Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward Full Final Press Conference & Face Off Video
On Thursday, Nov. 17, WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) and Two-Time World Champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) participated in the final press conference for their Nov. 19 “Pound For Pound” showdown at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The final press conference was hosted by renowned ring announcer Michael Buffer. The event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
Below is what the fighters, promoters and other dais guests had to say at the final press conference:
Sergey Kovalev, WBO, WBA & IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion:
“Hi everybody, I am very glad to be here. It is very nice. Maybe like two, three years ago, I can never imagine that I can get this level and fight Andre Ward, undefeated boxer and Olympic Gold Medalist. I have very big respect for him, for his success in the pro and amateur career. It is really great success but now we are facing each other and I should prove that I am better. Thanks a lot to HBO and personally to Peter Nelson, my promoter Kathy Duva and Main Events promotions, Egis Klimas and to my sponsor Hublot. I really hope that our fight will be very clear and honest. I am very excited for this fight and a little nervous because I never was on this level. HBO Pay-Per-View is the highest level in pro boxing and I am very happy to be here. Welcome to the TV screens on Nov. 19 and T-Mobile Arena where you will see very great fight. Thank you very much.”
Andre Ward, Two-Time World Champion:
“I want to thank everyone who is here today – the media, all my sponsors, MGM Grand, the great team that put this fight together and HBO. I was off to the side trying to mind my own business when Kathy Duva woke me up. She started talking, I don’t know why she keeps doing that, but it’s interesting that the ones that are not getting in that ring are the ones that are doing the most talking. They’re not feeling those punches, so she can keep doing what she’s doing. I love it, that’s what a big promotion is all about, what a big fight is all about; we’re not supposed to like each other. His side has been doing a lot of talking, and that’s fine, we love it. It’s not our first rodeo, we’ve been down this road before. We don’t always respond right away. Sometimes our silence is misinterpreted as us not getting it. We watch, we take notes, but in the meantime we keep working and we produce come fight night. That’s what we specialize in. So all the talking is great, I love it, but know one thing – I’m not taking no mess come Saturday night. Ima be there. Thank you very much”.
Kathy Duva, CEO, Main Events:
“Welcome everyone to the best, most significant and most anticipated fight of the year. Main Events’ journey with Sergey Kovalev began just four years ago. In the Fall of 2012, he made his first appearance in a U.S. televised co-feature on NBCSN. It was the first time he was ever on television in the United States. At the time, he told me he had three goals: 1. win title, 2. unify title, 3. become Pay-Per-View fighter. He made it very clear that this is what he wanted and that he would win fights. He made his first appearance on HBO less than a year later when he won the WBO title. His first appearance on HBO happened less than a year later, and he’s fought on HBO nine times in three years and now his first Pay-Per-View is finally here. I’m bringing this up now because there’s a storyline out there about what a shame it is that this fight isn’t as big as Mayweather–Pacquiao. As I tend to do when I try and solve problems, I did some research to try and gain some perspective. Floyd Mayweather fought on HBO nine times just like Sergey, and of course the four-year period where he headlined his first HBO PPV versus Arturo Gatti in June of 2005, Gatti was the big draw of that fight. Manny Pacquiao fought on HBO for two years before headlining his first HBO gig in January of 2005 with Eric Morales. Those events sold in hundreds of thousands of buys, it wasn’t until Floyd and Manny got the opportunity to defeat the already well-established superstar Oscar De La Hoya that they reached that million buy benchmark. They fought on parallel paths for 10 years on PPV to get to the place where they arrived last year, and that of course is where every fighter wants to be and that is where Kovalev and Ward want to go. And so they have to start somewhere. The fact that Manny’s first PPV opponent Morales had been on PPV before and had already attained legendary status with his trilogy with Mickey Ward and was well known to casual sports fans.
“Very few fighters ever get the chance to fight consistently in the rarified world of Pay-Per-View, and those are typically the same fighters who get to earn pound for pound status in the ring. In the past few months, I have watched Sergey work so far to promote this spectacular event. Sergey has shown me he has the chops to be the kind of star that has that rare ability to connect with each and every one of his fans, make new ones every time he’s out, and works very hard to convince them he’s worth paying to see. His boxing ability, his concussive punching power, his electrifying presence in the ring.
“Among Sergey’s goals, one that I added in was to be a big fighter in Las Vegas, so this is big. This is huge, we are so happy. I want to thank Bob Bennett of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it’s such a pleasure to work with such professional people and you make our job a whole lot easier. I want to thank all of our sponsors. Finally, want to thank all of you for being here, and I just can’t wait until the bell rings.
