Story lines: Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II
It’s the day of and, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will settle the score tonight, live on HBO Pay-Per-View (9:00 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). Both made weight yesterday and, while Ward (175 pounds) and Kovalev (175 pounds) made their rivalry well aware in a long, drawn-out, final face-off, none of that matters tonight. Here are some story lines for the hours leading up to tonight’s light heavyweight championship rematch.
Personality-wise, Ward and Kovalev have one strong similarity…
The consensus says Ward and Kovalev couldn’t be any different and, on the surface, that is indeed the case. Their fighting and training styles, amateur pedigrees, cultural upbringings, choice of words, race, promotional thought processes, etc. all sit on opposite sides of a spectrum but there is one thing that rests deep inside that they do have in common: They are lone wolves.
Ward isn’t an extrovert by any means, when compared to other well-known fighters and, coupled with the calculated personality he presents in public, some criticize him for the novel idea of trying to be a normal person. Ward could come off as a smartass at times but he’s not the only one who comes off as someone who is never wrong. He is also very guarded when it comes to training camp access and doesn’t reveal much detail when it comes to his impending fights but Ward will never let anyone tell him what to do or say.
In that regard, the same goes for Kovalev, who was kicked out of Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym in Big Bear, California, years ago for not committing to the regimen all fighters there undergo. Now, Kovalev has even admitted his current trainer John David Jackson is merely there for mitt work and, for the most part, Kovalev is preparing on his own with help of some Russian cardiovascular mad scientist. While Ward has the fortune of a lifelong trainer-turned-father figure Virgil Hunter in his corner, you’ll never see him change his ways and the same goes for Kovalev, as you’ll eventually see him go from trainer to trainer, as long as they’re working for the “Krusher” and not the other way around.
Kovalev’s promoter Main Events badly needs a victory from him tonight…
You could even argue that the future of Kathy Duva’s company hangs in the balance. Kovalev, 34, is the golden goose of the company and, even at that, he’s not exactly a hot ticket in the United States. Main Events doesn’t have anyone with whom to compare him but Sullivan Barrera – a fellow light heavyweight – could see himself in contention if he beats Joe Smith Jr. on July 15. So maybe saying the company’s future hangs in the balance is a bit of an overreaction. After all, promoters can hang around like cockroaches after a nuclear blast but a Kovalev loss doesn’t give them much leverage going forward. Then again, maybe that can conjure up a fight with WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson to cut their losses.
The hate is real…
Both men, their trainers and their promoters all hold each other in contempt and the bickering won’t stop until one of these fighters wins in a convincing fashion.
The lack of buzz for Ward-Kovalev II is more of a reality check than anything…
Sure, there is plenty of blame on the lead promotion of this fight but the fact that two fighters who aren’t really pay-per-view attractions, by themselves, will make this a pay-per-view dud. Even though they’re two of boxing’s elite fighters settling a score to a controversial decision the first time around, and have a legit rivalry between them, the Ward-Kovalev story wouldn’t be on PPV in a perfect world. With boxing still being a niche sport, this weekend will come and go, and you can thank that PPV acronym for preventing the general public from seeing what will ultimately be looked at, in retrospect, as a great happening for the light heavyweight division historically.
Best fighting the best – check.
Contrasting styles and personalities – check.
Rematch stemming off controversy – check.
U.S.A. vs. Russia story line in today’s political climate – check.
Disdain on both sides – check.
There are plenty of ingredients here to promote a big fight and, while it really is a big one for the sport, the final numbers won’t indicate such.
Is Ward sabotaging Kovalev’s purse?
In a story by Keith Idec of BoxingScene.com, Kovalev expressed anger after seeing Ward’s purse on this fight. Ward is guaranteed $6,000,000, while Kovalev’s purse is still yet to be determined. That’s because it’s based on the PPV buy rate and, coincidentally, the bare minimum has been done to promote the event. Yet Ward has always been a minimalist when it comes to getting himself out there, so pointing out his consistency could very well debunk that theory but it’s fun to consider. As for Kovalev, he should probably talk to his promoter about his gripes.
Last year, I picked Ward to win by decision but also threw in a gutsier prediction saying both men would hit the canvas. Sitting ringside that night in November, I was sure that last one would come true as Ward was dropped in the second round and I expected him to start figuring out the “Krusher” eventually. Of course, that’s what happened but he never dominated the fight or hurt Kovalev in return for that matter. I scored the bout 114-113 for Kovalev that night (the knockdown being the difference) but wasn’t shocked by the decision of a fight with many close rounds.
On this second go-’round, I’m sticking with Ward by unanimous decision – this time winning in a more convincing fashion (8-4 or 9-3). Kovalev cannot hide the fact that he’s angry about everything that happened and he’ll surely bring that anger into the ring tonight. For that reason, I think Ward knows he will see a more erratic Kovalev, thus opening him up for counters and finally getting the other knockdown my prediction sought in the first fight.