WHILE much of the debate after Andre Ward beat Sergey Kovalev focused on the timing of Tony Weeks’ stoppage and the impact of the last punch drifting low, Ward had seized control of the contest in dramatic circumstances and had hurt the Russian in the eighth round.
“I don’t think they can dispute that right hand. They can’t dispute that,” Ward said. “I think it was a great fight as long as it lasted.”
The American had beaten Kovalev once before, a narrow points win last November. He was more dominant second time around, revealing he was in better physical condition. “The first fight almost got postponed maybe two times because of issues with my body, my knee flaring up and stuff like that. I was in tears two different times throughout camp not knowing if that fight was going to get cancelled or not. I’m telling my team I can’t pull out of this fight. I’m thankful to Virg [Virgil Hunter, his trainer] and my team. Virg being smart, not pushing me hard, letting me rest. Just getting through. I felt like that had a lot to do with my mobility when I watched the film the first time. I was too stationary and he’s too good of a boxer to be stationary against. This fight, even when I was sparring, the movement, the angles were different. I had that going into an eight week camp. I knew it was going to be different,” Ward said. “He’s a timing fighter, he’s not the quickest, he’s got good timing though. A lot of Russian fighters they’re good with their timing. So the key was keeping my motor, keep moving, giving him different looks. I was feinting, I was acting like I was going to do something, I tagged him out of the blue. I’ve got to keep giving him different looks and that was the most disappointing thing that I saw when I watched the first fight.
“I had great sparring. The first fight, I think I sparred 107 rounds total, this training camp was about 135 rounds and I had four different guys. It was a great camp. So what I did in camp translated [Saturday]. There were times when I did get stationary and I heard Virgil saying keep your legs moving. Again that’s what he’s there for, if I’m falling asleep for a second to get me back on my game. With a fighter like him, with the timing, it’s the smart movements that keep him off balance.”
After a period of inactivity, boxing three times in 2016 also helped him. “The timing was just a result of me being active over the last year and a half. Being inconsistent in the ring, even though you’re in the gym, it’s not the same. So I think the last year it was really good for me to get all three of those fights. I was in training camp probably six months out of the year last year. To finish it off with the Kovalev fight, I took some time off and I came back to camp really sharp. I just knew. Camp went really, really good this time. I just knew things were going to be different and it translated into the fight,” Andre said.
He insisted he’d learned from their previous fight. “I’m a seasoned veteran. I know what happened in the first fight. A close fight but I knew I was doing damage. I knew this fight would be better and that’s what it was,” Ward said. “A lot of little stuff at this level goes a long way. So it wasn’t one big thing.
“It’s strategy. It’s playing chess. If I know that you have a good right hand, it doesn’t mean that I can’t take it but why would I give you a shot just so I can land a shot? I’d rather have you miss it, or have you miss as many I can make you miss to get you tired and then counter. Not everybody’s fortunate to have a skillset like that and I respect the guys that have to take one to give one back.” But he added, “You can’t give a guy like that, with his accuracy too many shots because you’ll start to wear down.”
The American maintained he was unafraid of the threatening Kovalev. “You’re a man like I’m a man. And I fought you before. And I know what you got. And I know if I become better it’s going to be a problem and that’s what it was. So taking nothing from him, he’s a really good fighter. I’m thankful and blessed to be able to come out on top,” he said.
On the stoppage he concluded, “He missed a lot of shots and that wears you down… To me that’s almost as good as hitting a guy and knocking him out. It’s to feel him methodically breaking down. I love that feeling. I’m breathing but I’m going to regulate and I’m going to get stronger. Somebody asked about the stoppage but if that had gone another round it could have got ugly.”