All Photos by Mulholland HBO Boxing
On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) scored an eighth-round TKO victory against Sergey Kovalev (31-2-1, 26 KOs) to retain the WBA, IBF and WBO Light Heavyweight titles at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The fight, a scheduled 12-rounder that headlined an HBO pay-per-view telecast in the U.S., was a rematch of their November 2016 fight, which Ward won by controversial decision. Many felt that Ward was awarded a decision in a fight that Kovalev won, while others point to Ward’s success in the later rounds as proof of his victory.
In their rematch, Ward sought to erase doubts regarding the legitimacy of his first win by starting his game plan earlier than he did in the first fight, but as we will see, the way the rematch ended may leave doubt in the minds of some.
In the first round, Kovalev, a 34-year-old native of Russia, aggressively took the center of the ring while Ward alternated between traveling to his left or traveling to his right. Between exchanges, Ward used his lead hand to control distance, while on the inside he smothered much of Kovalev’s offense.
By Rounds 2 and 3, Ward began landing short, hard shots on the inside, which he did sporadically as he spent most of the rounds using lateral movement. Kovalev, ever the aggressor, landed straight left and right hands from a distance, though the aggression was thwarted by Ward’s ability to smother Kovalev on the inside before looking for more shots to the body.
Ward, a 33-year-old native of Oakland California, began to wear Kovalev down by Round 5 with a sustained attack to the body. Indeed, Kovalev was visibly tired and breathing from his mouth due to the body attack.
Kovalev maintained his aggression for the next few rounds but appeared frustrated with Ward’s movement, smothering and clinching. While Ward was successful with the cleaner and harder shots, Kovalev was more active, though mostly he punched at air or grazed by Ward’s defense.
Then, in Round 8, after a hard shot to the body that might have been low, Ward landed a hard right hand that wobbled Kovalev. Ward, smelling blood, began to punish Kovalev’s body and eventually earned the stoppage at 2:29 of Round 8.
Some of the shots that landed were low, but they were not seen by referee Tony Weeks.
At the time of the stoppage, two judges had Ward winning the fight with 2 scores of 66-67, while a third judge had the fight 68-65 for Kovalev.
According to CompuBox, Ward landed slightly more power shots than Kovalev (53 for Ward, 50 for Kovalev), while Kovalev landed significantly more jabs (27 for Ward, 45 for Kovalev) and more punches overall (80 for Ward, 95 for Kovalev).
“I’m ecstatic, I’m happy. I didn’t predict a knockout, but I said it could happen,” said Ward.
“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,” said Ward.
“I think it was plain to see that I broke him mentally and physically,” said Ward.
Kovalev, however, was not happy with the low blows and the way the fight was stopped.
“He hit with four low blows. The ref didn’t call them. I felt I could have continued. This is bullshit,” said Ward.
What did you think of the stoppage? Should Kovalev have been given time for the low blows?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Gabe Rivas has written for Round By Round Boxing since July of 2013. He studies Literature and Philosophy, tutors English, and teaches Boxing. Follow him on Instagram and on Twitter @GabeRivas03.