Legacy is on the line this Saturday night when former super-middleweight king challenges light-heavyweight crown-holder Sergey Kovalev, live on HBO PPV. The winner of this super fight from sin city will cement their hall of fame credentials and likely take over the pound-for-pound throne. Several questions linger in what has been rightfully billed as a 50-50 fight between elite level fighters. Matching 30-0 records and top-5 P4P status makes this the best matchup on paper in 2016.
A strong case for victory can be made for either men, but it’s not as simple as a run of the mill boxer vs. puncher dual due to the well-rounded skills each pugilist poses. It’s safe to say that both fighters will be facing their best opposition to date. A few opponents come to mind to compare and contrast in an attempt to split hairs.
Let’s begins with Darnell Boone shall we, a warrior that’s given the top three 175-pounders, including Adonis Stevenson, heaps of trouble. Boone stopped Stevenson, dropped Andre Ward in his 7th pro fight, and gave Sergey Kovalev fits. ‘The Krusher’ tasted the canvas and some think got lucky to leave the ring with a split-decision in his favor. Ward won every round except the 4th, when he was also knocked down and clearly hurt earning him a chinny label over the next few years.
At that stage of his career, Sergey hadn’t gone past the 2nd frame prior to his fight with Boone he was sluggish & very beatable at times. In fact this scribe picked Bernard Hopkins on the strength of that struggle, a video purged of the internet that can’t be seen anywhere. Boone has been quoted as saying he will release that tape post Kovalev/Ward. It should be noted Sergey improved from that adversity and got redemption on Boone via second round knockout.
Carl Froch is worth mentioning because he has a great chin, good jab & aggressive style that Ward was able to greatly limit. Sergey’s footwork and fluid punching sets him apart from the stiffer more upright Froch.
Many harp on Ward’s last outing against Alexander Brand pointing to the fact it did nothing to prepare him for style like Kovalev. While an awkward and craftier Isaac Chilemba fit the bill for Sergey and trainer John David Jackson to develop a game plan against Ward. An easy to agree premise doesn’t hold enough weight to count towards Saturday’s outcome. Let’s be honest Kovalev didn’t perform up to his high standards anyway. Plus, Ward’s amateur and pro experience combined with work ethic between training camps is more than enough preparation. The rust caused by inactivity should be gone after 4 1/2 camps and 3 bouts since returning in the summer of 2015.
Sticking with this theme, Bernard Hopkins has a few similarities to Andre Ward and Kov dominated Bhop from the onset. Like Hopkins, Ward sets traps and is not afraid to toe the line of legal tactics on the inside. However, Ward has much faster hand/foot speed and not to mention fresher than the legend of longevity, Bernard Hopkins.
The jab will be of great importance for Kovalev as he applies smart pressure to create holes in Ward’s defense. At times he should double the jab in order to land his potent right hand. Andre’s jab is more versatile to the head and body and thrown at different angles. A steady stick will help keep Kovalev from just walking in and force Sergey to reset his offense.
On the interior Ward’s body of work using short punches, head position, and ability to clinch is more evident on tape than Kovalev. A knockdown or knock out is remotely possible the most likely candidate of course is Kovalev. For that to happen it will be probably come in the first 3 or 4 rounds when Ward is in still in measurement mode. At minimum ‘The Krusher’ must hurt or buzz Ward, if at a possible early to keep him favoring a defense posture.
If he is able to penetrate Ward’s guard on a somewhat regular basis, he will begin to wear Ward down and win this contest.
Sergey must have the workrate advantage as he attempts to cut off the ring and trap Ward on the ropes. If the Russian native is unable to put chinks in Andre’s armor at the midway-point frustration sets in and the 168-lb Super Six champion will have already adapted. Once Ward, a 2004 Gold Medalist, dictates the real estate & controls the pace, like he has in the vast majority of career rounds, it will be curtains.
This should be a highly-competitive prize fight, and even if there is a clear winner it will be won by earning each and every round. In elite versus elite matchups history tells us the more talented overall boxer will find a path to victory which will likely come with some rough spots. No, this is not 5 years ago, but if Ward hasn’t left a significant amount of his ability on the shelf, he should win 7 clear enough rounds.
My official prediction is Andre Ward by Majority Decision.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio or Subscribe on iTunes. Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio.
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