By Tom Donelson
Member Boxing Writers Association of America
Andre Ward faced Sergey Kovalev and like the first bout, this too ended in controversy. Going into the eighth and decisive round, this was a tight fight according to many ringside observer. (I had Kovalev up by one point but this was one of those fights with many close rounds which explains why Harold Lederman had Kovalev up by three points at the half way mark of the fight and others had it closer with Paul Malignaggi having it even.)
Kovalev took to the center of the ring in the opening rounds and used his jab to set distance and allow him to use his power shots. Both men didn’t land many punches and this was a tough one to score.
In the second round, Kovalev lands a nice right hand and his jab forced Ward off guard and kept Ward from effectively countering. Just as in the first fight, Kovalev landed the heavy punches in the early rounds and Ward moved inside to land body shots and landed one low blow that garnered a warning.
The third round saw Kovalev continuing the momentum of the previous round as he landed two effective jabs and Ward missed with a wild hook. Kovalev stalked Ward throughout the round as he landed the left jab allowing him to set the pace, and even landed a nice body combination. Ward responded off the ropes with a huge hook but this was Kovalev’s round.
Round four was Ward as he landed solid power shots and for the first time, Kovalev retreated and didn’t throw any big shots like the previous two rounds.
In between the fourth and fifth round Kovalev did a lot of huffing and puffing but Ward developed a mouse under his right eye from Kovalev’s jabbing. Kovalev landed left jabs through the fifth round, causing Ward’s nose to bleed and Kovalev showed good defensive skills as he defended against Ward’s attacks.
Round six saw both men fighting on the inside but no big blows landed which favored Kovalev since he neutralized Ward’s advantage on the inside. Kovalev jabs made it through Ward’s defense but this round saw Ward connecting with right hand and left hooks. Ward was more effective with his power shots than his jabs.
Ward landed two big body shots with both hands at the beginning of the seventh round and when Kovalev attempted a feint, he got nailed with body shots. A cut over Kovalev’s eye opened up but could easily have been due to a head butt as opposed to a punch. Ward pushed the agenda as he lands a big left hook near the end of the round.
Ward lands effective left hooks and jabs from distance at the beginning of the eighth round while Kovalev lands a body shots and tried upper cuts but Ward slipped Kovalev’s punches. Ward landed a right hand that wobbled Kovalev and from there Ward attacked with effective shots as Kovalev retreated, trying to survive. Ward landed three vicious body shots and at least one of them landed slightly below the belt, but Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight.
Kovalev landed 95 punches while Ward landed 80 but Kovalev was far less accurate in his punches, connecting on only 23% of his punches whereas Ward landed 34% of his punches. Kovalev landed double the jabs but Ward landed three more power punches and landed 37% of his power shots whereas Kovalev landed only 22%.
While there were blows that were low or close, Ward proved to be the better fighter in the end as he hurt Kovalev with a big right hand. The most intriguing aspect of the fight was that Ward was forced to be the bully in the bout whereas Kovalev was the more effective boxer. Kovalev was the more effective jabber and Ward found himself fighting on the inside against the heavy handed Russian. This was a risky strategy but Ward can take punches and did show enough defenses to avoid many of Kovalev’s big punches. This was not Ward the boxing wizard but Ward, the brawler even though Kovalev landed only one of his five punches. Kovalev’s low percentage showed that Ward did show defensive skills.
So where does Ward go from here? He is now talking cruiserweight and even heavyweight but somehow I don’t see him a heavyweight. Cruiserweight is a distinct possibility. He is the best pound for pound in boxing and he has beaten the best in both the light heavyweight and Super Middleweights. As for Kovalev, he is the second best light heavyweight and maybe a shot at Adonis Stevenson would be a logical fight since it will allow him a chance to capture a portion of the light heavyweight title.