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Ward vs. Kovalev: The Low Blow

The worst type of body shots land below the belt. A good body shot always hurts even when it’s legal and it hurts worse and longer than the usual head bang. Head punch KOs that cause unconsciousness are not perceived as very painful, if at all, while body shots keep the recipient awake and provide clean unobscured pain.

Frankie Carbo and “The Combination” could have fixed any fight they wanted, they could nurse a limited heavyweight boxer to the title and protect him but they could not afford to lose credibility. Betting was the key, the working stiff needed faith to spare some hard-earned change for gambling. That’s why their champion retired undefeated at the first signs of aging and they would never tolerate a blatant scandal, for example a championship fight won with head-butts and low blows. Bad decisions and bent scoring with refs and judges in the pocket – yes, taking a dive – when needed, swimming with the fishes – if you must, but losing face would mean losing the gambler’s money and early retirement, because fans mattered.


The corporate world of boxing today has no such qualms and scruples. The global manager has lost all respect and care for the fan, the personal relation between predators and pray has been severed by online pay-per view and internet betting. The old school sense of ostensible decency has become a laughing stock, the fan has lost identity.

There was not too much scandal in the first fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, two good but uninspiring boxers. The Russian won the first six rounds beyond any doubt, scored a knock down in the second and could have easily taken a couple of late rounds, so he was the obvious victor but Ward got the decision. Unfair call but not unexpected and somewhat digestible – being the local hero and representing the US, Ward won in his home town against the scary visitor with the heavy Russian accent.

The rematch was a fiasco, a low point in the sport and a low blow to boxing. Not only it was not “kosher” as some would say, it was an outrage and an insult to the boxing community. The first low blow came in the second round when Ward was hurt and landed an uppercut below the belt to buy some time. It was a sneaky shot and the ref could have missed it. Then a head butt landed on Kovalev’s left eye, still nothing unusual. Kovalev was slightly out-boxing and severely out-punching his opponent using his longer reach and better timing.

As the fight went on, Ward was able to clinch more often and started throwing below the belt on a regular basis.

The ref was quiet about it. Kovalev accepted it without making a big fuss and did not fight dirty in return. Perhaps he believed he acted like a man but it cost him his endurance. He visibly faded in the 7th and was gassed in the eighth. Ward had applied every foul he wanted without any hindrance from the referee Tony Weeks. He did not need the disgraceful low blows rally to get the premature stoppage. He could probably have done it legally with a clean KO a little later. The problem was that he was hurt and disoriented himself. He just could not reset from dirty fighting to saving face and saving the ref’s and the judges’ reputation. Now he exposed them all with the unrealistic scoring, the negligence of the ref and his own unsavory tactics.