In boxing, a so-called “tune-up” fight can have the exact opposite result than was planned or hoped for. Wanting to sharpen up tools and pick up added, reaffirming confidence before heading into a big match-up, a fighter can sometimes leave said “tune-up” feeling rustier, less sharp and less confident than he was before fighting it. Light-heavyweight ruler Sergey Kovalev might be feeling a little this way right now, after his frustrating, less than satisfying points win over Isaac Chilemba yesterday.
Kovalev now waits to see how Andre Ward looks in his own “tune-up,” against 39-year-old Colombian Alexander Brand in August, but “Krusher,” in the opinion of most experts, faces a boxing lesson in Las Vegas on November 19. Of course, Ward might look less than special against Brand, in what will be just the unbeaten former super-middleweight king’s third fight in well over two years, but right now public opinion says Ward will defeat Kovalev in November.
Kovalev will certainly need to up his game from yesterday’s performance. Caught way too often, to the head and body, Kovalev might even have been in trouble had Chilemba been a big puncher. Of course Kovalev’s motivation levels will be far higher upon entering the Ward fight (Kovalev said he was not overlooking Chilemba but it may be, understandably, that he was in fact doing just that) and he will undoubtedly be at his best just over a month before Christmas – but even if he is, will his skills match up with those of the unbeaten (some say unbeatable) Californian?
Ward will have liked what he saw yesterday in Russia: the way Chilemba repeatedly caught Kovalev with his snappy left jab, the way he caught him with flush right hands and left hooks (or one sizzling left hook at least) and the way Kovalev grew visibly tired in the later rounds. Before the latest performances of Kovalev and Ward – with “Krusher” coming off three stoppage wins, over Jean Pascal (twice)and Nadjib Mohammedi, and with Ward getting hit just a little bit in his points won over Sullivan Barrera – the smart money was on the Russian destroyer proving too much for Ward. Not now.
Again, Ward might look less than scintillating against Brand, and opinion on the big fight could sway once again, but right now it looks as though Ward’s sublime skills will present Kovealev with an unsolvable puzzle a couple of months from now. Who is brave enough to bet against a Ward points victory on Nov. 19th?