Kovalev-Ward and the quest for the number one spot
By Hector Franco
November 18, 2016
LAS VEGAS - Tomorrow night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles against Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs). The winner has the chance to prove himself as arguably the number one fighter in the sport. There are other contenders for the crown, as many will still have Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38 KOs) in the top spot no matter who wins Saturday night.
For Kovalev , the victory will likely cement him as the best light heavyweight of this era. Kovalev was first put on the national stage in 2013 against Gabriel Campillo. Since then the Russian has been on a tear in the division. He has scored knockouts over every fighter he has faced since 2013 with the exception of two. One of them was the biggest victory of his career against Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs). At the time Hopkins was the WBA and IBF light heavyweight champion. He was also only two months shy of his 50th birthday. Kovalev on that night knocked Hopkins down in the first round and preceded to dominate him in a fashion that nobody else has.
In his last fight, Kovalev faced Isaac Chilemba in his home country of Russia. Kovalev was able to get a unanimous decision victory. But to many fans and critics, his performance was subpar. This may be a blessing in disguise for Kovalev as a tough fight that challenged him may be what he needed before facing Andre Ward.
Going into this fight with Ward, Kovalev is the decided underdog. Wards acclaim in the sport is of the highest degree. Along with being the underdog, Kovalev also received a lower purse than Ward. Kovalev got $2 million for the fight and Ward will receive $5 million. The man that goes by “Krusher” is a fighter that is calculating and with a mean streak. Kovalev won’t need much motivation to go after Ward. He shouldn’t be underestimated as his boxing IQ and ability to control range make him a dangerous foe.
The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist has a chip on his shoulder coming into the fight with Kovalev. It’s been 5 years since Ward faced Carl Froch in the Super Six tournament final. That night he became the official best super middleweight in the world and considered one of the best in the world pound-for-pound. After Juan Manuel Marquez landed the right hand heard around the world against Manny Pacquiao in December 2012, the pound-for-pound spot was up for grabs between Ward and Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather had the more expansive resume through five different weight classes. An advantage held by Ward was that he was still fighting in his prime.
Whether Ward, is still in his prime plays a huge factor against Kovalev. 2016 is the first time Ward has fought three times in one calendar year since 2009. Ward will be more than ready to face Kovalev on Saturday night. There is a look of determination on his face when he speaks. It could be a matter of knowing that everything in the past doesn’t matter if he defeats Kovalev.
The number one spot is up for grabs. Ward and Kovalev will fight for a piece of it. One will fall short and the hope is that the winner snatches it. At the weigh-in, Ward told HBO that it was his time.
Ward has something to prove but so does Kovalev. Hopefully, the fight lives up to and exceeds expectations.
(Featured Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)