Arturo S. (Orlando, FL): I felt the “low blow” situation in the Ward vs Kovalev fight was pathetic. While I would agree that all of the shots didn’t go low, I think more than 90% of them were. Can you share your thoughts on the punches and Tony Weeks’ officiating in that fight.
Vito W. (ESB): If we look at this for what it is and not what we want it to be, I think it’s all very easy to dissect. Forget the fan-lead narratives and emotional rants. Try to simply analyze this facts. Bottom line, a blow isn’t “low” until the entire glove lands BELOW the belt line. Anything else is borderline, or a non-low-blow. A few text book examples of what “low blows” truly are, revisit these four fights: Holyfield v Dokes, Holmes v Cooney, Cotto v Judah, and Bowe v Golota II. In each of these examples, you can clearly see the entire glove land below the belt line. Some cases close to the belt line but lower. Other cases well below the belt line. The lower the punch goes beneath the belt line, the more probable it is that the fighter intended the act.
When you look at the punch that seemed to set everyone off in the Ward v Kovalev II bout, pay close attention (in slow motion, if possible) to the area that Ward’s glove lands when Kovalev raises his arm. If you look at that punch in particular, Ward’s glove was in fact centered between the belt line and a slight portion below it. The fact that some of it landed within the belt line tells us that this shot was eligible for a warning at most, but not a point deduction or a DQ. All shots landed before that were well placed shots on the belt line which video confirms. The stoppage wasn’t based on a “questionable” shot that landed. If you really want to understand “why” the fight was stopped, look no further than the full HBO audio translation over the final 1:13 of the fight.
For those without resources, here’s a quick glimpse: (Jim Lampley): “Ward Wobbles Kovalev”! (Roy Jones Jr.) : “Bad! I told you he was weak Jim, you can see it in his legs. He’s done”! (Jim Lampley): “Kovalev’s holding on to Ward’s right hand….Ward has a chance to knock him out with a minute still to go in the 8th round”! (Roy Jones Jr.) “He’s hurting him with the body shots, bad Jim!” (Jim Lampley): “Kovalev is in big trouble with 50 seconds left to go in the round! Sergey is just trying to get away! (as Kovalev continues to retreat, barely able to throw punches). (Max Kellerman): “Ward isn’t known as a finisher, but Kovalev looks finished”! That direct verbiage was a prelude to the shots that landed and ended the night. The biggest issue wasn’t the questionable punches.
The biggest issue was the fact that “hunter” had become the “hunted”, and it happened by a man no one expected to be able to do what he did. Coming in, Kovalev was viewed as the puncher. Anytime the puncher wobbles a fighter the fans and ref pay close attention, ready to see the fight stopped. In this case, it was the non-puncher landing (Ward), so most believed the “stronger” fighter was able to continue. Truth is, Kovalev had never recovered from the big right hand moments earlier, and for a minute and a half he took shots while retreating in survival mode. Referee Tony Weeks saw the sustained punishment and accumulation of damage and accurately saved a fighter who was barely able to throw back and clearly unable to protect himself. I can live with that stoppage, knowing there was no way for him to recover.
Mark C. (Chicago, IL): You previously stated that a strong victory by Andre Ward in this fight would put his legacy in debate as a rival to Floyd Mayweather’s. Now that he has earned the victory, what are your thoughts on a comparison in the legacies of these two greats?
Vito W. (ESB): In an article posted on this very website back in 2009 prior to the Super 6 Tournament I listed Andre Ward as the guy I saw winning the tournament, and in other articles during that timeline I referred to him as the best pure boxer in the sport “not named Mayweather”. Since that time I had him listed as the #2 P4P fighter in the sport for the very same reasons. While media, fans, and fan boys chose to talk about ‘mythical’ P4P fighters, my position has always been the same. That position is that the term “Pound for Pound” wasn’t coined for the “men who put the most cheeks-in-seats”. It was coined for the individual man whose talent transcended size, style, or time. In example, we can applaud the wrath of a power puncher, but what good is he if he can’t land on a target that’s tough enough to consistently land on him over 12rds?
This recent Ward v Kovalev II fight is precisely why guys like Mayweather and Ward rank so high in my mind. The power punchers and heavy punch rate guys get all the fame, but the “boring” guys are typically the ones to topple them. It’s only a “fight” when one fighter hits the other and the other hits him back. That doesn’t take the same level of skill as being a guy who can do damage but prevent you from doing yours. Those type of skillsmen always seem “boring” because they don’t allow it to become a “fight”. It’s almost always a white-wash! When you look at the body of work created by Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, they’re the only two men in the sport who have consistently dominated and defeated basically every template of a fighter you can find in the game. Tall, short, power, great chin, heavy punch rate, rugged, you name it!
One of the things that makes this an intriguing debate is the fact that you can argue that Ward faced all of his targets while in their prime. Wherein Mayweather faced some of the biggest names he conquered while on the downward side of their careers. The reason I don’t find that to be a durable argument is because you can’t control who the public views to be the best talent available at a particular time. People said Pacquiao was the guy to bring the fight out of Mayweather. Pacquiao is still destroying opponents, yet somehow, Mayweather made him look like everyone else. Andre Ward doesn’t have the physical gifts of Mayweather (speed, etc). This makes his accomplishments even more incredible.
In the end, it’s two different types of legacies being analyzed. Floyd Mayweather has done far more for far longer, and the longevity of his dominance makes his legacy very difficult to topple. Ward, on the other hand had accomplished a very similar amount of things in his career, and he did it in a smaller window of time. The biggest difference between the two was Mayweather’s ability to also add the entertainment element, which allowed him to not only break records in the ring with his skill level, but also outside of it at the box office. Mayweather was just a much more dynamic force at large. But if we’re talking ring accomplishments solely, although Ward hasn’t quite eclipsed him, he absolutely has reached the point where he can be placed in the table of discussion with a solid foundation to mount his argument.
Santo N. (Miami Beach, FL): The NSAC decided to change the Rigondeaux decision over Flores to a “No Contest”. Do you feel that was warranted? Or do you think he should have gotten the decision based on the way hit happened?
Vito W. (ESB): I thought the decision by the NSAC was spot on. I would stop short of saying that Rigondeaux meant to do what he did, but we can’t deny that the hands behind the head were intentional, and clearly one of those moments where the heat of the moment caused him to have a judgmental meltdown, so to speak. I think Rigo looked incredibly sharp and was very much prepared to take control of the bout. Hopefully these two guys get to do it again so that he can prove as much. Based on some of the recent rumblings after the fight, it seems as though the decision to move forward and hunt greener pastures could be the path that Rigo and Roc Nation go. What that means remains to be seen, but some of the bouts we’ve clamored for may very well be on the horizon. Stay tuned.
(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at 754.307.7747. His work can be followed here every week, and on daily Facebook “BoxingTalk” threads).