“Our co-featured fight is NABF light heavyweight champion Alexander “The Nail” Roddick, who’s undefeated and making a lot of noise in the light heavyweight division, he’s from Ukraine. He’s going to be fighting Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba, who’s originally from Malawi and fighting out of Johannesburg, South Africa. They’re going to take part in a ten-round light heavyweight fight. A true crossroad-fight where I honestly have no idea who’s going to win. Obviously, Main Events is with Isaac, who put up a tremendous fight against Sergey a few months ago, I think he simply never gets the credit he deserves. He is quite possibly the second-best light heavyweight in the world, and I know Isaac has his eyes on coming back strong and impressing everyone Saturday night.
“Also opening the televised undercard, WBA continental middleweight champion, Curtis “The Cerebral Assassin” Stephens of Brownsville, Brooklyn. One of the most fun fighters in the whole business. Curtis, you brighten up our day, every day. He’s going to be facing James “The King” De La Rosa, 23-4 of San Benito, Texas in a ten-round middleweight bout. This has all the earmarks of a train wreck, but Curtis has his sight set on bigger and better things and I know he and James are going to be working very hard to impress because the middleweight division is hot, and there’s a lot of opportunity there.
“I don’t think I have to tell anybody in this room why this is a great fight or why you should be interested in it or why you should want to see it. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t already know that but we do need you to go out and carry the word out to the rest of the world. This is the fight that you bring your friend over, the one who likes boxing a little bit but isn’t sure. This is the fight that you tell your friend, the one who says MMA is better than boxing. Get them to come over your house to see this one because Kovalev-Ward is going to make big fans out of a lot of people, Saturday night, and I’m looking forward to that and seeing all of you there.”
Michael Yormark, Roc Nation President & Chief of Branding and Strategy:
“Honesty is the best policy. So I’m going to start this off with a giant dose of honesty. For the next 48 hours, you’re probably going to hear a lot of respect and admiration between these two undefeated fighters. The simple fact is, we are just two days away from the biggest fight of the year, and I don’t expect them to admire one another. But who can blame them? The only thing standing between an undefeated record and boxing immortality is each other. That adds a layer of distaste and a very sharp edge to a fight that is already set to be an absolute classic. My perspective on this fight is pretty simple. Saturday night is going to be a tough night for Sergey, when he is systematically picked apart by the world’s best pound for pound boxer, Andre Ward.
“I’ve known Andre for quite a few years, and I’ve never seen him more focused, more determined, more motivated and more prepared for the biggest fight in his career. These moments are the ones that generational athletes live for and they dream about. This is an opportunity to make history, to write the latest chapter in Andre’s legend, and frankly, close the book on Sergey’s. Make no mistake about it, Team Ward has come to Vegas to win, and to walk out of Sin City with three—I repeat, three—new championship belts. Boxing needs a fight like this, two undefeated fighters in their prime. Edges sharpened by natural competitiveness, as well as an utter dislike. Fighting on the world’s biggest stage at T-Mobile Arena, and on HBO Pay-Per-View. It doesn’t get any better or bigger. Epic is the only word to describe it, and as a life-long boxing fan, I am thrilled to be a first-hand witness.
“I’d like to recognize the official fight partners we have secured for this event. Our presenting partner Corona as well as Monster Products, JetLux, Zappos, Jordan Brand and Shoe Palace. I’d also like to thank Andre’s fighting partners, including ProSupps and Lyft, Monster Products, BODYARMOUR and JetLux, as well as his long-standing partners Jordan Brand, POWERHANDZ and Shoe Palace. This support and the support from fans and media is a stark recognition of Andre as a true once-in-a-generation-athlete. His skill is matched only by his commitment to family and community. His competitiveness equal only by his charisma. At Roc Nation, we are honored to represent this man, an Olympic gold medalist, undefeated since he was 13 years old, the pride of Oakland, and of course, the next light heavyweight champion of the world.
“While our main event looks to be a fight for the ages, it is a deep and talented undercard that will make Saturday’s event a truly special one. Roc Nation is proud to work with a number of talented fighters on the card, starting with Dallas-native Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker, who is putting his undefeated record and NABO Junior Welterweight title on the line against Darleys Perez on HBO Pay-Per-View. We will also feature rising heavyweight superstar Darmani “Rock Solid” Rock of Philadelphia, as he looks to improve to 6-0 against Brice Ritani-Coe during his Las Vegas debut. Opening up the freeview telecast on the Pay-Per-View events channel prior to the official telecast, will be an eight-round junior welterweight bout featuring undefeated rising prospect Sonny “Pretty Boi” Frederickson of Toledo, Ohio. The freeview will also be available through live streaming on HBO Boxing’s YouTube channel. Frederickson will take on Gabriel Deluc of Boston, Massachusetts. Another Toledo, Ohio native, with an unblemished record, Tyler “Golden Child” McCreary will go toe-to-toe with Vincent “Pooh Bear” Jennings of Grand Rapids, Michigan in an eight-round featherweight bout. Fans will be able to catch the matchup on the freeview portion of Kovalev-Ward as well. Meanwhile, National hero and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields will make her much anticipated professional debut on the freeview broadcast. She will be taking on longtime rival Franchon Crews who will also be making her pro debut in a four-round middleweight bout. Simply put, boxing fans are in for a treat on Saturday evening and we are ecstatic to be a part of it.
