Ward is one of boxing’s best kept secrets, and is often regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighters after Floyd Mayweather Jr. Though it seems Ward’s career is just beginning to steam up with the debut of his first pay-per-view fight, he’s near-veteran status in the boxing community.
There were talks of Ward fighting Gennady “GGG” Golovokin in his usual weight class (or less) but Golovkin ain’t about it. Moving up to Light Heavyweight is a new challenge for the undefeated Oakland native who, at this weight, is facing his best opponent to date.
Kovalev’s power, strength, and ill-will poses a real threat to Ward. He’s as hungry as he is ruthless, and showing mercy is absent on his to-do list.
Tale of the Tape
Graphic by Liam Brady/RBRBoxing
Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev is one of the most solid matchups we’ll get to see this year. Ward has a perfect record, while Kovalev has arguably the same (just one draw). Physically, the matchup also proves to be close. Both men are the same height with nearly identical reaches.
Kovalev has a one and a half inch advantage which might be useful with the jab, but it shouldn’t give Ward anything to really panic about.
Ward is just a year younger than Kovalev, yet he has almost double the amount of ring experience than his opponent. However, Kovalev boasts an incredible 84 percent knockout ratio, which is a real testament to his power.
Both men are orthodox fighters, so neither should worry about awkward positioning or tripping over the other’s foot. With such a close matchup on paper, we can expect the outcome of the fight to come down to boxing IQ and who has the strongest will to win.
Photo by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Roc Nation Sports
A rare, but exciting element to this huge fight is that women’s boxing will be featured on the undercard. Not just any women though. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields and Team USA amateur boxer Franchon Crews will both make their pro debut this Saturday.
Crews spoke to Round By Round Boxing about the upcoming fight saying, “This is a huge stage that I’m honored to be a part of against a great fighter.”
Crews, who has been a boxer on Team USA since she was 17, considers leaving the amateur scene as bittersweet. As for her career ahead, she hopes to bring more exposure to women’s boxing and, “continue being one of the best fighters in the world.”
Shields has been putting in work in the gym, often posting about her training on Instagram. Just last week she posted a video of her hitting on a body protector during training with the caption:
“Now I got a question! How is she gonna keep me up off her a**?! Because I’m coming! And I ain’t falling short! Las Vegas November 19!”
Crews seems well aware of the kind of fighter she’ll be facing.
“Claressa is very determined, aggressive and talented as a fighter. She is confident, strong, and fast…I’m an underdog going into this fight,” said Crews.
“My timeline for preparation wasn’t very long, but my plan for victory is to be me and have fun. That’s what I’m best at. That’s the authentic Franchon,” said Crews.
May the best woman win!
Strengths for Each Man
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One of Andre Ward’s biggest strengths as a fighter is his ability to be formless. By formless I mean that he has the ability to adapt and fight in any situation, making his “style” one that’s hard to pin down.
A formless fighter is the difficult to decode because over the span of one or several rounds, he can evolve to outsmart and beat his opponent.
Ward knows how to patiently work his jab and set up his cross and lightning-fast hooks. Though Ward is known as a textbook boxer, he is not given the credit he deserves for being able to fight and hold his own when things get rough.
Besides going up against a skilled boxer, Sergey Kovalev should also be worried about Ward’s willingness to make things ugly for him in the ring.
Photo by Vincent Ethier
To Sergey Kovalev’s credit, he’s drastically improved as a fighter in the past two years. I had Bernard Hopkins as a favorite in their 2014 bout, but did not expect to be impressed by Kovalev’s dismantling of one of boxing’s greatest fighters.
At the time I even compared his refined, crisp and carefully placed punches to the likes of Ward.
Kovalev’s win over Hopkins matters because he’s now going up against another one of boxing’s most talented guys, except this time we can’t count him out.
Kovalev proved that power, strength and tenacity can be threatening factors, even against a solid boxing IQ. With Ward fighting at a higher weight, Kovalev can be a real danger if he’s able to land devastating blows.
Weaknesses for Each Man
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While Andre Ward has way more quality experience in the ring than Sergey Kovalev, I am concerned that he hasn’t had as much experience fighting at his current weight.
We’ve seen time and time again the perils of moving up in weight class, namely savage knockouts. At this weight, Ward has had stepping stone opponents that didn’t seem as challenging for him.
Kovalev is a savage. He’s powerful, strong, rugged and a super solid fighter. Ward hasn’t been tested in this way in a long time, and it will be interesting to see how he navigates the rocky waters of a bout like this.
Photo by Alexandr Safonov/Championat
Unlike his opponent, Kovalev is lacking in experience, and it may show when Ward puts on a clinic. I worry that without as much wisdom and quality ring time he might find himself overwhelmed and start to overcompensate by relying on his power.
The problem with just relying on power is that Kovalev will think less and less about boxing, and more about landing the perfect shot. This can have detrimental consequences, including getting outworked and falling behind on the scorecards.
Also, Kovalev has a lot of confidence coming forward but will find himself in a vulnerable position if Ward can push him back. He’ll need to earn Ward’s respect early on in the fight. Otherwise, Ward will have the greenlight to do what he pleases in the ring and take away everything Kovalev does well.
Winner and Why
Graphic by Liam Brady/RBRBoxing
I could not have bet on Donald Trump winning, but I can surely bet on Andre Ward. He’s proved on multiple occasions to have the intelligence and physical prowess to out-class his opponents. Not to mention, his work ethic in the gym is insane.
Ward is not given the credit he deserves for being one boxing’s toughest fighters, but his toughness is exactly what he needs in this fight.
We can’t, however, dismiss Sergey Kovalev. Don’t get me wrong–this is not going to be an easy fight for Ward, especially having moved up in weight class. Kovalev has already proved he can scare the living daylights out of a textbook boxer.
However, I think Ward has the intellect, coaching and physical abilities on his side to come through with a victory.
I have Ward taking this fight the full distance and winning by majority decision.