On Thursday, June 15, Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and former WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs), along with their teams, participated in the Fight Week Powered by Monster Final Press Conference for their highly-anticipated showdown. Ward-Kovalev 2: “The Rematch” will take place Saturday, June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The championship event, presented by Corona Extra, will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
(Photo Credit: Roc Nation Sports/Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos)
Below is what the participants on the dais had to say:
Andre “S.O.G.” Ward – Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion
“Thank you everybody, before I start I just want to send my prayers out to Daniel Franco and his family. It broke my heart when I heard, and on top of that, he is a stablemate of mine. He has fought on several of my undercards. It’s the worst situation that a fighter can find themselves in so I just want to let his family know that I’m praying for him. I would love to speak to him at some point in time and I’m dedicating this victory to him and his family because he is a brother in this sport. It’s a tough situation but we are praying and I know he’s going to pull through.
“I’m excited to be here. I’m the same guy that I was last time, the guy that I was five fights before, two years before. We don’t have a lot of highs and lows in this camp. You know we’ve been grinding from the beginning, we’ve got a blue collar mentality, we put our head down, we don’t take no mess. We fight to stay humble because we know where our strength comes from and if that strength is removed, we’ve got problems. It’s no different in this fight. I’m no higher than I was last time. Emotionally, I’m no lower. I didn’t train any harder. There was no major overhaul but we’re going to make adjustments. We know his side is going to make adjustments. At the end of the day, I’m not going to be distracted by the talk. I’m not going to be distracted by the ploys. I had a couple of missions in mind when I came to Las Vegas–to glorify God with my performance and the way I act outside the ring, to defend my belts that I won back in November, and to get home and kiss my wife and kids.
“I’m locked in on what I’ve got to. I hope everyone tunes in to HBO Pay-Per-View. And those who are reading this, if you are here, come to the fight. It’s going to be a tremendous fight. I’m expecting his best. You’re going to see a different Andre Ward. I’m just going to leave it at that. You’re going to see another guy in there Saturday night; and that is my favorite time – show and tell time. All the talking is good for the fans, it’s good to build it up, it’s all good but anybody that knows me, knows that I’m about the action. About getting it done. I’m thankful to be in this position. I’ve been in this position for over a decade and I’m blessed to be at the highest level for as long as I have.
“I’m excited to see some of these young fighters on the undercard. A lot of guys who I know; that I’ve watched develop. This is [their] time to shine. This is [their] moment. And my boy, Rigondeaux, I’m always happy to be on a card with him. That’s a master. Nothing but respect.”
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev – Former Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion
“First of all, I want to say thank you for Mandalay Bay and Richard Sturm. Also, Nevada commission, HBO Pay Per View and to my team for everything that I have right now. What do you want to hear from me? I already said enough and I will prove it June 17 in the ring. You get prepared. (Points at Ward) Thank you very much.”
Michael R. Yormark – Roc Nation President & Chief of Branding and Strategy
“Back in November the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world tested each other like they had never been tested before in their careers. On that night, Andre Ward faced a defining moment and countered with an epic comeback victory over Sergey Kovalev to become the new Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion. Over the last three months, everything that needs to be said about this fight has been said. We don’t need to build hype any longer. The table has been set for what we believe will be the fight of the year not the money grabbing spectacle that will take place later this summer. We have two fighters with different styles, who approach the sport differently and clearly handle themselves differently outside of the ring. There’s no hiding the truth that there is dislike throughout the camps. Or that Sergey has made one outlandish comment after the next. My daughter who attended the grand arrivals earlier this week asked me “Daddy, why is he pointing at you?” I reminded her that bullies always tend to pick on those a little bit smaller than them. But I told her that’s okay because I am confident that Andre will take care of business on Saturday night.
“From Team Ward’s perspective once the fight is over on Saturday night there will be no doubt. There will be no excuses. There will be no debated ending. Saturday, June 17 will be an opportunity for Andre Ward to solidify his status as the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
“On Saturday, June 17, there will only be one – one true champion, one pound for pound king, one real face of this sport. The epic rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will have its intended ending. With Andre Ward leaving Las Vegas and taking his belts back to the Bay Area, to join the Golden State Warriors’ second NBA Championship in the last three years.”
