Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward: Everything You Need to Know for Upcoming Fight
Saturday night's pay-per-view bout between unified light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and former super middleweight champ Andre Ward is a sharp departure from recent matchups in our sport. Kovalev-Ward is a legit superfight—the kind that looks equal to pretty much any of the all-time great matchups in boxing history headed into it.
Yes, it's that good.
Think about it like this. Kovalev-Ward is better than last year’s Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. It’s more important to the future of the sport than that fight was. It features more evenly matched fighters, and it is happening while both men are in their primes. The only thing Mayweather-Pacquiao was better at was creating buzz and making money. As a fight fan, do you really care all that much about those things?
Kovalev-Ward is a truly special gift from the heavens. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Reach: 72.5 inches
Record: 30-1-0 (26 KOs)
Rounds Fought: 114
Trainer: John David Jackson
Strengths: Power, punch output and aggression
Weaknesses: Handspeed, has been hurt by lesser opponents
Overall Analysis: Kovalev is just plain mean. He doesn't just want to win fights. He wants to destroy people, and he usually does just that. He possesses outstanding power in both hands and is adept at planting his feet to explode on his target. Moreover, Kovalev has good boxing technique overall. He might lack handspeed, but his feet are fast enough to get him where he needs to be and he has the training to know where he should be and how to run his opponents into his punches based on some pretty sharp footwork.
Reach: 71 inches
Record: 30-0 (15 KOs)
Rounds Fought: 218
Trainer: Virgil Hunter
Strengths: Technique, speed, agility
General Analysis: Ward is the most complete fighter in boxing today. He's a superb technician, and he gets credit from most for being a great boxer from a distance. That's correct. But where other great boxers such as Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux lack an inside game to go along with it, Ward is just as good inside and at any other distance, too. The question for Ward will be how much his relative lack of power, which was good but not spectacular at 168, will hinder him against Kovalev.
What's at Stake
Both fighters will (and should) get credit for taking this fight. It's rare in today's boxing's world for a fight of this caliber to happen before one or both are box-office superstars. As good as they are, neither Kovalev or Ward are quite that yet.
Kovalev, for whatever reason, just hasn't caught on with boxing fans the way his Eastern European counterpart Gennady Golovkin has. But a win would give Kovalev a huge boost in his quest to be labeled among boxing's elite cash cows, and most already rank Kovalev at or near the No. 1 spot pound-for-pound in the sport
As for Ward, he might have been a superstar already had he remained more active over the past few years. But he's a rare blend of athleticism and technique the same way Floyd Mayweather was, and he accomplished so much at 168 in essentially cleaning out a pretty stacked division to have it pay forward should he win this weekend.
No matter what, the winner of this fight will be set as far as being an A-side PPV star for the foreseeable future in that anyone who does not have the winner on top his or her pound-for-pound list then should get a licensed medical professional to do a head examination.
The winner will also become the unified light heavyweight champion. Kovalev holds the IBF, WBA and WBO title belts, so he will hope to retain them. Conversely, Ward will want to snag the first 175-pound belts of his career, which began at super middleweight and culminated in the lineal championship captured in 2011 and held until his move up to 175. While the lineal champion in the division will remain Adonis Stevenson no matter what happens in Kovalev-Ward, most fight observers would rate the winner of Kovalev-Ward the superior 175-pound fighter no matter what by virtue of the better resume.
Boxing overall has a lot to gain, too. This hasn't been a great year for the sweet science. There have been far too fights overall, and the ones we've gotten have left much to be desired. But Kovalev-Ward is the best fight that can be made in boxing right now. It might even be the best fight made over the last decade or so in the sport.
Odds and Where to Watch
Odds: According to Odds Shark, Ward is a slight favorite heading into Saturday night. This one is essentially a toss up, so don't be surprised if the line moves late either way.
What: Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward for Kovalev's IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles
When: Saturday, Nov. 19
Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas
TV: HBO PPV at 9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT
TV Undercard: Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs. Isaac Chilemba, Maurice Hooker vs. Darleys Perez, Curtis Stevens vs. James de la Rosa
This fight could go either way. While that's technically true in every fight, it's usually easy to convince yourself one way or the other by then time we are this close to the fight. I admit this one has me pretty much stumped.
Here's why: Both fighters are just so darn good. Neither has been beaten as a professional, and both are at the top of their game.
Kovalev is considered a pressure fighter, and he is. But he's shown he's a good enough boxer from the outside to make the likes of Bernard Hopkins look silly, and he's smart enough to know he can't just bum rush fighters like Ward who are on his level. He doesn't need a knockout to win. To win, he could theoretically box from the outside and make Ward, the counterpuncher, come to him. He has options.
But so does his opponent. Ward isn't just a great boxing. He's a complete as a fighter. He is as good an infighter as any in the sport, and it's hard form me to see how he could go an entire fight against Kovalev without figuring out where he should be (in or out) and stay there. He'll find something that works and stick with it.
Still, a prediction is what you want, so here it is: Kovalev defeats Ward in a much-disputed, long-debated split decision that ultimately leads to a rematch. Ward will land cleaner blows, but Kovalev's power and aggression will give him the nod on two of the judges' scorecards—and just barely. But if you are the type to rewatch fights to rescore them as many times as you can so you can be sure you make the right call—at least for you, be prepared to do that with this one more times than you ever have had to do it.
Prediction: Kovalev via split decision