For the second time in seven months, Andre Ward has defeated Sergey Kovalev, this time via TKO to retain the WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring light-heavyweight titles Saturday.
HBO Boxing shared some of the images from Ward's eighth-round victory at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas:
Prior to Ward's TKO, this was another close battle. Ward's left eye was starting to swell shut due to Kovalev's punching. Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports had the bout scored in favor of the Russian, 67-66, through seven rounds.
Ward (32-0) got vindication after his controversial unanimous-decision win in their previous matchup last November. The California native looked vulnerable throughout that first fight, including being knocked down in the second round.
Former HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant declared Ward's unanimous-decision win in the first fight when all three judges scored it 114-113 to be a "classic hometown decision," per the Guardian's Bryan Armen Graham.
ESPN's Dan Rafael was not enamored with the performance Ward gave in that original bout:
"The great speed and slickness of Ward was not very evident, as Kovalev popped him with jabs and right hands. Ward got off some good shots, but Kovalev walked right through them. But whatever speed and defense Ward lacked, he showed immense toughness and guile under a constant assault from 'Krusher' Kovalev, known as one of boxing's most devastating punchers."
Kovalev's camp requested an immediate rematch with Ward, eventually signing the contract in March. After the Russian star nearly blemished Ward's perfect record, the pressure was on Ward to prove he truly was the best light heavyweight boxer in the world.
Saturday's result was more in line with what is expected of Ward. He was the most exciting, dominant light heavyweight fighter at the time, but Kovalev cast doubt on that in their first matchup.
By granting Kovalev the immediate rematch, Ward exacted his revenge and left the rest of the light-heavyweight division wondering what it will take to stop his reign.