By Rich Cheney: Andre “SOG” Ward intends on trying to silence Russian Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev tonight in their rematch on HBO PPV. Ward thinks some of the things that Kovalev has been saying are racially motivated, and he plans on making him pay when they get inside the ring tonight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Whether Ward has enough power, youth and talent to make Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) pay with a loss is the big question. Ward will be able to land a lot of shots, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get the victory. Kovalev appeared to be the better fighter last time, and that was with him tiring after 5 rounds. If we see an improved Kovalev tonight, then Ward might need the judges to help him out if he wants another questionable win.
Ward’s victory over Kovalev last November was highly controversial as Ward was knocked down in round 2 and out-punched and out-landed in the fight. The judges normally give the victory for the busier and more powerful fight in fights like that, especially when there’s a knockdown credited to that fighter. But in this case, Ward was given the win and it was a real head-scratcher in trying to understand what the judge’s saw in his performance.
”He’s culturally sound enough to know some of the things he’s been doing are racially motivated,” said Ward to TMZ.com about Kovalev. ”It’s more motivation, definitely more motivation. He needs to be silenced.”
I don’t buy into the 33-year-old Ward being able to punish Kovalev for the trash talking that he’s been doing. Unless Ward is going to start fouling Kovalev with elbows, low blows and rabbit punches, he’s going to be stuck doing what he did last time by wrestling on the inside, stalling out the rounds, and throwing pot shots. The way for Ward to punish Kovalev would be for him to throw combinations. We didn’t see that from Ward the last time he fought Kovalev.
I don’t think Ward can throw combinations at this point in his boxing career. He’s pretty much stuck with only being able to land pot shots and hold.
Ward needs to make sure he doesn’t stray too far away from his finesse-oriented fighting style tonight against Kovalev, because he doesn’t have the offensive power or the skills to batter Kovalev into silence. If Ward had Julian Jackson type power, then Kovalev would be in trouble tonight. But, Ward is a light hitter, who mainly just holds and wrestles.
It’s unclear how much of a boost Ward will get with this issue for tonight’s fight. I think Ward was already tapped out entirely in his previous fight with Kovalev. Ward had his foot to the floor on the gas pedal, and he still won a controversial decision. I don’t think there’s much more that Ward can get out of his potential. He can get upset at some of the things that Kovalev has said and done, but I don’ think that’s going to lead to Ward fighting any harder than he did last time.
If Ward wins the fight tonight, it’ll be due to his tactics, not because he punished Kovalev with his fists. Ward isn’t a puncher and he’s never been one even when he was fighting at 168. At 175, Ward is purely a Floyd Mayweather Jr. type of finesse fighter, who wins his fights based on his pot shots and inside mauling.
Ward’s best chance of winning tonight is to take the fight to the inside and maul Kovalev for the first 8 rounds to build up a significant lead. Ward can then afford to go to the outside and finish the fight boxing and moving, so he doesn’t stink out the joint entirely with his mauling/wrestling and holding. Ward obviously wants to remains a PPV on HBO Boxing. He’s not going to be able to do that if he just mauls Kovalev on the inside for 12 ugly rounds.
The first fight between Ward and Kovalev was such an eyesore. Ward was getting battered by Kovalev from the outside in the 2nd round. Ward made some minor adjustments in the 3rd round by doing more holding in close. As the rounds wore on, Ward fought more and more on the inside. By the 11th round, Ward was exclusively holding and mauling on the inside. I had to get a large cup of strong coffee for him me to keep my eyes open, because the fight was nearly unwatchable.
The referee wasn’t doing anything to police Ward’s mauling, and Kovalev looked like he was helpless to pry Ward off of him. Ward was like an octopus with the way he was wrapping himself around Kovalev on the inside. It was such a disappointment to watch, because this was a fight on HBO PPV. You expected a lot more rom the fight than what it ended up being.
Ward and Kovalev both weighed in at 175 pounds in last Friday’s weigh-in. It looked like both fighters made the weight well and will be ready ton night for the fight. Kovalev, 34, says he did less training for this fight than he did in the last training camp for his fight with Ward last November. In that fight, Kovalev complained that he’s over-trained for the fight. He won’t have that excuse tonight if he gets beaten by Ward.
If Kovalev loses, then it’s on him. He’ll need to admit that he lost to the better fighter. If Kovalev isn’t ready for the inside tactics that Ward will be using, then he needs to dump his trainer and find someone else that can break down fights to get him ready in a better way. What’s strange is that Kovalev hasn’t been talking aout Ward’s inside game during training camp. It would seem like the logical thing for Kovalev to do in at least discussing the holding and fighting that Ward did on the inside the last time. It’s as if Kovalev doesn’t even want to discuss Ward’s holding. Kovalev should be talking about it, because that’s something that he’s going to need to be able to stop if he wants to win the fight. Kovalev won’t win if he can’t stop War’s grabbing and holding.