Andre Ward grinds out win; Sergey Kovalev calls it ‘the wrong decision’ – ESPN
He made his case by winning a razor-close unanimous decision against Sergey Kovalev to claim three light heavyweight world title belts before an adoring crowd of 13,310 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
All three judges scored the bout 114-113 for Ward, who survived a second-round knockdown and some shaky moments. ESPN.com scored the fight 115-112 for Kovalev, who appeared to land the much more powerful punches. HBO’s unofficial scorer, Hall of Fame judge Harold Lederman, had Kovalev winning 116-111. Many media members sitting ringside also had Kovalev winning.
In a matchup of undefeated fighters, Andre Ward rallies in the late rounds to topple champion Sergey Kovalev. Here are the key stats from the fight.
- Aleksandr Gvozdyk broke down former light heavyweight world title challenger Isaac Chilemba, who retired on his stool with an apparent right hand injury Saturday night.
- Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields powered to a four-round decision victory against amateur rival Franchon Crews in her professional debut Saturday night in Las Vegas.
If judges Glenn Trowbridge and John McKaie had given Kovalev the final round, the fight would have been a split decision win for Kovalev. Judge Burt Clements gave Kovalev the 12th round, but had Ward ahead going into the round.
“This is a beautiful thing. We did it, baby. It’s a lot of hardware,” Ward said as he was presented with the belts. “Surreal. This is what we set out to do. I’m a five-[belt] world champion in two different weight classes. Man, it’s amazing.
“This sounds good — the new light heavyweight champ. This was my most important and satisfying win.”
There were many who believed that the Kovalev-Ward winner would be worthy of replacing junior bantamweight titlist Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez as the new pound-for-pound king, and some may elevate Ward into that lofty perch off his career-best victory that already includes wins against such top opponents as Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Chad Dawson.
Ward said he was not surprised he got the nod.
“I was not surprised when I heard the decision,” he said. “I don’t know where you got that from. I know it was a close fight. The crowd, you can hear they thought I won.
“He did everything I expected him to do. He started to show up as I expected. He started to fight like I expected. My coach [Virgil Hunter] did a great job.”
Kovalev, who was making his ninth title defense, strongly disagreed with the scoring.
“It’s the wrong decision. I don’t want to say my opinion,” he said. “The witnesses are here. They saw it. It’s my job. It was a fight of my life. I am disappointed in the judges’ decision.
“He got maybe a few rounds. I agree with that. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds the whole fight. It is the USA and all the judges were from the USA. It’s a sport. Don’t make it politics. It’s a sport and I won the fight.”
Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, also was not happy with the decision.
“My impression was that was the wrong decision,” she said. “We thought he was clearly ahead on points. I think Ward could have a great career in the UFC. I haven’t seen so much wrestling since Conor McGregor in the UFC card last week.”
Ward did initiate many clinches and referee Robert Byrd did little to stop it, allowing the fighters to work their way out of it.
“I thought for sure it was not going to be a one-way fight, but the wrestling was outrageous. The referee didn’t do anything about it and I’m really upset. [Kovalev] won the first six rounds and he had a knockdown. How the hell did he lose a decision?” said Duva.
Ward will likely have to face Kovalev in a rematch. Duva said they would exercise their right to an immediate rematch.
“We’re going to get him back in the ring as soon as we can and right this wrong,” Duva said.