First and foremost, the most apt response to the Saturday light heavyweight tango between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev is: good fight! We needed that, even if maybe it would have been more beneficial to have a less controversial decision hanging over the event.
Thanks be to fate and the fighters, pictured above in David Spagnolo/Main Events snap, who conspired to offer up 12 rounds of compelling pugilism at T Mobile in Vegas and on HBO PPV.
Let's dive into some takeaways from the clash which saw Andre Ward gain light heavyweight titles, if not both the electoral college and popular vote majorities, over Sergey Kovalev, shall we?
THE EYES HAVE IT Beauty and boxing are the most subjective of subjects. What you and I see can be the same, but our interpretation can be as different as night and day. Exhibit A today is the Ward v Kovalev fight. Fair to say a majority of people polled saw the Russian do better. But three people tasked with watching and scoring for keeps said otherwise. Some cried robbery, others merely tabbed the one point margin on all three cards “controversial.” I will go with the C word; robberies are reserved for outlandish and egregious and fights in which one guy throws a few hundred more punches and lands the majority of haymakers…and still the arbiters turn in cards that defy reason. This wasn't that.
MUST KAYO JUDGES' REASON FOR BEING Said it before, will say it again, and again. Going into a fight, both teams must assess their strengths and weaknesses, and that includes their political capital. As became clear to the K crew after they saw the American get the nod in America after three American judges deemed him the loser, it's not unwise to contemplate game planning with eyes wide open. That means, if you are Team Kovalev next time, you stride to the ring assuming you will not get the benefit of the doubt on the scorecards and you might want to try to speak to that by removing the judges from the equation. Want to win? Want a guarantee your effort will be rewarded? Try like the Dickens to drop and stop your foe.
A TALE OF TWO HALVES Who among you wasn't thinking that this thing was ending early, after a jab buckled Ward and he then went down for the second time in his career? But this theater of the unexpected again offered up a reminder, that total pros sometimes find themselves sliding off a cliff, grab a handhold, hold on, reset their compass, and start again the ascent on a wiser path. Ward did that, didn't he? He warmed up, shook some rust off, deciphered the arsenal of the opponent, and tweaked his game accordingly. Better feints, more judicious movement, choosier application of when to engage in close, and went to clinch up, had Ward resetting the tone around round four. That is what the judges saw, as they rewarded his second half mightily.
DEFENDER IN CHIEF The unofficial scorer Harold Lederman saw Kovalev the more effective aggressor and winning by four points. But even so, late in the game he wondered by the Russian wasn't jamming his foot on the violence accelerator and looking to steamroll Ward. Easier said then done, his booth mates replied. Indeed; Ward has multiple different ways of making busy bodies less so. The total volume of punches in this waltz was Ward friendly, as the two combined to throw fewer punches than a single volume specialist throws by himself in some square offs. Next time, Kovalev will want to have a pace that more so benefits him. Easier said than done, son.
20/20 HINDSIGHT DEPT. If and when my nomination is approved, maybe in Neveruary, my POV will be reflected on how Box Nation will be run. You can expect some changes, among them more inclusion. Had I been running the Ward/Kovalev promotion I would have elevated the Claressa Shields pro debut onto the televised portion of the program. With hindsight's wisdom, fair to say her Gold Medal track record might have paid off in promotion more than the showcase of Maurice Hooker did. Did Hooker have an off night or it was this decision a misstep, an over estimation of his ceiling? He will need to prove it was the former. Anyway, I'd like to have been a fly on the wall when this topic was in play, how to best play Shields' spot on the card.
FAIR TO SAY P4P IN PLAY You wanted clarity in your pound for pound list? Sorry, maybe that happens for you Saturday, when Vasyl Lomachenko gets tested by Nicholas Walters in Vegas, on HBO regular. But with most media in the US seeing Kovalev as the winner of the 175 supremacy clash, and maybe 75 percent of regular Joes and Janes saying the same on social media, Ward didn't grab anything close to a mandate. I guess I will take the opportunity to say that I think a retiree is the best pugilist on the planet, I think Floyd Mayweather is as he was in 2015, 2014, 2013 etc the best boxer on planet Earth.
STYLES MAKE FIGHTS, AND DEBATES. Paul Malignaggi worked an analyst chair for SKY and he had Ward a winner by five or six points. Yep, fair to say he saw a different fight than, say, Dan Rafael of ESPN, who had Kovalev a three point winner. Different strokes, folks. I can see either man getting the win, because until the technology is perfected which allows smartbots to score boxing matches, then imperfect beings with the liberty to reward different traits and skills will continue to differ enormously in their interpretation of such events.
Readers, fire us your top takeaway from Ward v Kovalev, the other bouts on the card, and the response to the decision, please!