Not without controversy, Andre Ward puts a brutal exclamation point on a heated and high-skilled tussle in the Las Vegas desert
Heading into this hotly anticipated early Summer return, both Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev were fuelled a desire of vindication.
For the champion he needed to once again produce a high level display of boxing which would shun the persistent doubters of his claim to being recognized as the sport’s best fighter. For Kovalev, he was operating in a realm which he (rightly or wrongly) felt was set up for him to fail once again, having been on a end of a decision which robbed him of his light heavyweight belt. The three American judges and the American referee were meant to be an oversight – Kovalev vowed to end Ward’s career, Ward to punish his foe for his frequent demonstrations of disrespect and bigotry.
What we ended up with was a conclusion which provided a rare blend of injustice immersed with inevitability.
In the opening there was little to split them in a chess match equivalent to a round thirteen of the first fight. Kovalev’s activity and use of the jab was preferable to some, however he was unable to hurt Ward like in the first fight and the trading of body shots worked against him.
Ward’s physical strength and durability was noticeably improved. He refused to let himself be positioned around the ring by his foe’s power punches – as was the case early on in the opening fight. Going into the middle stages of the fight, whilst Kovalev was merely trigger happy with his jab and right hand, Ward introduced a key game changer – letting his right hand go with success, a weapon seldom seen by the American in years. It landed clean and frequently on Kovalev and it eventually served as the opening sequence for the fight’s conclusion.
And said conclusion will be debated endlessly in the coming days and weeks depending on where one’s allegiance lays. The starting sequence involved a legal body shot which hurt Kovalev (despite his protests that it was low ) followed by a perfect right hand by Ward, which left Kovalev hanging on for dear life. But after a 30 second flurry by Ward in pursuit of a stoppage, the ending left hand blow which prompted referee Tony Weeks to bring a halt to proceedings was visibly below the belt line and caused Kovalev to fully bend down as natural to getting hit in that region.
Ward had been warned late in the second round for hitting below the belt and went borderline several times afterwards to Kovalev’s dismay. Weeks was in a perfect position to see and call the final shot before taking a point away from Ward. He messed up.
Kovalev at this stage of the fight cut a helpless figure inside the squared circle, petulantly protesting to Weeks and gasping for air like he did in the opening battle between these two.
Nonetheless, the claim that “Ward was on his way to a convincing victory” (used to refute claims of wrongdoing in the fight’s ending) while plausible, is effectively a non-argument as their are countless examples of spent fighters who have been able to resurge down the stretch of battles or fighters who were still penalised for fouling their way to get a stoppage. Would Jose Uzcatezgui be able to use the excuse that Andre Dirrell was fading to claim that he shouldn’t have been disqualified in their fight last month? Highly doubtful. Was it in the best interest of all involved to let the fight reach a more natural definitive conclusion? Absolutely.
But above all the most important take away from the fight is how Andre Ward managed to topple the proud mystique of the “Krusher”. For all of the pre-fight promises to “end Ward’s career”, “kick his ass”, and the excuses about overtraining, Kovalev was “out-dogged” in the fight. He should have known that Ward is a win at all costs individual who likes to bend the rules and simultaneously understand that it’s not the fighters job to enforce the rules.
When a fighter with laudable mental toughness finds himself in that situation he takes matters into his own hands and strikes back – Kovalev didn’t. He assumed the role of the proverbial flat track bully and was found wanting by one of the toughest fighters in the game. He may feel upset about the ending but the seemingly impenetrable aura of the Krusher crumbled in the public eye last night for everyone to see. He faces a long road back to the heights he scaled in the space of 5 years. On the flipside, once again we saw how Andre Ward’s demonstration of will instead of skill places him in an elite tier that Kovalev simply can’t get to. His bite proved to be much more powerful than Kovalev’s bark.
When One Man’s Bite Trumps Another Man’s Bark – The Aftermath of Ward Kovalev II was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.