ONE of the most highly anticipated signed fights for 2017 is fast approaching, Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev. The rematch of last year’s controversial showdown between P4P king and the ‘Krusher’. While not an instant classic, the first contest stirred up some of the most furious debates within recent years throughout boxing. The line in the sand was firmly drawn, sides were picked. “Ward won the fight clearly” or “Kovalev was robbed”. Which side are you on?
Before we dive deeply into this topic and I give you my stance, I think we need to preface what a robbery is in boxing. To me, a robbery is a contest which was clearly won, perhaps even dominated by “boxer A” but still awarded to “boxer B”. This is the kind of contest where, when the scorecards are read, we need to do a quick double check to make sure it wasn’t Stevie Wonder filling out the scorecards. You get my point. Boxing, and furthermore, the scoring of boxing is completely subjective. This means that barring a definitive KO, the outcome will always be subject for debate.
As boxing fans, I think we can all agree that boxing invokes great passion, from both the competitors and also the fans. Fans of boxers can find themselves emotionally invested in the outcome of the fight. This in its very nature can lead to clouded opinions, and or confirmation bias. Now that we have outlined these things I think it’s pretty clear to say that a close fight CANNOT be a robbery. Can you feel one fighter should have shaded it? Sure! Do you feel that one fighter was hard done by? Fair enough. A robbery though? I’m sorry I can’t agree.
In essence this is how I feel about the Ward – Kovalev fight. I can entertain arguments from both sides on how and why they feel “their” fighter should have been the man with his hand raised, but the moment the “R” word starts rearing its ugly head, I have to check out. Uncle Roger and the term “YDKSAB” comes to mind. The first fight was a high speed game of chess where one wrong move could have had dire consequences for either man. Kovalev came out hard and fast, introducing the American to the canvas in the second round with a crushing right hand. Initially Ward looked to be befuddled by Kovalev’s ability to control the distance and range. I personally think the biggest shock for “SOG” was the hand speed of the “Krusher”, not his vaunted punching power. The first four rounds of the contest I feel should have been scored to Sergey due to his controlling of the distance, tempo and his willingness to take the initiative, get off first and press the action.
After the initial choppy waters of the first four rounds, Ward, like the seasoned ring general he is, made the necessary adjustments and began to take control. To me, adjustments mid-fight are the mark of a truly great fighter, and Ward has this ability in abundance. Ward wrestled control back of the distance and range from the “Krusher” and refused to give it back up. Ward was able to make sure that he maintained what he felt was a “safe” distance. This was either all the way out where he could not be reached or all the way in, where he could be inside Kovalevs arms, smothering his punching power. The contest then became a battle of wills, the man who could better control the distance would prevail. We were treated to roughly eight anxious and tense rounds that were sometimes only punctuated by one clean jab. Ward quickly realised that Kovalev was not enjoying the smothering attack and could not adjust to it, he then began to stay glued to the Russians chest and work his body with short stabbing punches that became instrumental. These punches while not eye catching were the most important of the contest I feel. When the time came for Kovalev to put the foot to the floor, he found his gas tank was empty. Ward had robbed him of his stamina.
After the first four or five rounds I found it difficult to give a clear round to Kovalev, others may watch the fight and say the same about Ward. This is the reality of an extremely close fight. A lot of rounds were so close and purely open to interpretation. My interpretation just happened to side with the guy who I thought was dictating where there the battle was fought. This was a very close fight and nothing suggests that the rematch will follow a different script. This is a terrific match up, a rematch of two evenly matched fighters who fought a razor close first fight. A robbery though? I don’t think so.
What do you think? Who should have won the first fight and why? How does the rematch go? Let me know.