Sad affair saturday night at Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. Expectations were high. Fans hoped for a classic matchup. What they got was an attempted mugging and resulting robbery. To call Andre Ward’s efforts scientific would be ill-judged, which is what happened with the decision in Ward’s favor.
One simple way to tell who won the fight is to look at each fighter’s face. Andre Ward’s was red, lumpy and swollen. The Krusher’s face was relatively unmarked.
Another way to tell who won is to the replay and watch Ward’s surprised reaction at the announced decision. A third way is to watch the damn fight, which is something the judges apparently failed to do. They were dug in deep, shielded from the action by the pre-fight hype about Ward and the crowd noise emphasizing anything SOG did.
Hall of Fame journalist Larry Merchant was caught leaving the arena and was asked about the fight. He felt Kovalev won the fight and was robbed. When asked if he wanted to see a rematch, he said no. Who would want to see that again! As usual, Larry is right. The fight started with Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev taking control. He controlled the distance and surprised Andre SOG Ward with his ability to tag him. Ward tried to counter, but in the second round he fell for one of the Krusher’s traps. Krusher landed a few jabs, using one as a decoy. It got Andre to start a counter right hand. But, the Krusher beat him to the punch with his own hard right. Down went Ward! Everyone in the arena, with the exception of Kovalev’s corner, was shocked! How could this be, their hero was human after all.
Kovalev immediately pressed his advantage, and landed several more punishing shots. However, Ward managed to make it to the bell. The effect of the knockdown stayed with Andre for several rounds, rounds where the advantage for Kovalev was apparent.
Ward tried repeatedly to rough up Kovalev. He would either feint or get under a Kovalev punch, and drive forward with his lowered left should aimed at the Krusher’s midsection. From there he would attempt to bring his head up. But, Kovalev derailed his attempts by collaring him. Referee Robert Byrd warned Kovalev about pushing Ward’s head down, but he never told Ward to keep his head up?
As the fight progressed, Ward did get into a better rhythm, but the Krusher continued to land the harder, more telling blows. However, the crowd was with Ward, so everything that looked at all like a punch landing brought cheers and oohs and ahas from the biased crowd, which undoubtedly helped sway the ringside judges. Add that to the mystic Ward brought into the ring, his Olympic Gold medal and undefeated record extending back to when he was twelve.
The coupling of these two things made it impossible for the judges to vote any other way. So, they came to a hard to swallow three way agreement at 114-113 for Ward. It was cringeworthy. Ward struts away with his “0” intact and Kovalev’s three belts, the WBA, WBO and IBF. Kovalev does have rematch clause in the contract, but does anyone think that’s something Ward will be in a hurry to honor? Don’t count on it.
Does this miscarriage mean Ward is the new P4P? The answer should be a resounding no! Instead of strutting away, Ward should slink away, not because he didn’t display toughness, courage and resiliency. He was in rough shape after the 2nd round knockdown, but there was no quit in him. He drew on his champion’s heart and made a fight of it, though an ugly one. It was definitely not a classic.
Kovalev was asked if he wanted a rematch? He quickly exhibited a smile, or maybe better described as a sneer. He said, “yes”! You got the feeling he meant right then to continue the beat down. When asked how he would tackle things in the rematch, he quickly added, “I will kick his ass”, which is what he had just finished doing. If only the judges didn’t have on blinders. What they have done is put an asterisk by the decision. Controversial will always be part of any genuine discussion about this win for Ward.
SOG and his mentor Virgil Hunter have already conjured up a belief that they deserve the decision. will clench the three belts, imprisoning them for the foreseeable future. Don’t kid yourself, there isn’t going to be a rematch anytime soon. Sadly, it may never happen. Kovalev deserves better. He deserves three belts on his way to get a fourth from Adonis “Chickenson” Stevenson. It might take three belts of another kind to get over this one.