THERE is no denying Andre Ward’s accomplishments. He dominated super-middleweight and after stepping up to light-heavyweight he won Sergey Kovalev’s three world titles when he took a points win over the Russian in November last year.
Kovalev bitterly resents the decision and Ward has faced criticism since. The American has a point to prove in today’s rematch. His cutman Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran has been alongside Ward throughout his career. He has seen a special fighter develop. “There’s a certain bond when you work with guys and you’ve known and you’ve seen their career progress and you’ve been with them for years. There has to be a bond,” Stitch told Boxing News. “I’ve been working with him ever since he was young.
“He always said, when I turn pro, I want you to be my cutman. I started off in Oakland, that’s where Andre and Virgil are from. I left and they never forgot. It’s definitely a fighter-cutman relationship but it goes beyond.”
Duran believes Ward should be respected. “It’s a shame. That’s something I’ve always said, this kid, he ought to be on a box of Wheaties. He’s sponsored by Jordan, he’s doing commercials. He represents the game and himself to the tee. He’s good at what he does and his whole focus is family. Family and religion. He has the money, he knows that. But his thing is to do things his way. He’s not a loud speaking guy and that’s what I like about Andre. He’s cool and very calculated in what he says. He’s the kind of guy I like working with. It’s a pleasure. I wish he got a little more respect,” Stitch said.
Ward is not a brash, outspoken character. “He’s too good of a kid. Like Andre has said, I’m not going to go out there and be that guy,” Stitch said. “You’ve got to take me as I am. Not so much in those words but in that meaning. I’m not going to go out there and start and argument that’s just not who he is.”
Yet that detached attitude has infuriated Kovalev, who comes into this rematch with genuine spite. Ward is convinced that he is the best in this division, his second weight class. But he needs to win today to prove that once and for all.