It’s still certain to garner passionate argument. Who won the first fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev?
Opinions vary. Cries of robbery, in favor of Kovalev, are probably still the strongest held takes. For those who thought Kovalev won by more than a round or so, a grave injustice was witnessed last November.
From this corner, robbery is an overstatement; these eyes witnessed a fight decided by about a single point with the knockdown of Ward in round two making the difference. The greatest source of singular scoring controversy may not have been the fight itself but a lone frame.
In a contest with swing rounds galore, round ten wasn’t one of them. Kovalev threw more, landed more, and landed harder. All three judges gave the round to Ward. It came after a string of rounds marking a second half momentum swing for Ward in general.
Tenth round scores were arguably the difference in the fight. Flip the scoring and Kovalev wins. It was a case where, if one felt strongly about the tenth, there was something to be said for the capacity for human error. Boxing gets a lot of charges of corruption but in this case we saw a possible example of how judges can get as caught up in the story of what they’re watching as anyone else outside the ring.
The story of the fight in the moments and months since the first fight has been a largely dominant first half from Kovalev and a gutsy rebound from Ward. Even that is too basic a recollection. There is a perception is come circles that Kovalev slowed down in the second half. The punch stats for the fight don’t bear it out. Both men threw more in the second half. It was less about Kovalev slowing down and more about Ward picking up the pace.
The official tally says Ward 1-0 in this rivalry. The court of public opinion remains undecided and thus they do it again.
On Saturday (HBO PPV, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST), we have two fighters who look every bit as evenly matched as they were last year. Will we still be debating the better man after chapter two?
Let’s go the report card.
?Current Title: WBA “Super”/IBF/WBO Light Heavyweight (2016-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBA Super Middleweight (2009-15, 6 Defenses); WBC Super Middleweight (2011-13, 1 Defense); TBRB/Ring/Lineal Super Middleweight (2011-15, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 175 lbs.
?Hails from: Oakland, California
Record: 31-0, 15 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec, Ring); #2 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Mikkel Kessler TD11; Sakio Bika UD12; Arthur Abraham UD12; Carl Froch UD12; Chad Dawson TKO10; Sergey Kovalev UD12
Previous Titles: WBO Light Heavyweight (2013-16, 8 Defenses); WBA Super Light Heavyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses); IBF Light Heavyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 175 lbs.
?Hails from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Hails from Russia)
Record: 30-1-1, 26 KO
Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec), #3 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-1, 7 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Gabriel Campillo TKO3; Nathan Cleverly TKO4; Bernard Hopkins UD12; Jean Pascal TKO8, RTD7; Andre Ward L12
Pre-Fight: Speed – Kovalev B+; Ward A
Pre-Fight: Power – Kovalev A; Ward B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Kovalev B+; Ward A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Kovalev A+; Ward A+