i don’t want to say / write it out loud… i half-suspect GGG has lost his mojo. i really hope i’m wrong. but when the lustre is gone… does it come back?

          • ceylon mooney

            yea i hope not.

            i think it can but not very often. lotta careers get a
            second wind.

          • Pete

            Stevenson is a strange one. He was Froch’s mandatory for ages, but that never happened and now he is in danger of never facing Ward or Kovalev.

            Ward v Stevenson needs to be made, but for whatever reason it sounds like it’s not going to happen. The guy is pushing 40 yrs of age and he still hasn’t had a career defining fight against an elite opponent.

          • ceylon mooney

            how big a deal was
            stevenson-dawson?

          • Pete

            Yeah, that’s probably his defining fight, if you can call that a fight. One punch, caught cold, but that’s prob his best win.

          • Pete

            I know what you mean. Bellew isn’t exactly the best name for someone like Ward, but Bellew is the most well known title holder at 200lbs… and he will sell the fight.

          • Keano

            I’d like to see the fight but Bellew isn’t champion anymore he’s champ in recess, Briedis has the belt

          • Pete

            So he does. Then maybe Ward should just go for broke and fight at heavyweight cos there’s nothing worth doing at cruiser.

      • Giuseppe

        Ward is seven times the boxer of Bellew, so it will all be about if Ward can handle the size difference. I say a wide UD for Ward.

        • Orca

          I’d go with Ward in that matchup too.

        • Pete

          It’s possible, but Ward v Bellew is the only viable fight at cruiserweight or even heavyweight. I think that would be a great test for Ward and Bellew is a big enough name.

          Beat Bellew then it gets interesting. I think Ward jumping straight in with AJ is suicidal.

        • Turner Wednesday

          But Bellew would be boxing to get home to his kids, which he rarely mentions. Worth noting.

  • J rock

    Biggest Loser is Dougie. How often can you get fight picks wrong before your credibility as an analyst is in question? Dude is like 0-9.

    • ceylon mooney

      teddy atlas is 0-99

    • Nixtradamus

      Dougie Fischer is currently under heavy sedation at Mount Sinai Hospital in Las Vegas, where he was admitted right after the fight, suffering from anal palpitations. He’s a broken man.

  • Orca

    Ward was very impressive for the most part. The low blows were unfortunate and, as one of boxing elites, he didn’t need to throw them. I had Kov in front by 2 points at the time of stoppage but I had no real doubt that this was Wards night. Kovalev was disappointing. The stoppage was strange and premature but even if Kov made it out the round, Ward had his number. No question he was the better man on Saturday night. I don’t have him as p4p1 but he’s in the mix for that spot. The man needs to clean up his game and fight more often.

  • Baron Kazama

    this fight is one of the reasons why people stop watching boxing and why this sport is going down

  • David Telfer

    “I think Kovalev probably could’ve continued but there was no point: Ward had taken firm control of the fight and Kovalev’s demise seemed imminent. Weeks probably saved Krusher from unnecessary punishment when he waved off the fight.”

    What complete bullshit. So because a figher gets hurt there’s no point of ever continuing a fight? So when Ward got dropped in the second round of the first fight the ref should’ve just called it?

    He hadn’t taken firm control of the fight. The fight was nip and tuck.

    • Jorge

      I kind of agree with you but this is the same ref who stopped Castillo v Corrales. And Corrales had just been dropped twice. i think that’s a better example

      • Reggie Woodard

        I’ve always wondered if JLC could’ve continued. Those were violent shots his was being caught with and his eyes rolled back and he appeared frozen. What did you think?

  • TMT LONDON-DA REAL OLA ODUSINA

    Indeed, if there was any doubt about whether Ward (32-0, 16 knockouts) is a future Hall of Famer, there certainly isn’t now.

    Michael you are wrong here.

    I know if it came down to it before this fight you would have put Canelo and ggg in the HOF before ward but me like other SOG fans had him in there when he cleared out the SMW division.

    Ward is the P4P NUMBER 1 fighter. Lol
    Anyone that doubted him take a seat and stay in your lane.

  • Stan Ables

    Wonder if the racism charges against Kovalev that were hurled at Kovalev by team Ward before the fight had any bearing on the black referee Tony Weeks unjust decision in stopping the bout in favor of Ward when the opportunity presented itself. Face it we live in a racially charged political correct fascism society that can and does feed over into the sport of boxing.

  • Harry

    I’ve never held Kovalev and Ward as top P4P fighters. As for Kovalev I would not have him even in the top 10 of the P4P list and Ward is just an insecure bastard who cannot beat any good fighter cleanly. He was clearly to be DQ-ed for his repeated headbutting of Kessler instead of having his hand raised. Kovalev’s best wins are against slow Cleverly who does not have power, a former 168-lb short-handed fighter in Pascal and a 49-year-old former MW Bernard. And the fact that Ward could not beat this prick clean already shows how limited he is. I am not trolling. Kovalev turned pro after he was beaten by Beterbiev, koed by Abbos Atoev and realized he did not have enough skills to win anything in amateur ranks. By the way, Ward was beaten badly by Utribek Haydarov in the Olympic quarter-finals. That Uzbek fighter dropped him three times, but the ref ruled it a slip despite the fact that slow reviews clearly indicated that these were clear KDs (in headgear!). Already then he was the Son of Judges. He could not beat Kessler legally; that’s why he headbutted him repeatedly, but instead of being disqualified he had his hand raised. In the Kovalev rematch he resorted to dirty tactics again, despite Kovalev being a very flawed boxer on the whole. My Top P4P list can be flawed, but it is more or less fair: 1. Loma, 2. GGG, 3. Crawford, 4. Joshua, 5. Gonzalez, 6. Ward, 7. Canelo, 8. Yamanaka, 9. Inoue, 10. Beterbiev (he’s the future of LHW).

  • John Grady

    The ending was extremely unfortunate, but SK had already exhausted his second wind and was noticeably hurt. AW had turned the tide of a competitive fight, with his investment in body punches cashing in during the last round. The ending took away from a great and career-defining moment for AW, but I think in time this will be more and more an afterthought.

  • I think Kovalev gives a fair and true description of how he saw the ending. He admits he was tired but the referee stopping the fight was´nt the first thing that sprung to his mind after being punched low. The referee did not threat neither Kovalev or Ward fair. Ward was robbed from the chance to impress and Kovalev was robbed of the chance to recover from low blows.

  • Donald Walton

    That very first right hand that stunned SK was awesome! And a classic moment in Boxing History. Wow! WARD KO,s KOVALEV!!!

  • The Parrfection

    After Joshua’s victory over Klitschko, how silly would it be to run an article arguing that Joshua deserves credit for his win?

    And yet there seems to be a need to run such an article about Ward’s “stunning, just stunning” victory over Kovalev.

    Desperation is a stinky cologne.

  • Don Badowski

    Inconsequential? Michael, get real. What about the low blows before the 8th? I suppose they were inconsequential as well? Or Weeks not letting Kovalev get his breath back after taking those? This was a setup by Ward, and he gets no respect from me for this ball cutting farce.

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