PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This time, Andre Ward feels, will be emphatic, leaving no doubt. This time, Ward wants words like “robbery” out of the equation. This time, “S.O.G.” wants to squash all excuses.
Ward, the defending the IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion, heard all kinds of derision aimed at him after he beat Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev in a close fight last November. Ward overcame a second-round knockdown to win a 114-113 unanimous verdict on all three judge’s scorecards, winning the last six rounds on two of the three judges’ sheets.
Ward knows the mistakes he made the first time and terribly exposed Kovalev as a one-trick pony, in a sense. Granted, it’s one painful, fearful trick, but Ward is too smart to get caught again and get into any of the trouble he was in the previous fight.
Ward landed the higher percentage of total punches (34.4% to 26.6%), landed a higher percentage of jabs (32.75 to 19.8%) and a higher percentage of power shots (36.1% to 33.6%).
What was there to dispute?
So on Saturday night, at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and Kovalev (31-1-1, 26 KOs) will be doing it again.
“They have to understand, there’s nothing scary about this man,” proclaims Ward, the 2004 light heavyweight Olympic gold medalist who last lost a fight in 1996, when he was 15. “The reality is, you’ve (Kovalev) got to see me (again). That’s the reality of the situation. I love to talk, it’s all good. We knocked heads for 12 rounds, that’s the reality of the situation. He felt me, he knows. Everyone wants to highlight the knockdown, but that’s probably one of the most beautiful moments of my career. And did you guys see the other 10 rounds? Nobody’s talking about that. But that’s what makes us who we are. It’s hard concrete down there, we don’t want to fall. We’ve got another drive, we’ve got another gear we’ve got to tap into when we hit adversity and hit the cannons. You guys saw that, in the biggest moment of my career.
“I’m going to keep it short and sweet. You got what you asked for. This time leave the excuses at home.”
Kovalev, meanwhile, maintains he wasn’t his “true” self when the two fought the first time.
“I’m glad to know that rematch will happen,” Krusher said. “I really hope that Andre Ward will get into the ring for this rematch. Fans of boxing will see the real Krusher—the one they have missed for a couple of my last fights. For me this rematch is very important as no other bout in my entire boxing career. Thanks a lot to all of boxing fans.”
Ward has had to overcome prolonged contractual disputes, a shoulder injury that required surgery, and moving up to the light heavyweight division. The bout with Kovalev was just his third as a 175-pounder. Yet for the 30-seconds span in the second, Ward withstood everything in Kovalev’s arsenal in the first meeting.
“I heard the feedback, I heard what people thought and I know I won,” Ward said. “It’s why it did bother me to hear things like ‘robbery’ and ‘controversial decision’ being thrown out there after the first fight. I know what I have to do to beat this man. I know the mistakes that I made the first time won’t be made again. This time, it’s going to be different, a lot different.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America