Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
On Saturday, November 19, 2016, Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) became the unified WBA, WBO and IBF Light Heavyweight champion after defeating Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) by unanimous decision at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The 12-round fight headlined a four-fight telecast on HBO PPV.
The fight was billed as “Pound for Pound,” signifying that the winner would be recognized as the best fighter in the world. However, it did not happen without its share of controversy.
Kovalev, after winning the WBO crown against Nathan Cleverly in 2011, had destroyed everyone in his path in the Light Heavyweight division, earning two more titles and wins over the likes of Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins.
Ward, after a two-year layoff, had recently moved up to Light Heavyweight, and fought the likes of Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand before taking the biggest challenge of his career.
After Floyd Mayweather retired about a year ago, many boxing journalists felt that Kovalev and Ward were amongst the top five boxers in the world in any division. The fight was supposed to determine the best, but for the judges, it was too close to call.
In the first round, both men felt each other out behind a low jab from Ward and a long jab from Kovalev.
In the second round, however, things took a sudden turn for the worse for Ward as he was floored by a right hand as he was coming forward.
Then, Kovalev went for the kill, but he was unable to as Ward is very good at surviving and avoiding shots by clinching. In Rounds 3 and 4, Kovalev continued using his strength and size advantage by landing jabs and right hands on Ward.
Kovalev seemed to be heading toward a clear, dominant unanimous decision, but by Rounds 6 and 7, Ward began loosening up and started landing hard jabs from the outside.
Ward also tried to outmuscle Kovalev on the inside, but, though he managed to land hard body shots in the later rounds, Kovalev often tied Ward up on the inside to prevent Ward from working there. Kovalev had clearly done his homework, and was not going to allow Ward to use his veteran tricks on the inside.
In the final rounds, Ward was forced to be more aggressive than usual, but the threat that Kovalev’s power poses was too much for Ward to really let his hands go. Nevertheless, Ward landed solid body shots in the final rounds.
Though Ward maintained his composure and began winning some earns, Kovalev continued landing the harder shots.
All three judges scored the fight 113-114 for Ward.The announcement was greeted with booes.
As expected, both fighters believed that they won the fight. Both are willing to fight each other again, but it remains to be seen when and where that would occur.
What did you think of the decision? Let us know in the comments section below.
Check out the full post-fight interview 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.