Kathy Duva – CEO of Main Events
“I want to talk about the fight. I would like to thank the media. I always do. Whether I say it up here or I tell you in person, without you we would not have a sport. We certainly wouldn’t have a big event this weekend. I do appreciate the fact that you spend your time, most, if not all of you, with little or no reward at all when you cover our events. But it seems strange to me that the question I have heard most often this week since I have arrived from the media is: ‘Why isn’t this a bigger event?’ This is a big event. This is the best fighting the best. Literally, number one and number two in the world fighting a rematch of a controversial fight, the most controversial fight of last year, both in their primes, just seven months away from their first encounter. They are two of the finest athletes in the world, two grandmasters in the ring testing their skills and their intellects in a fight that the media and the fans always say they want to see. This is what we have brought you. We have brought you what you want. Today you can decide when you carry our message out to the world whether you want to tell your readers, your listeners and your viewers that this is an amazing event, well worth their time and their money or if you want to spend more time talking about a lot of the manufactured drama outside of this ring. Or about that circus that is going to take place here in August. All of the elements are here: HBO, Mandalay Bay, our great cable and satellite partners, two of the great, elite fighters in our sport, in their prime, a great event where absolutely anything can happen and now it is up to you. I implore all of you, please go out and tell our story. Tell our story to our fans who, I promise you, will be kicking themselves on Sunday morning if they missed this. It is a great event.”
“Somebody reminded me last night, ‘When was the last time we saw Sergey Kovalev as the challenger?’ The answer to that question is when he was fighting in Wales against Nathan Cleverly. That Sergey was ‘The Krusher.’ That is the guy who got that nickname. That is the guy who I see is back here again today. I am very happy about that. I have a feeling he has had it with the talking. We have all had it with the talking, to be honest. But he is here. He is ready and he is going to get his belts back. I give to you the former light heavyweight world champ of the world and the future light heavyweight champ of the world Sergey Kovalev.”
“I have to also point out that, now that the gossip girls are done with talking about all of their outside the ring stuff, that stuff isn’t necessary here. I think it is kind of sad that Ward’s team doesn’t have enough faith in him that they have to go to these lengths to try to twist Sergey’s head. Sergey will be there, I promise, on Saturday and he will be angry and he will be spectacular. We are going to have fireworks. Please don’t miss it.”
Virgil Hunter – Trainer of Andre Ward
“One thing I can concur, as Kathy said, was why wasn’t there as much interest? If you go to the websites, you see them talking about fights three to four months from now and we understand. But the best fighters this year, and like [Kathy] said the No. 1 and No. 2 fighters in the world are fighting two days from now. Why is it like it is? I don’t know. I’m sure it may have something to do with Andre Ward and how he stands up for himself as a man, but we’ll leave that alone.
“On a sad note, I’m sad that John David Jackson took it to where it shouldn’t have gone. My grandmother taught me something a long time ago–she told me the truth has feet and a lie has wings. That’s why a lie can fly all over town and get there first. The truth moves slowly, but when it gets there, it will stand on its own. It’s very disappointing to know what I know and then it turns out to be the way it is. We’re going to leave that alone because I’m not here to mess with his livelihood. I said that from the very beginning, if you can’t help, don’t hinder.
“I thank everybody for coming. Looking forward to another very highly-competitive fight, a fight that means a lot to both men. When it means a lot to both men, you can’t help but have a fight. We took everything that Sergey said personally. If he wants to injure Andre, end his career, hurt him, we took that at his word and we just put our heads to the grind. I’m glad he’s [Kovalev] mad too, so hopefully, we can put a happy smile on everybody’s face after June 17.
“Those who gave him [Kovalev] this special pass, he just showed you what he thinks of you… to not give you the opportunity to snap a faceoff photo. It’s like a little kid playing ball on the streets, who has all of the bats and the bases, but when he strikes out he wants to take all of his stuff home. It’s really an insult that he has been built up, allowed to have all of these things to take place in his career from HBO and everybody else, but he walks out on what has always been traditional in boxing.”
