Acclaimed by the boxing fraternity’s finest as the pound for pound best on the planet, Andre Michael Ward has collected every world title belt possible in his thirteen years as a professional. At 33 years old his 31-0 unblemished fight record speaks all the words he sometimes chosen not to speak in a press conference before the bright lights and cameras.
However, now Ward’s place at the pinnacle of the sport rests in an unfamiliar precarity as he looks to vanquish for good the Russian knockout merchant, the Krusher, the man who many say beat him in the first encounter, the man who sent him to the canvas for the first time. Andre Ward takes on Sergey Kovalev at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17th.
The Krusher. Its the perfect nickname for a man who has simply rampaged his way through the light heavyweight division in recent years. Some say he was finally undone with pure boxing finesse, the other side with him and say he was robbed. Either way, the first fight was a fight defined by the finest of margins. Andre Ward may have won the majority of the rounds but the rounds he did win, he didn’t win by much.
There is though a reason why Andre Ward has not lost a fight since the age of thirteen. For me, Andre did the the one thing that all the great champions could do. He adapted during the fight. He made the critical adjustments to steady the ship before taking the upper hand and deservedly taking a unanimous decision on the scorecards with all three judges in attendance scoring the fight 114-113 in his favour.
The majority of the media saw it differently and had scored the fight in Kovalev’s favour and they appeared to be backed up by punch stats which indicated the Russian landed 10 more punches than the American in total including 17 more power punches. However on closer inspection of the stats Ward had the higher successful connect rate by 8% and connected with 13% more jabs. The judges in the end went for the accuracy over the volume.
That is not to simply cast aside the success Kovalev enjoyed in the fight. He knocked Ward down in the second round with a hard right hand. He landed some heavy jabs throughout the fight too. Make no mistake there is definitely unfinished business here.
Kovalev has vowed not only to dethrone him but to finish his career. His dislike for the all star American is tangible. Will Kovalev be able to harness his anger and channel into his punching or will it make him too thirsty for the knockout punch and see him overloading his shots early? He has gone on record to say how he felt exhaustion from the 5th round so will we see a fitter, better prepared Krusher?
There is no doubt that Ward is not be satisfied with the manner of his victory. He wants to end the Kovalev chapter for good in comprehensive fashion. Great fighters strive for perfection. Ward is disatisfied. It just doesn’t sit well with him that it was such a close fight.
I believe the fight will pick up in much the same manner as the first one ended. I expect another close affair. Andre Ward is the more adaptable, versatile fighter capable of changing his look through the rounds. However the Krusher has the equaliser, the undeniable heavy handedness. I don’t believe Kovalev can win this fight on points unless he scores more than one knockdown. He will really have to look to capitalise if he can drop Ward again.
Ward will likely have learned from the first knockdown and be aware that he has to be razor sharp with his senses. This is supposed to be the fight to end all controversy. However the clinical result between these two fighters may simply not present itself either way as many expect. This is why I would lean towards Andre Ward over the distance again.