For months boxing fans have heard that the next super fight in the making was Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but in typical boxing fashion, the fight has yet to be made. In the meantime, we truly have a fight matching two fighters at the top of their game. Both Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev are world class fighters that don’t have the marketing personalities of Golovkin or Alvarez yet they are just as good, if not, better boxers than both of them.
To the casual fan, Kovalev is best known for being the boxer who ended Bernard Hopkins incredible streak of being able to beat Father Time. In the Hopkins fight, Kovalev dominated the living legend including putting him down in the first round. Most ringside observers have Kovalev winning every round. The official scorecards were 120-106 and 120-107 (twice) all for Kovalev.
After the Hopkins victory, Kovalev defeated Jean Pascal twice, knocked out Nadjib Mohammedi and beat Isaac Chilemba by unanimous decision. With the exception of Pascal, most weren’t household names despite the fact that Mohammedi has been on television enough to be known. That leaves fans with the uneasy feeling of not truly knowing if Kovalev is for real or is he a fighter who has defeated bad opponents, B level fighters (Pascal) and an aging legend (Hopkins)?
Andre Ward is more of an known entity. He won the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. On his resume, he has wins over Edison Miranda, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and Chad Dawson. All are fighters that most fans are familiar with.
What has hurt Ward the most is inactivity. He was involved in a lengthy dispute over his promotional contract with Dan Goossen and had shoulder surgery after his victory over Dawson. Ward has only fought five times since 2012 and that includes two fights this year.
Just like a lot of super fights before this one, styles makes fight. You have you classic boxer (Ward) versus puncher (Kovalev) scenario but will it unfold in an exciting manner? Boxing fans had a similar scenario when Floyd Mayweather Jr. faced off against Manny Pacquiao but Pacquiao’s inability to cut off the ring meant Mayweather dictated the pace and the fight fell flat on its face with most casual fans.
This fight doesn’t shape up in the same manner. Kovalev faced a master strategist in Hopkins and, albeit Hopkins was past his prime, Kovalev was able to do more than just bully his way to the win. When he was called to be patient he was patient. When the situation to attack presented itself, he attacked. Kovalev isn’t your typical ‘bull in a China shop’ type of fighter. He is a hard puncher but he’s not given enough credit for his boxing IQ.
Ward’s reputation as a smart, high IQ fighter has been cemented. His combination of speed and power has given all in front of him problems. When you add that to the fact that he’s so technically superior over most of his opponents, some don’t appreciate just how good Ward is. Unlike Mayweather Jr., Ward doesn’t get the “boring” label even though both “collect data” during the fight making the late rounds their canvas to dominate.
Keys For Kovalev
- Stay Patient – Just like the Hopkins fight, Kovalev needs to stay patient especially early on. There’s a huge difference between patience and hesitance. If Kovalev stays patient, he will find openings.
- Body Snatching – You can say this about any boxer but it’s especially important for Kovalev to put in body work early on in the fight. He has a reputation of being somewhat of a head hunter but being one dimensional will not help him in this fight. Andre Ward isn’t Jean Pascal.
- Cut Off the Ring – Following Ward would allow him to dictate pace, something Kovalev doesn’t want. Cutting off angles on Ward will force him to engage even when he doesn’t want to. It will also force Ward to spend more time in a defensive posture. This could help Kovalev win close rounds.
Keys For Ward
- Scoring Jab – Ward has one of the best scoring jabs in the business, just ask Carl Froch. Ward can dictate to his opponent, when and where to engage, when he throws clean and effective jabs. Keeping Kovalev at a proper distance is something he will need to do. His jab will be the key to that.
- Mix Attack – In has last fight, Ward switched from orthodox to southpaw quite a bit giving Alexander Brand a lot to think about. When you’re thinking in the ring, you’re not punching. If Kovalev doesn’t have sustained attacks, it makes it nearly impossible for him to be Ward.
- Deep Waters – Kovalev has gone 12 rounds twice including his last fight. Ward might want to try and take this fight deep especially if he’s been able to dictate the pace throughout the fight. If Kovalev is behind on the scorecards, will he have enough to chase Ward down? If Kovalev is up on the scorecards, will he have enough to keep Ward off him?
This fight will provide the fans what they wanted to see out of Mayweather Jr.-Pacquiao. You will see action and big punches will find their home. Kovalev has more power while Ward has more speed and a varying attack. Both fighters will get hurt/stunned in this fight.
Kovalev will win the early rounds while Ward will win the middle rounds. Kovalev’s effective pressure will be the difference. He will be able to work around Ward’s jab and will be smart enough to stay on top of Ward when need be. This will be a close fight but Kovalev will be the better fighter rounds 10-12
Kovalev by Split Decision