In the emotions following a major prizefight, both combatants and fans will often go Hollywood before the conscious screams “Cut!”
As I sat down to begin the article entitled “Who Won?” immediately after Andre Ward’s dental floss thin-like win over Sergey Kovalev, I started searching for a comparison. I was also torn over being happy for the fighter I wanted to win, Ward (let’s not pretend media members don’t have rooting interests), while processing the thoughts of a woman I admire greatly, Kathy Duva, and the bewildered amusement in the body language of Sergey Kovalev.
Glancing down at my 115-112 scorecard in favor of “Krusher” I wondered how long it would take Ward to start feeling as if he’d won– but that he really didn’t beat him.
More than likely (perhaps as he held a machete to the turkey), Ward seethed mildly that so many in the media protested that Kovalev won the fight. Yeah, you can almost guarantee Ward wants it with Kovalev tomorrow.
But would he win?
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Ward referenced Sugar Ray Leonard in preparation for Kovalev, particularly, his superfight with Thomas Hearns. In retrospect, Ward vs. Kovalev was more akin to Leonard vs. Hearns II.
By June 1989, Sugar Ray was a part-time legend with unfinished beef against a thought to be fading superstar in Hearns. “The Hitman” had morphed into a true light heavyweight against a synthetic one in Leonard.
Sugar Ray figured out a way to manufacture a draw, an outcome he’d later admit was undeserved. It took every ounce of his remaining prime to get that verdict, as Hearns emerged the fresher fighter.
Leonard was never the same after this contest, as his very next fight proved. The greatest pure boxer I have ever seen in my life was bludgeoned over 12 “Terrible” rounds by Terry Norris at Madison Square Garden. Sugar Ray Leonard was 33 years-old.
Andre Ward is cut from the same cloth of an 80’s great, and like Leonard, may be an “old” 32 in fistic terms. He took the kind of punishment Leonard survived in Hearns II, while looking like Sugar Ray after the Norris fight.
Think Leonard beats Hearns in a trilogy? It’s not logical, nor is believing Ward wins a modern Leonard/Hearns III in Kovalev II.