“We’ve heard a lot of honesty today. But clearly Saturday is going to be an epic night. Kovalev-Ward is without a doubt going to be the fight of the year in boxing, we all know that. Roc Nation is proud to be a part of it, it’s in our DNA to promote big global events, and we are honored after working on this fight for the better part of last year, we have finally arrived at the moment of truth. There are a lot of organizations and people that have helped this event, and I’d like to thank all of them. First and foremost, Team Ward, including James Prince, Josh Dubin and Virgil Hunter. Peter Nelson and Tony Walker from HBO for bringing this fight to a global audience. Richard Sturm and Sid Greenfeig from MGM, as well as T-Mobile Arena GM Dan Quinn for hosting this event at a world class facility. Kathy Duva and her team at Main Events, who have been our partners on this fight from the very beginning. Last but certainly not least, the city of Las Vegas, the spiritual home of the biggest events in boxing, and the rightful setting for a fight that will change the face of the sport for many years to come.”
John David Jackson, Trainer of Sergey Kovalev:
“Thank you to all the press for being here. I want to thank two different groups. First, I want to thank Main Events promotions. These women at Main Events plus my man, Joe Rotonda, are truly some of the greatest people in the world. If you want to find a promotional company that will treat you fairly to all fighters and across the board and give you what you deserve in boxing, then go see them. Number two, I would like to thank all the press that is out here at this event. It is truly wonderful to see some of the people who, with their words, can help boxing swim or sink. Your words help a lot. Sometimes you don’t help us as much as we would like to be helped but I am so grateful to see all of you out here because we need this to keep boxing striving. This is a wonderful, beautiful sport that sometimes can get funky but all in all it is a wonderful, beautiful fight. I thank all of you that came out to support and write your words down for this wonderful sport.
“One fight does not define a fighter’s career. That last fight for both fighters it is what it truly was: a tune-up. They did what they were supposed to do. They both won convincingly in order to make this fight happen here. I don’t remember what reporter asked that but that is the answer to your question. One fight does not define a fighter’s career.
“Some of the things I say are to get into someone’s head but what it boils down to is that I do respect these people; they are very good people. The whole team is very good. They are very professional. To answer [Virgil’s] question which was a two-part question. He said in the last fight I was there for a week. I would love to tell you that wherever you got your information from was bad information. I was there longer than two weeks or three weeks. Whoever said I was there for a week I am glad they said that. It makes it look like we are a bad team. I love that. To answer your questions about the cohesiveness of our team, whatever goes on in camp, whatever disagreements that we may have or people say we have, I want you to remember this, all the writers out here, come fight night we will leave the same way that we came in – undefeated. Sergey wins every fight. He wins the way he is supposed to win and he did everything that I asked of him. With that said, I look forward to Nov. 19 and I will see you all there. Thank you very much.”
Egis Klimas, Manager of Sergey Kovalev:
“Thank you everybody for being here. Media, without you nobody will know where we’re going or what we’re doing, so thank you very much. Wanted to thank our promoter Main Events, Kathy Duva did a very good job bringing us to this stage to this very big fight. MGM Grand, very good host, thank you very much. HBO Pay-Per-View has brought the whole audience in America. I hope I didn’t miss anyone else. Of course I’m very, very proud to represent one of the best fighters in the world and hopefully, we’re going to see that Saturday night, who’s the pound for pound boxer. I hate when trainers, managers, promoters start talking about how it’s going to beat each other because they aren’t the ones stepping the in the ring. None of the promoters, trainers or managers can understand what’s going to happen in the ring. It’s only two warriors who will be in the ring. We have two best light heavyweight fighters in the world who are going to show on Saturday night who is the best pound-for-pound fighter. I hope it’s the best show that we’ve seen in years. Thank you very much”.
Virgil Hunter, Trainer of Andre Ward:
“I’ve been here for many fights and to see the media room filled for this fight, it really makes me feel good. I would like to thank Peter Nelson, the team at HBO, my Rap-A-Lot family, Richard Sturm and MGM. I would also like to thank the press, no matter who you choose to win.
“I turned 63, last Wednesday, and it’s no secret that I’ve worked with youths, all of my professional career. It does have an emotional effect on me when it comes to young men. Watching HBO’s My Fight touched me deeply. My heart goes out to Sergey Kovalev and everybody now knows Andre Ward’s background.
