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.
By earning this stoppage victory, Ward put a definitive end to his rivalry with Kovalev in their highly-anticipated rematch.
1. No Excuses. Hmm… More Like All Excuses
Throughout the build up to Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev 2: “The Rematch,” the fight had been labeled as “No Excuses.” Unfortunately, we may have a situation now in which Kovalev’s team has more excuses than ever before.
In the aftermath of this fight, the excuses from Kovalev’s team seem to be endless.
Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events and the promotor for Kovalev, took to the podium at the post-fight press conference to address the media and immediately stated her distain for the fight’s officiating, saying that Ward won the fight off of an obvious low blow.
“If you look at the instant replay, which the commission refused to look at tonight, you see the back of Surgey’s cup going up, one, two, three times. I have never seen someone knocked out on a low blow until tonight and I have to say I hope I never have to see it again,” said Duva.
The media room actually began to boo Duva, as to express a level of aggravation that the excuses somehow continued and Ward received no credit whatsoever for his victory from Kovalev’s team.
That was enough for Duva and she absolutely lost it. Duva let the excuses and insults fly, scolding the media as if they were children.
“Stop shouting! Are you journalists? Then shut up!”
In my previous interactions with Duva, I have found her to be professional, humble and passionate about her fighters. On Saturday night however, she lost her cool and flooded the arena with excuse after excuse, without providing a single ounce of credit to Ward’s intelligent performance.
Kovalev took a milder approach to his delivery, but provided the same list of excuses as Duva and again with no credit given to Ward at all.
“What happened, has happened, he is really lucky you know; Son of Judges.”
“He didn’t hurt me, no… He punched me [with] low blows during the fight and I don’t have metal balls,” said a disappointed Kovalev.
When asked if Ward was the best fighter he has ever faced, Kovalev responded by saying “If [you mean] a dirty fighter? Yes, [then] he is the best.”
Ward responded to the excuses with great composure. “Tonight there is no discussion about nothing, we did this tonight; and the right hand is really what got it started. You can’t dispute that,” said Ward.
2. It’s Boxing, Anything Can Happen
The co-main event fight between Guillermo Rigondeaux and interim titlist and mandatory challenger, Moises Flores, resulted in a very strange first-round stoppage on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The round began with Flores using an active jab and Rigondeaux moving and throwing counter punches. The first round continued in that fashion until the final seconds when Rigondeaux landed two left uppercuts but noticeably his right hand was wrapped over Flores’ neck.
This took an even weirder turn as referee Vic Drakulich went to break them at the bell right as Rigondeaux fired a left hand that nailed Flores on the chin, observably after the bell.
The two fighters were both in the middle of exchanging and they had been throwing punches simultaneously and the occurrence appeared unintentional.
As Drakulich persisted to break them, he turned toward Rigondeaux to usher him back to his corner, meanwhile Flores fell to the mat flat on his back. When Drakulich turned around, he found Flores on the mat and counted him out.
Flores was down for a couple of minutes in which he received immediate medical attention before eventually returning to his corner.
After the fight, Drakulich watched the replay, however, without audio, and somehow determined that the punch was legal and ruled it a knockout, despite the replay with audio showing that the final shot was thrown after the bell.
Bob Bennett, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told HBO that if the punch was after the bell, the commission would review the decision. Bennett further explained that if it was after the bell sounded, Rigondeaux would be disqualified.
It seems likely that the decision of a KO victory for Rigondeaux, in the coming days, could be changed to a disqualification for Rigondeaux with a no contest result rather than a victory.
Post-fight Rigondeaux told HBO’s Max Kellerman through a translator, “We both threw punches at the same time and mine landed first.. [But] it was only a matter of time [until the knockout happened].”
Strangely enough; as odd and controversial as it was, this debacle feels like Rigondeaux’s most exciting fight to date.
3. Andre Ward is the Best Pound-for-Pound Fighter in the World
Andre Ward remains undefeated in his 32 professional fights, he is an Olympic gold medalist and he has astonishingly not lost a single fight since he was 12 years old.
Ward has been a one of best American fighters of this decade, but he has now proven to himself to the world by finally solidifying himself as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing.
Speaking to HBO after the fight, Ward said, “Let me ask you the question: Can I get on the pound-for-pound list now? At the top?”
“I don’t think it’ll be possible to keep you out of the No. 1 ranking, because of who you did it against,” said HBO’s Max Kellerman.
“I think you are the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world tonight,” said Kellerman.
Post-fight, during the media press conference, Ward was asked how it felt to be the pound-for-pound best.
“Man I don’t know? Am I? We just got to see. If I am at the top of that list, I am thankful and I am blessed. If not, I got to keep my head down and keep pushing, but if I am, thank you,” said Ward.
Ward responded modestly while holding his hands to the sky as if he was praying.
Andre “SOG” Ward, you are officially the best pound-for-pound boxer in the entire world. Enjoy.