ANDRE WARD will face Sergey Kovalev in an immediate rematch next weekend, largely due to the controversial scoring of their fiery encounter back in November.
Ward handed Kovalev his first professional loss and took his WBA, WBO and IBF world light-heavyweight titles by rising from a second-round knockdown to win on three scores of 114-113.
Particularly in America, there were cries of ‘robbery’ from many observers, culminating in a fervent desire for a rematch. Ward feels the judges’ identical scores in the first fight represents a fair decision.
“I thought I won the fight by at least two rounds,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, there’s close rounds that you can call a swing round. I don’t know how this individual is judging the round or how they feel about it but if you look at the scorecards, I think the judges did a tremendous job because they were on one accord.
“People have to understand that anytime there’s a close decision, you’re going to have opinions either way. I’ve never refuted the fact that it was a close decision but all those out there that say that it’s some home cooking, they’ve got to remember that I’m not, you know, from Las Vegas, Nevada [where the fight took place]. You can’t just highlight that side of it. You got to highlight the people that also felt that I deserved the victory and [that it] was a tremendous comeback. It doesn’t take a close decision to get criticism. I’ve shut guys out for 12 rounds and got criticism. So you become immune to it after a certain period of time.”
Ward, facing the toughest test of his career, struggled in the early stages of the fight and was dropped – for just the second time in his perfect professional career – with a right hand in the second round.
He rose, weathered the storm and took advantage of Kovalev’s depleted output in the second half of the fight. He maintains that his trainer, Virgil Hunter, played a vital role in getting him back on track during the fight.
“I think the first fight was a great fight. I think there was a lot of drama in the first fight, more drama than I wanted. I think it was a tremendous fight and I believe, round two is going to be a tremendous fight,” he said.
“I’ve faced a lot of adversity inside the ring. You know, some of it the public has seen. A lot of it, maybe, the public hasn’t seen in the many gyms or the many sparring sessions and everything you’ve got to do to get to a certain level in the sport. I knew what I had in me. I’ve been on the canvas before. I’ve been hurt in fights. I’ve been cut. Things have happened and, you know, my response has always been the same where if I’m physically able, I want to come get that back. I also have a tremendous coach who is my godfather. You saw him shift and go into a different gear to tell me what I needed to hear. He didn’t panic but he had a sense of urgency and he told me what I needed to hear. He just reminded me of all of the greats that had their moment. And he just reminded me that this is [my] moment. And sometimes in fights, especially in moments like this, it’s not so much technical… it’s a feeling.
“On the physical side, it was Virgil having the foresight early on when I was a young boy. He saw that I had a lot of ability and skills. He always told me that I don’t look at the things [I] do well, I look at where you can be beat. He said when I was 11, 12, 13 years old, ‘The only style that can give you trouble right now is a buzz saw.’”