175 Pound Atom Bomb! Kovalev Faces Ward Tonight in the Best Divisional Fight of the Year
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Las Vegas, NV (November 19th, 2016)– At yesterday’s weigh-in, Andre Ward appeared bigger and fearless when he stared down Sergey Kovalev. Will their bout tonight translate that way? It remains to be seen. For Ward, the 2004 Olympic Light Heavyweight Gold Medalist in Athens, Greece, nobody or nothing g has stood in his pathways to victory to this point. That is, until Sergey Kovalev.
Pound for pound, who will be the best fighter in the world after tonight’s T-Mobile Arena epic confrontation in Las Vegas, Nevada? Krusher Kovalev or Andre Ward? From the late Archie Moore to the Bob Foster, from Michael Spinks to Michael Moorer to Bernard Hopkins, the 175 pound light heavyweight division has been a catalyst inspiration to some of boxing’s most famous names over time. Some stayed at 175 pounds. Some moved on.
Sergey Kovalev remains the best candidate to dominate the division. Andre Ward, at 168 pounds, has no real divisional or financial challenge at super middleweight, and thus is not so inclined to stay there long term. Ward blew away Chad Dawson when Dawson tried to go down to 168 pounds, and now Ward is moving up to 175 pounds. Kovalev has only rival divisional champion Adonis Stevenson on the radar, and Stevenson does not appear interested in immediately facing either Kovalev or Ward after this bout. So what gives?
Tonight’s epic battle is a must atom bomb. Either Kovalev or Ward are destined to get knocked out, with some knockdowns in each direction along the way, or not. It could be a quick fight, or a lengthy technical stinker of a battle. Whatever happens, the true dominant force of the light heavyweight division will be decided at some point.
Kovalev, 30-0 with one draw, 26 knockouts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, holds the WBA, WBF and WBO 175 pound titles at age 33. Ward, 30-0 with 15 knockouts, Oakland, California, holds the WBA Super World Super Middleweight title at age 32. Ward was mothballed for 19 months between 2013 and 2015 over contractual disputes. Tonight’s outcome will leave no dispute of who the best boxer in the division is. Will the decision be clear cut and acceptable? That factor is anybody’s guess.
Both fighters weighed in at exactly 175 pounds, so it is confirmed both have done the necessary work to arrive at this bout, which could determine the best pound for pound pro boxer in the world. Last August, Ward went 12 rounds with 39 year old Alexander Brand, a durable Columbian super middleweight boxer with substantial amateur experience who turned pro at 32 and moved up to 175 pounds to fight Ward, who won every round. Kovalev defended his titles this past July against huge and durable Isaac Chilemba, a South African who Kovalev knocked down but could not put away over 12 rounds. Chilemba had lost his previous fight, and Kovalev still could get him out or do anything with him. So for Ward or Kovalev do to anything substantial with each other, their game has to rise one notch over their previous bouts, their unbeaten records not a factor now.
The bookie odds, due to the previous results of Ward and Kovalev, favor a 12 rounder technical bout on HBO at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which could be close and go either way by a majority or split decision. Ward is favored by 12 round unanimous decision, or Kovalev by knockout. Kovalev and Ward bring it to the table in the significant main event of the year. If not the most exciting bout, Kovalev versus Ward will determine who is the best of the best in the eyes of boxing experts. The outcome could be a surprise, or a yawner.
Both boxers remain explosive………but unpredictable. The high possibility of an atomic bomb remains the biggest question mark. With 61 pro bouts between them, with 41 knockouts, there remains a better than two out of three chance somebody will get knocked out. Will it be Kovalev or Ward? Will Ward find the 175 pound division held by Kovalev too much to handle, as Bernard Hopkins did against Kovalev, or will he frustrate Sergey?
If Ward wins, and Bernard Hopkins gets by Joe Smith at The Forum in Ngleowod, California on December 17, it could set up a Ward-Hopkins or Stevenson-Hopkins battle, or it could set up Ward versus Stevenson. If Kovalev wins, it could set up Kovalev versus 20-0 Colombian Canadian Eleider Alvarez, the best available remaining challenger for his titles. If Ward wins, it could provide an opening for recognized world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to test the waters at 168 pounds, as Daniel Jacobs is the only true challenger GGG has remaining at 160 pounds.
Whoever wins Ward versus Kovalev, some divisional fireworks will result. Stevenson is available to the winner of Ward versus Kovalev is the right amount of money is on the table. That is always the case. HBO will have a ratings victory tonight. The Las vegas based referee Robert Byrd, who last title bout was Saul Alvarez versus Miguel Cotto in Vegas one year ago, let that bout go the full 12 rounds, and will probably allow this bout to run its course for the full 12 rounds if both combatants remain defensive and keep it technical. Kovalev may try to set the tempo and control the ring, but Ward is not like other opponents. Ward is undefeated as an amateur and professional going back decades, and his ring generalship, when at its sharpest, is one level above Kovalev and his style of rugged rock’em sock’em knock’em roughhouse tactics. Ward is most likely to force Kovalev to fight his fight, which will pull Kovalev into pugilistic no man’s land unfamiliar territory.