AFTER a fractious build up and a tense weigh in, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev faced off Friday at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.
Both fighters were right on the 175lbs light-heavyweight limit when they hit the scales. Their rematch for the WBO, IBF and WBA world titles tomorrow (June 17) is on.
Kovalev was inexpressive until his weight was announced and then afforded himself a smile as he raised his arms aloft. Ward made weight, pumped his fist in the air and then waited for the Russian to face him.
Only the previous day Kovalev declined to do a face-off with his rival but now he glared frostily at him, the animosity between the pair unmistakeable. Ward swayed slightly from side to side as the Russian stood without moving. The American spoke softly to him and beckoned for Kovalev to turn away first. Eventually Kovalev, no doubt exasperated, did so.
“I don’t want to spend my energy listening to the s*** that they say,” Kovalev growled, explaining Thursday’s press conference walk out. He scoffed when told that Ward had been trained to knock him out. “Wow, really?” he laughed. “We’ll see.”
Bitter at the decision last year that saw him lose his world title to Ward, he promised he would be at his best on Saturday. “Tomorrow you will see ‘Krusher’ in the ring against Andre ‘Son of Judges’ Ward,” he said. Addressing his fans, he said, “Thank you very much for your support and then shouted, “Kick his ass together!”
Ward sounded untroubled. “It’s my job to pick up where we left off, I’m glad he had a perfect camp,” the American said. “Everybody heard everything he said. At the end of tomorrow I don’t want to hear no excuses.
“We didn’t make no major changes in this training camp, we’ve been doing things the same way for 20 years. We’re always going to tweak stuff because that’s what we do. There’s no need to change anything [major]. We’ve just got to make some adjustments.”
He did acknowledge the threats Kovalev issued, responding by saying, “When he says something like that, he’s bringing my family into because he’s trying to allude to the fact that I’m not going to make it home to my family. When you do that you’ve got problems. It’s not going to happen. You put it out there so now you’ve got to back it up.”
Watch the weigh in here: