By Rich Cheney: IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre “SOG” Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) thinks referee Tony Weeks did a great job in working his fight last Saturday night against Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The referee Weeks stood by and let Ward get away with 3 consecutive low blows in the 8th round. Ward is a good fighter. He doesn’t need to win by fouling. Ward must have felt the fight was slipping away for him to start fouling like that.
The low blows hurt Kovalev, causing him to double over. Once Kovalev was doubled over, Weeks stepped in and shockingly stopped the fight in giving Ward credit for a knockout win. The stoppage looked insane. It looked to a lot of boxing fans like it was a sham. Kovalev was beaten by the referee more so than by Ward. After the fight, Ward gave Weeks credit for him doing a good job of working his fight.
“Tony Weeks did a good job. When I hit him he was acting like I hit him low,” said Ward.
You can understand Ward for not knowing where his punches landed in the final sequence of the fight. But for the boxing fans that saw the replay, it showed that Ward hit Kovalev with 3 consecutive low blows in the 8th round. It also showed referee Tony Weeks moving forward and stopping the fight rather than penalizing Ward for the low blows. Ward got away with 3 low blows in the 8th and another low blow in the 7th.
In defense of Weeks, he might not have been into controlling low blows last night. That’s understandable. Some referees let things slide. You often see referees not doing anything to control excessive holding. You also see referees giving countless warnings to fighters for low blows without ever penalizing them. But in the case of Weeks, he wasn’t even warning Ward for the low blows. He was just letting it go. That’s too bad because it tainted the fight outcome.
In the aftermath of last night’s fight, I think Ward was too bothered about the way he won. Ward just seemed happy that he won, period. But the method of victory is going to keep Ward from getting full credit from the boxing public other than from fans of his, who don’t seem to mind how he won.
It’s doubtful those fans would feel the same way if Kovalev hit Ward 3 consecutive times in the 8th and the referee stepped in gave Kovalev the win. If the shoe was on the other foot, you can bet that Ward’s fans would be screaming bloody murder about the stoppage. It just shows you that fans will let things like fouling slide as long as their fighter wins the fight. It’s sad. In cases like this, the referee needs a referee to fix the mistakes he makes during fights.
There are 3 judges for each fight so that you don’t have one judge acting calling the shots. It protects from bias to have more than 1 judge. I think it’s important to have multiple referees so that when one referee is not seeing things clearly, like low blows other type of fouls, the other referees will help him out so that he doesn’t ruin the fight. Weeks tainted the fight last Saturday night with his oddball stoppage.
“I think it was plain to see that I broke him mentally and physically,” said Ward about Kovalev. ”At a certain point and time, you got to give a person their just do. What’s next? Cruiserweight? Heavyweight? I dream big. Anything is possible.”
Ward didn’t break Kovalev. He hurt Kovalev with a right hand in the 8th. Up until then, Ward appeared to be losing the fight and losing the round. Ward wasn’t breaking Kovalev. Boxing News Results had Kovalev winning the fight by 6 rounds going into the 8th. Ward had appeared to win just 1 round. Kovalev had won the 7th, and was looking great in the 8th until he was clipped by a right hand from Ward. After that shot landed by Ward, he then started hitting Kovalev with low blows repeatedly until referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight.
I’ve never seen that before in boxing. I don’t think I ever will. Referees are usually engaged mentally when working fights. In my opinion, I believe Weeks stopped thinking in the last 2 rounds and let Ward get away with low blows. Again, I think Weeks wasn’t into enforcing the low blow rules last night. For some referees, they have certain fouls that they don’t enforce from time to time.
It’s bad though when the referee stops the fight due to a foul and gives the win to the fighter was doing the fouling. If Ward kicked Kovalev in the groin, I wouldn’t expect Weeks to step in and give Ward a knockout victory. If Weeks was going to allow Ward to hit Kovalev with low blows without doing anything, then he might as well have not been working the fight, because he was just blocking the view with of the action with his body and not enforcing the rules.
“Basically what happened today, Ward got away with fighting dirty, said Kovalev’s manager Egis Klimas. The referee did not do what he was supposed to do. If a bank robber goes to the bank and steals $1 million dollars and knows he can get away with it, guess what? He will continue to do it. He got away and we don’t have a beef with Ward. We have beef with the referee.”
There’s nothing that Kovalev’s promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events can do about the stoppage for her fighter. The Nevada State Athletic Commission likely won’t overturn the results of the fight. Even if the Commission orders a rematch between Ward and Kovalev, it’s not likely going to happen. Ward would vacate whatever title that he’s being forced to defend against Kovalev. We’re already hearing Ward talk about wanting to potentially move up to cruiserweight of heavyweight to look for the right opportunity.
Ward no longer needs the IBF, WBA and WBO titles at 175. He can give them up and fight the likes of WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, or move up to cruiserweight or heavyweight for a big payday. One thing is certain though. If Ward stays at 175, he’ll have to defend his titles against dangerous fighters like Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol. Those guys are every bit as dangerous as Kovalev is. I don’t think Ward wants to have to defend his belts against those guys. For that reason, I see Ward giving up his titles in the 175 pound division and instead picking and choosing opponents that are right for him.