By Tom Donelson (BWAA)
Author, Member Boxing Writers Association of America
Contributor to dmboxing.com since 2008
Andre Ward eked out a controversial victory over Sergey Kovalev in a close fight but a fight that many at ringside felt he lost. I personally had the fight 115-112 in favor of Kovalev but it is not a robbery that Ward won but you can make the case it was a stretch as Judges gave the benefit of doubt to Ward in many of the close rounds.
Ward problem was two -old, the first being that he has not been as active as Kovalev and he was moving up in weight and the second that became obvious over the the first two rounds; he couldn’t match Kovalev in power as Kovalev piston like jab kept Ward off balanced and Ward had difficulty penetrating Kovalev’s defenses. A straight right in the second round sent Ward down and he was down three points after the first two rounds.
Ward changed strategy as he decided to turn the fight into the brawl and get inside the Russian’s left jab that was blistering him. Ward turn the fight into a brutal ugly affair as he pounded the body but Kovalev never lost his poised in the fight.
Kovalev controlled the real estate most of the first half of the fight; his jab added to Ward’s difficulty as he connected with good shots catching Ward at the in between range where Ward tried to come inside.
As the fight progressed, Ward started to win the real estate battle as he consistently got inside against Kovalev. Kovalev jab started to lose some of its efficacy as Ward turned this fight into a close bout with many rounds close. While Ward fought a much better second half, it was not as if Kovalev folded as he showed his power throughout the bout and there were moments, that he shifted the momentum in his favorite. He landed many solid blows that scored in the ring but not necessarily on judges’ card.
As Compubox showed, Ward was slightly more accurate at 34% but Kovalev landed 10 more punches over 12 rounds and threw 130 more punches It could easily be argued that Kovalev was the more powerful puncher as the welts on Ward’s face showed. There were too many rounds that one or two punches made the difference and the judges gave most of those close rounds to Ward.
Ward looked slower and got hit rather easily by Kovalev, who showed to be a good boxing technician. Kovalev didn’t press his advantages early and allowed Ward back into the fight. As for the fight itself, it was good fight between two elite boxers; undefeated fighters close to their peak. And a rematch would be good for the sport.