James Prince – Manager of Andre Ward
“This has been a long journey for us. As you can see, we run people off. I don’t know what belts they’re talking about getting–I guess someone’s going to buy them a Gucci belt or something because he won’t be receiving these belts. Krusher has ran off, his manager has ran off, everyone has ran off. Left the scene. I don’t know if this is how they behave in Russia but we don’t act that way in the United States of America. That’s not American-like. But we understand they’re not going to show up for the post-press conference as well because it’s going to be the same story. We’re going to defeat them.
“Kathy, I haven’t heard your voice sound so nervous, but I understand you have it all on the line right now. That’s OK. You got it coming. But I understand also that you all want to be victims on this promotion. Kovalev and Brother Jackson accused us of lying and we don’t do that. We don’t practice that. It’s just the facts.
“[John David Jackson] couldn’t have said it more clearly than in the interview with Radio Rahim. What a beautiful interview, Brother Rahim. I mean, it came out of his mouth, ‘I made [them] an offer and if they would’ve accepted my offer, I may not be here.’ I’m not putting words in his mouth, that’s what the man said. I’ll let that rest.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say at this point – other than, there will be some beautiful undercard fighters on this show. [Saturday] is our night, this is a Roc Nation night, an Andre Ward night. We shall be victorious and shine. One more thing and deliver this message to Krusher… He ain’t no Krusher. We should rename him to Usher, get rid of the KR.”
Josh Dubin –Attorney and Co-Manager of Andre Ward
“I was having a conversation with my brother James Prince and what role we play in the lives of the fighters that we represent. We had a conversation about breaking the cycle. In this room are some old friends of mine, guys that I was blessed to be part of their lives and careers–Paulie Malignaggi, Bryant Jennings, Junior Younan “Sugarboy” and, of course, my brother Andre Ward. The guys we represent are from hard-scrabble backgrounds, they aren’t privileged guys. They literally have to fight to get what they get. To be able to just be along on the journey to help them break the cycle, whether it be of poverty, violence, the conditions they grow up in, is a source of tremendous pride for me, individually, and really why I do it.
“Even going back to Lennox Lewis, they let us in, and we have a very important job to play. For all the managers out there, know that behind-the-scenes we are there through the struggles, through the tears, through the injuries, through the paralyzing politics of the sport and it’s a grind sometimes. These guys deserve all the credit in the world for getting in the ring and literally risking their lives. I think that gets lost in the shuffle of trash talk and everything else. But this beautiful sport has helped so many people break the cycle. Mike Tyson said it perfectly once, ‘go from statistics to specialists.’
John David Jackson – Trainer of Sergey Kovalev
“It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s nice to see all the press that came out for this fight. This is a very good fight. The first time around, it was a good fight and had a very controversial ending. The second fight should be very interesting between these two combatants – these are two of the best fighters in the world today. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this event. I look forward to it.
“The past few weeks — past maybe month or so — there have been a lot of things that have been said. I call that gamesmanship and give Team Ward credit for that. They had to try to get inside people’s heads to maybe offset the training camp and the fighter’s ability to work through that and perform the best he can. I give [Team Ward] credit because there’s been a lot of lies and a lot of things have been said. What that has done for us is it’s allowed Team Kovalev to be closer. We’ve grown closer. He’s listening more and doing what he’s supposed to do for this fight. It has given us a great adhesiveness. The team is even stronger, so I want to thank them for the things that were said. There will be a lot of untruths that will be told, a little later on, at this press conference. But I have proof that all that are lies – trust me; it’s in my phone. There have been a lot of lies that have been told.
“Having said that, I think this will be a very good fight that boxing needs. Two of the best at their craft. One will come out the winner and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s an intriguing fight for the fans and it was made and deserves to be seen. I want everyone to come out and enjoy it and I hope it’s a tremendous fight. Hopefully, it’s a fight of the year because both of these guys are tremendous fighters. This is what boxing needs: two of the best going against one another. We are looking forward to it. Camp was great and now it is just time to go to work Saturday. I hope to see everybody there and hope we have a great fight.”
