Andre SOG Ward (28-0-0 15KO) of the Saturday night fight at the Oracle, Oakland, CA will have a difficult time with Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (29-0-1 26KO). By his own admission, he graded his performance a B- grade. Most would agree, anyone coming up against the devastating power of the Krusher better bring his A game.
Ward was correct. He looked like a B grade movie, a low budget one that does not inspire the need for a sequel. Still, it was good enough for a unanimous decision over the Cuban Sullivan Barrera (17-0-0 12KO). Essentially, Ward outworked the undefeated defector, who now trains out of Miami, FL.
The fight was not exciting. Even though Barrera suffered a flash knock down in round three, neither man was ever in real trouble, which made for a good fight, but not an thrilling or dramatic show. Both Triple G (Golovkin) and Kovalev pressure their opponents and take risks because it means opportunities. That’s how their fights get an A+ grade.
Saturday night Ward created opportunities, but he failed to shine when presented with those openings. He used a power jab to the body, but not often enough. He moved but not effectively. Sullivan had no trouble staying at punching distance. Ward did land a few impressive short counter right hands, but like the rest of his arsenal, they lacked knockout power. In fact, both men landed clean shots, but neither man was in any real trouble as a result. After the knockdown, Ward got excited, and appeared a little left hook happy. The punch turned into more of a hard swing than a sharp short punch. Consequently, he never again landed it hard enough to produce another knockdown.
There was some question about the effect past surgery on Ward’s right shoulder would impact his attack. It was hard to tell, because he didn’t throw that many right hands. In his post-fight interview with HBO analyst Max Kellerman, he didn’t mention the shoulder as a reason for his B- grade. In fact, It was hard for him to pinpoint anything specific for his disappointment. He seemed to imply that it was his overall performance has to be improved.
If pressed, it’s likely Ward would include his reasons for failure to shine would include the need for the quicker side to side movement he usually employs. It keeps his opponent off balance and provides needed angles for offense. His B- performance lacked the transitional moves that in the past have enabled him to drive straight lefts and short ripping hooks to the body. Andre also failed to manage or control distance, which is kind of trade mark of his, but Sullivan failed to take advantage. Barrera just didn’t punch enough. Ward would add that his timing was off. He seldom threw more than two punch combinations.
All of these things are connect like the needed elements of a finely tuned engine. If one thing is off or missing, the engine will run rough. It won’t perform the way it was designed. It might still be good enough to get you somewhere, but it’s performance will be no big deal. There won’t be any hoo-ha.
If Ward remains in front of Kovalev the way he did against Barrera, he will get knocked out. Against Barrera, Ward was able to duck, slip and block enough of the shots to stymie the Cuban, but Andre was getting hit some, and that won’t fly with the Krusher. As fans have witnessed in Sergey’s past fights, it’s not necessary for him to land cleanly. His glancing blows often produce shaky, wobbly effects in his prey. Termination usually follows.
However, if Ward can sharpen those needed skills to the A grade level, he might be able to take advantage of those risk Sergey is willing to take to provide excitement for his fans, but it would seem wise that another fight for Ward is necessary before getting into the ring with the Krusher. After critical viewing of the fight films against Barrera, maybe he can pinpoint the element(s) that needs attention and elevate them to his back to the upper P4P rank he once occupied. Even then, the question remains……. Will his A game be enough to beat the Krusher?