PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This time, there came finality. It’s what Andre Ward had intended to do when the contract was signed for the light heavyweight title rematch with Sergey Kovalev, who many thought won their first fight last November.
On Saturday night before 10,592 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Ward erased any possibility of controversy or uncertainty when he stopped Kovalev at 2:29 of the eighth round to retain the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization light heavyweight titles.
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) was ahead on judges Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti’s scorecards, who each had it 67-66 for Ward, while Steve Weisfeld scored it 68-65 for Kovalev at the time referee Tony Weeks ended the fight, with Kovalev bent over in a corner and Ward chopping away at his tender midsection.
What started Kovalev’s demise was a heavy, overhand right that nailed the Russian on the jaw, leaving him wobbly. Ward then closed in and began landing punishing body shots. Kovalev retreated to a corner, and Ward followed relentlessly whipping three left hooks. Kovalev said the punches were low, Weeks who was looking in closely felt they were not.
Regardless of the Kovalev camp trying to stir a controversy over the borderline shots, Ward was the deserved winner.
The fact is Kovalev was fading again as he did the first time when these two met (CBS Philly had it for Ward 67-66 at the time of the stoppage). According to CompuBox punch statistics, Ward landed only 80 of 238 punches (34 percent); Kovalev landed 95 of 407 (23 percent). Ward landed 53 of 144 power shots (36.8%) to Kovalev’s 50-223 (22.4%)—that was the difference.
Ward found a weakness in Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) to the body and honed in on it. In the eighth, he landed a left on Kovalev’s waistline that doubled him over.
“I’m ecstatic, I’m happy. I didn’t predict a knockout, but I said it could happen,” Ward said. “I’ve been boxing a long time and, sometimes, a lot of writers and reporters they don’t take you at your word. If you look at my career and the way I’ve gone about things, I’m pretty matter of fact. I’m pretty straightforward. I don’t say anything unless I mean it. I have a lot of respect for Kovalev.
“He is a world champion. He’s been on top for a long time. He’s a great fighter; there’s not a lot of people that elite. I’m not going to throw him under the bus even though they did a lot of different things. But I knew the temperament that I was fighting. I don’t want to call him a frontrunner, but if he’s not having his way, he’s got to dig deep. I don’t know if he had the right answers tonight. Obviously, he didn’t because the fight got stopped.”
Ward also sensed something.
“I was breathing, he was breathing, but I’m used to working tired,” Ward said. “I’m comfortable being uncomfortable; that’s how we work, that’s how we train. When I saw him put his arms on the ropes in between the rounds – I watch all that stuff – that’s trouble for him. I just needed to keep being smart.
“I think it was plain to see that I broke him mentally and physically. I’m not a person that demands respect or none of that. You don’t have to respect me and I don’t demand anything, but at a certain point and time, you got to give a person their just do. I’m 13 years in and I’ve been doing it against the best.
“What’s next? Cruiserweight? Heavyweight? I dream big. Anything is possible when you have God.
“If there are questions marks after this that has nothing to do with me. I’m going to enjoy my family, kiss my wife and we’re out.”
Of course Kovalev wants a third fight—which won’t happen and felt Ward hit him low in the eighth round.
“He hit with four low blows,” Kovalev said. “The ref didn’t call them. I felt I could have continued. This is (expletive). I could have continued. I didn’t feel the punch. This is fighting. We are boxers. Yes, he did punch me, but he didn’t hurt me. The fight should have continued.”
What Kovalev didn’t address was his mounting fatigue and the punch that started it all—a clean, crisp shot to the jaw that put him in trouble in the first place.