Egis Klimas – Manager of Sergey Kovalev
“I happy to be here in Vegas, not because of the nice hotels and the hot weather. I am just happy to get this thing over. It is very close. We have just two more days to go. Everything is going to be put in the place back where it belongs. We’ve been talking a lot and everybody is getting tired, especially looking at what is being done with the managers coming to the stage and saying what their fighter is going to do in the ring, who is going to get a knockout, how we are going to take care of business but at the end of the day we are sitting downstairs. We are not in the ring. The fighters are the ones who are fighting. They have to prove to each other.
“I wanted to thank everybody. I wanted to thank the press. I wanted to thank host hotel, Mandalay Bay, HBO Pay Per View, Nevada commission for having us here. Hopefully, it is going to be very good fight and we will see Saturday night. Thank you very much.”
Tony Walker – Vice President, HBO Pay-Per-View
“Let’s talk some boxing. On behalf of our Executive Vice President Peter Nelson and the rest of the HBO staff, we really appreciate the efforts of you supporting boxing and supporting this great event on Saturday. I would like to thank the press for the attention you’ve given this show and especially thank your editors for recognizing the significance of a top-flight, boxing event. Must thank the promoters; it’s never easy to put together a top-flight boxing match, an event with a main event like we have and an entertaining undercard for the fans. Thanks to Michael, Kathy and their staffs for doing such a great job.
“We are extremely proud to present this as a pay-per-view show because this is boxing at its highest level. These are two veteran fighters at the top of their game who have had great international acclaim and success. When you get around these fighters, you see the confidence they exude. They have a lot to fight for on Saturday night. They have put their careers on the line. I’ve also heard there’s a bit of a rivalry between these two on a personal level. It all adds up to a great night of sports television, something we think is worth boxing fans putting their money and time towards. If you find anyone who doesn’t think this is a great show, I would direct them to watch a replay of the first fight or watch the 24/7 documentary we did about this show. I must say that the first two minutes of 24/7 is gripping television.
“Lastly, I want to thank our distributors–the cable, satellite, teleco companies–that have done a good job of telling people about this event on Saturday. We promise you, in conjunction with them, a great broadcast, very clear picture and an entertaining night of TV.”
Richard Sturm – President of Entertainment & Sports for MGM Resorts International
“Welcome to the media, fighters and our colleagues at Roc Nation, Main Events, the HBO team and fight fans worldwide. We are excited to have you join us at Mandalay Bay for today’s press conference and are thrilled to kick off the summer boxing campaign with this international championship rematch. As many of you have witnessed firsthand, over the years, Mandalay Bay Events Center has been the home to many exciting boxing events and this weekend will be no different.
“These two great champions–Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev–fought a little more than six months ago at the T-Mobile Arena. As we all know, that battle was a close, thrilling fight. This second one will prove to be another sensational fight. We look forward to seeing you this Saturday night for a great event.”
Bob Bennett – Executive Director, Nevada State Athletic Commission
“I’m obviously a regulator and I’m in the middle here. That’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. I would like you to know that, on behalf the Nevada State Athletic Commission, we consider it an honor to regulate this championship fight once again. And we do so with passion, commitment and accountability. That’s what we’re all about.
“We’d like to thank Michael Yormark from Roc Nation and Kathy Duva from Main Events for hosting this championship fight in the fight capital of the world. Of course, we’d like to recognize Richard Sturm from MGM and the Mandalay Bay for hosting another world-class event. Last, but not least, I always try to make it a point to recognize the fighters.
“These two fighters are truly warriors who dare to succeed under some of the stressful conditions that they’re under. They dare to put their reputations on the line under some of those most stressful conditions and that was very evident in the first fight. As Richard said, it was a very competitive fight and we look forward to regulating this second fight. With that said, thank you very much and God bless.”
Ward vs. Kovalev 2: “The Rematch,” a 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA Light Heavyweight World Championships, is presented by Roc Nation Sports, Main Events, Andre Ward Promotions, Krusher Promotions and Corona Extra, sponsored by Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Jetlux, Life10 Electrolyte, Zappos, D’USSÉ Cognac, ProSupps and Powered by Monster. The championship event takes place Saturday, June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. Tickets for Ward-Kovalev 2: “The Rematch” are available on axs.com and at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Box Office.