SUNDAY UPDATE The sting is still fresh for Team Kovalev, which believes the judges got it really wrong in Vegas.
How to cope with the disappointment? Maybe by looking to the future, the near ish future…
Post fight, in ring, Andre Ward accepted the idea of a rematch but wasn't warmly embracing of an immediate sequel.
Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva, though, told me on Sunday afternoon that her side wants a rematch.
Immediate? And is that bound by a contract? “Yes,” she said.
You maybe saw Adonis Stevenson weighing in that he wanted to unfify titles with Ward. Not so fast, is the Duva stance. Another Ward v Kovalev faceoff is called for, no sidetracks or interim arrangements will be tolerated.
Boxing got what it needed, two at-peak studs in a tight scrap on Saturday night at T Mobile in Las Vegas, and on HBO PPV.
Tight was the word; all three judges had it 114-113, for Andre Ward, still unbeaten since age 12, over Sergey Kovalev.
This was not a high volume slugfest, a “fan friendly” barn burner fight of the year special. No, this was high grade pugilism, ring science of a sweet and occasionally savage variety.
Ward looked iffy early, hitting the deck. But then Ward got his legs and timing and was the better ring general in the second half. All three arbiters rewarded him in the 12th round, and it felt like much of the arena thought the Russian would be having his hand raised.
Ward might've been surprised at getting the W though he insisted not to Max Kellerman after Kovalev said he got rooked, by American judges who rewarded the Cali boxer over the Russian. Damn right he wants a rematch, he stated. Ward said he'd give the “loser” a rematch but he didn't want to negotiate that now.
The tango and card was put together by Main Events and Roc Nation.
Ward, age 32, entered at 30-0. He drew fans and respect more so in the last couple months by allowing media and fans to learn his upbringing story. Suffice to say his familial difficulties and ability to persevere made his rooting section beefier, and maybe encouraged those on the fence to pick Ward coming in. Fans thought it possible that his defensive skills would make this look easy, but some wondered if inactivity had removed some luster from his arsenal.
Kovalev, age 33, was 30-0-1 described as a “Knockout machine” as he strode to the ring. Would his power edge be activated against a nullification specialist?
In the first, Ward clinched first. He also jabbed to the body but then got buckled, off a jab.
In the second, Ward was getting backed up. Then a right dropped Ward. He was up and held. Would this be over early?
In the third, Ward came out in linebacker mode. Ward was backing up, then looked to get aggressive. His lateral movement was on target now.
In the fourth, they mugged each other start. Ward wanted to keep distance and he did so. Kovalev wasn't able to close the distance and be busy that much. “Set those traps,” said Virgil Hunter after the round to Ward.
In the fifth, Kovalev stalked the mover Ward. But he respected Ward maybe too much, as he looked a weight class larger.
The last three rounds were close.
To 6; it was clinchy early. More feints from Ward now. But he wasn't using the right and wasn't busy enough. To 7; Kov jabbed then Ward did too. Ward was warmed up and not moving as much. He was comfy in center ring.
In round eight, Ward was now in a mode. He hugged when needed and slipped better now and clanged to the body. In the ninth, Ward landed to the body, took risks a few times, and his timing was on. He didn't get crazy or too bold. Kovalev maybe edged the round. Hunter asked him to win the next three.
In the tenth, we saw them in center ring. Ward's left was on message. Was Kovalev's nose busted? “Dre, he's tired. Win these last two, seal the victory,” said Hunter. To 11; the left from Ward was again solid. Kov was tired and he fell. “Put him down,” Hunter told him. To 12; it was trench fighting. The left by Ward was money. To head and body. Kov left to the body smarted. K went low and then stalked Ward to the finish. We'd go to the cards, and breathes were held…