By Gleb Kuzin
A legendary performance unfolded before our eyes
After the smoke had cleared and the boxing world assessed the first fight between Kovalev and Ward, the conclusion was unambiguous: it was a close contest in which neither man did enough to proclaim himself the decisive victor. Some said the knockdown edged it for Kovalev, some pointed to Ward’s cleaner shots throughout the fight. Ultimately fans were disappointed that they did not get a definitive winner, which ultimately set the stage for the rematch. When Ward-Kovalev II was announced, fans were divided once again: some believed Kovalev would make the necessary adjustments and win conclusively (myself being one of them), some pointed to historic precedent for their argument: “the boxer always looks stronger in a rematch”. This time the boxing world demanded a clear winner.
In the first fight, the American boxing public was largely disappointed in Andre Ward’s performance. He looked mortal in comparison to his rival — something that was not expected of him, given that the boxing world had anointed Ward as Mayweather’s successor to the P4P throne. For years boxing fans had been begging for a messiah to end Mayweather’s reign, and it ultimately never happened. Even now that Mayweather has been retired for three years, no one has matched his dominant status. In the first Kovalev fight, Andre Ward was expected to ascend to the throne, but he ultimately failed. He looked human and vulnerable. He made Sergey Kovalev look competitive.
Going into the rematch, both Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward were expected to improve on their performances from the first fight, and the event definitely lived up to those expectations. By the end of round 6 the fight was dead even and both fighters looked nothing short of spectacular. Once again we were witnessing two enormous talents battling tooth and nail. But then, just 5 minutes later, Ward changed the narrative. He did something that no one expected. He knocked out The Krusher.
You can debate whether Kovalev fought the right fight, whether he stood any chance of winning the fight on the scorecards, or whether he was gassing out. You can debate Ward’s persona and the low blows and the dirty tricks. You can debate the referee’s performance, you can debate the stoppage. You can’t debate what Andre Ward did in the ring with one of the baddest men on the planet. When he caught Kovalev switching stances, he put everything he’s got into that one perfect shot. In that moment he knew everything was at stake. He seized his chance to write history and create a legend. And when he did it, every fan watching was forced to ponder: “Am I witnessing true greatness?”
You can’t debate what Andre Ward did in the ring with one of the baddest men on the planet.
In a tough fight against his bitter rival, Andre Ward managed to do what few had done before him. Mayweather may shown the world he was the best with his victory over Pacquiao, but he merely outboxed Pacquiao to earn his W. Andre Ward has done something truly exceptional. Overcoming a knockdown to win their first fight was not unprecedented, it had been done countless times. This time he outdid himself. Ward, not known for being a powerful puncher, just knocked out the second best fighter in the world.
Everyone loves to witness history in the making — boxing fans are no exception. We want titles to be unified. We want to see the crowning of undisputed champions. But we are tired of pedantic debates over which fighter deserves to be called P4P #1. Lomachenko, Crawford, Golovkin, Gonzalez — prior to last night you could make a case for any of them, but we don’t want to make a case, we want a definitive answer. We want to see one individual top them all. We want to witness true greatness, something that divides one from the rest of the best. Last night Andre Ward proved that he is that man. As of today, he is the best fighter in the world. Critics may continue to chide Ward, but 20 years from now everyone will remember the night of June 17, 2017 as a night when the boxing world witnessed true greatness.