“I believe it’s going to be a great fight. I believe that Kovalev is everything that they say he is. He is a dangerous opponent; he’s coming intended to win. We’ve seen him do things to opponents that when they step into the ring, they shiver. Now, it’s just up to us to dilute that situation. I’m looking forward to Nov.
“I would encourage all promoters to treat your fighters fairly, don’t hoodwink them. Don’t keep them robots. Encourage them and teach them how to be businessmen. If you have a champion, he deserves a champion’s ration.”
James Prince, Manager of Andre Ward:
“I’d like to thank God for this opportunity. HBO, the commitment and sacrifices that they made to bring this fight to us. MGM Grand and Richard Sturm. We appreciate Roc Nation, our promoter – JAY Z, all those in the background supporting Michael Yormark, who has been on the line of duty doing a great job. Antonio Leonard is in the house, we appreciate you Tony and all that you do. The list goes on and on. I feel really grateful for this opportunity, and I speak on behalf of Team Ward. We’ve been looking forward to this day, it’s here, and I’m going to deal with the elephant in the room: this is Russia vs. the United States of America. In my opinion, the best of Russia can’t beat the best of the United States of America in anything. I just needed that to be said. We have a Russian fighter over here, Kovalev; we respect your fight game, you’re a great fighter. You remind me of Goliath. We have my man Andre Ward, whom I consider David. I don’t know if you all understand David and Goliath but that’s what we’re dealing with here. Come Saturday night, we’re going to have an opportunity to see the modern-day David, which is Andre Ward, defeat Goliath. I mentioned this at the last press conference in New York, and Ms. Duva said to me that Andre Ward doesn’t have a sword. But she missed the real substance of the story, she missed the learning on David. His obedience and all of these different spiritual realms where David was concerned. He’s fixing to fight the S.O.G, that’s the Son of God, if you all didn’t know, that’s Andre Ward. So, no, we don’t have a sword, and we can’t cut his head off and raise it up as David did, but Andre Ward is going to raise the belt up come Saturday night.”
Bob Bennett, Nevada State Athletic Commission:
“It’s unequivocally a pleasure and an honor for the Nevada State Athletic Commission to regulate this very sensational championship fight. This event should be second to none. You should know we take our job very seriously, and we’ve done our homework and we’re ready to go to work. At this time, we would like to thank Kathy Duva and Main Events, and Michael Yormark from Roc Nation for having this electric championship fight in the fight capital of the world. We’d also like to recognize Richard Sturm and the MGM for hosting this event at the T-Mobile and HBO for broadcasting the event, and for the shows leading up to the event, which have definitely been entertaining and interesting. Last but not least, we want to recognize and thank the warriors, all the fighters, because without them, none of us would be here.”
Richard Sturm, President of Entertainment and Sports, MGM Resorts International:
“We are thrilled to once again host an international championship at the T-Mobile Arena. This weekend, we close our company’s boxing calendar as Russian Sergey Kovalev battles American Andre Ward. We look forward to this matchup of these two undefeated fighters. Kovalev returns to Las Vegas following his 2015 knockout win over Nadjib Mohammedi while Andre Ward and his team make their Las Vegas debut. As we have seen over the last seven months, T-Mobile Arena has quickly changed the landscape of entertainment and sports in Las Vegas, and we look forward to continuing that tradition. We’d like to give a special thanks to Kathy Duva and Main Events Team, and Michael Yormark and the Roc Nation staff. Both fight camps, Tony Walker with HBO Pay-Per-View and Bob Bennett of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.”
Tony Walker, Vice President, HBO Pay-Per- View:
“Thank you all for coming out today to talk about the great sport of boxing. I’d like to thank Roc Nation and Main Events and their staffs for putting together such a great main event, and also a fantastic undercard that we will televise on Saturday night. The wonderful thing about the main event is that it’s been a very, very long time since two elite fighters have made their Pay-Per-View debut against each other. Credit to Andre and Sergey for coming together and making this a big time event. All of the elements are there for it to be a big fight. Both fighters have applied their trade over several years fighting everyone who got in their way. Winning, their undefeated, all the pride in the world, and most importantly, the outcome is in doubt. Quite diverse group of opinions among you over who’s going to win the fight, and that’s what sells Pay-Per-View. For those of you who have not seen the HBO video pieces that were produced to showcase the fight and the fighters, I would encourage you to go to HBO On Demand, HBO GO or HBO.com and check out those shows. They’re provocative entertainment and I think they’re going to get you all primed for Saturday night. This month in November, there have been several high profile Pay-Per-View shows, and I have to give thanks to our distributors on the cable TV, satellite, Telco side, who have promoted this Pay-Per-View show and given us a great presence in the marketplace and really given it its due with all the other stuff going on. We have a great broadcast team on Saturday night, the telecast starts at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. The Pay-Per-View suggested retail price is a very attractive $54.95, and we look forward to seeing you there.”
All photos by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Roc Nation Sports