The truth lies in the middle
In a sudden and dramatic turn of events, in a tactical battle that looked a lot like their first encounter back in November, Andre Ward halted Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round of their rematch at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Instead of being the conclusive ending many had hoped for, the wave-off by referee Tony Weeks and the low blows that preceded the stoppage will be debated forever.
Many are taking hardline stances on what transpired Saturday night but perhaps the truth, as it is oftentimes, is in the middle.
What could – or should – have been the crowning achievement for Ward (who’s building a Hall-of-Fame career) will be shrouded in controversy.
While it’s easy to say a series of low-blows (and the final one, which was in clear view of Weeks, that doubled over Kovalev when the fight was stopped) undid Kovalev, it must be noted that the punch that clearly began his downfall was a clean right hand, that not only stopped the Russian in his tracks but visibly shook him. Throughout his professional career, Kovalev has shown to be very sturdy and it was rather shocking to see him stunned by Ward to this degree.
At that point, Ward began to pour it on and, for the first time, you saw the “Krusher” in retreat and looking to survive. And the finishing blow was certainly a clear foul yet Weeks, instead of penalizing Ward or allowing a period of time for Kovalev to recover, called the fight off.
Yes, the final knockout blow of this fight was a clear foul and it was far from the only illegal blow landed downstairs.
However it has to be said that Kovalev’s body language or demeanor at that juncture wasn’t exactly screaming bloody murder. His body language was that of a defeated boxer. Although it’s been pointed out to me that if you got hit that many times down south, who wouldn’t have been deflated at that point? Yeah it’s easy for anyone who’s not taking those (or any punches) to state how they would have reacted but it did seem, at that point, that the man who wore a cap at the final press conference earlier in the week that read “WAR” (who knows if he was paying homage to the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler?) wasn’t all that concerned about waving the white flag.
Up until that point, in the fight, it was a close affair that saw Ward up on two cards by the scores of 67-66 and Kovalev up on the other by a tally of 68-65. Early on, the piercing jab of Kovalev gave Ward problems but he was never really able to land consistently with the right hand. Most of those salvos were slipped by Ward, who would then move inside to tie up and grapple Kovalev. One main difference in the early rounds of this go-around was that the early rounds, while Kovalev was effective, were much more physical and grinding on the inside, which certainly suited Ward.
For all his skills, Ward is not always the most stylish or elegant boxer but one thing he does as well as anyone in the sport is win rounds by any means necessary. And while Kovalev built an early lead on the cards (again), by the seventh and eighth frames, it started to look like “Groundhog Day.” And this time. Kovalev’s lead wasn’t nearly as pronounced as the first half of the fight concluded.
Based on his track record, the fight had gotten to the stage in which Ward has traditionally held steady and showed a certain consistency that is rare, even at this level. Kovalev may have been depleted but he’s nothing if not a puncher. With what was on the line, didn’t he at least deserve a chance to fight on? (And on this note, I keep hearing that “standing eight-count” should have been administered. OK, for the 1,356th time, that basically no longer exists in pro boxing, hasn’t for years. Now, if you are saying that because the ropes were holding Kovalev up, it was a knockdown, well, no argument there.)
Obviously, Kovalev felt he was wronged, “(Ward) hit with four low blows. The ref didn’t call them. I felt I could have continued. This is bullshit.”
While, of course, the victor vehemently disagreed, “We want to talk about low blows tonight. There is no discussion; the right hand is what got it started. I did what I had to do. That’s not my fault. I did my job.”
- Anyone else get the sense that it’s time for the union of Kovalev and trainer John David Jackson to end? It’s clear there is some sort of disconnect between the two, in which Jackson’s role is not clearly defined during training camps and, just as importantly, during the fight. Is Jackson – who was wooed by Ward’s camp before this rematch – the lead trainer and just as vital? Is he someone that Kovalev is willing to listen and learn from?
- It seems like Kovalev has several different people to whom he listens at various times. Well, it says here that having a situation like that is akin to the saying in football – if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.
- While the announced attendance at the Mandalay Bay Events Center was over 10,000 for Ward-Kovalev 2, it was clearly a papered house, in which tickets were going for a fraction of face value (which “Mr. KO Tickets” Jim Boone said were exorbitant from the very start) by the weekend. I can honestly say I have never seen such a sterile atmosphere for a supposed “big pay-per-view event,” while walking around the casino floor on Saturday afternoon. It was as if it were a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon instead of a weekend in which a major promotion was set to kick off in a few hours.
- Like most everyone else, I don’t need to see a third chapter between Ward and Kovalev and, really, because I think RocNation Sports and Main Events really need some time away from one another. The Hatfields and McCoys get along better than these two promotional outfits.
But I did feel bad for this event because, throughout the week, it was overshadowed by the announcement of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight and Twitter was abuzz over the September 9 card on HBO (featuring a trio of super flyweight bouts) being unveiled. It will be interesting to see how this fight did on pay-per-view.
- Yeah, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has turned into a real clown show, hasn’t it? Listen, I get licensing McGregor for a boxing license. Their job is to protect the financial interests of Las Vegas, first and foremost but put Weeks and his job officiating this weekend’s main event aside. How about how they handled the Guillermo Rigondeaux-Moises Flores bout? It looked pretty clear that the Cuban landed his knockout punch after the bell had sounded to end round one. Yeah, for all the world, it was plain to see referee Vic Drakulich botched this.
Yet it took a good 10 minutes for them to figure out how they were going to rule on this. After everything was said and done, they made the wrong call by calling it a knockout.
Oh, where have you gone, Marc Ratner?
Speaking of that September 9 card, it will feature the rematch between WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada facing Carlos Cuadras and the Stateside debut of the highly regarded Naoya Inoue, who faces Antonio Nieves on a “Boxing After Dark” telecast on HBO.
Yeah, this is what Boxing After Dark was intended to be long ago and thankfully it’s still here.
The question is just where will this stacked card take place? Tom Loeffler, the Managing Director of K2 Promotions says Las Vegas or Los Angeles are the frontrunners. That said, this event belongs in Southern California but there could be a competing show at the Staples Center that same night that may feature the rematch between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares on Showtime.
But if there was ever a card that belonged at the StubHub Center (and yes, K2 has put a hold on this venue, according to sources), it’s this one.
I want to see more of Dmitry Bivol, who blew out Cedric Agnew in four rounds…Joshua Franco is really turning into a solid prizefighter…I have to say there is no airport with the efficiency of the one in Las Vegas, in terms of getting you through security…The Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin press tour begins today in London and concludes in Los Angeles on Thursday night (where I’ll be part of the live coverage on RingTV.com)…So just who are the Lakers going to draft?…It’s expected that the announcement for Top Rank’s big TV plans will be revealed early this week…OK, so is the warm weather here to stay in Los Angeles?…Enjoyed the “30-for-30’” on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry (“Best of Enemies”) on ESPN. That 1984 Finals loss is still the most painful, as a Lakers fan. The 1985 title is still the most satisfying…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.