LAS VEGAS, USA – American Andre Ward stopped Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO titles on Saturday, June 17 (Sunday in Manila) in an entertaining rematch of their light heavyweight fight 7 months ago.
The two first met last November, with Ward winning in a razor-thin 114-113 decision over Kovalev to remain unbeaten. About 30 seconds later, a “questionable” body shot had Kovalev doubled over in pain or perhaps he was just trying to catch the attention of referee Tony Weeks.
Ward, who a few days before the bout had said that his punching power was vastly underrated, looked like the killer who had 26 knockouts in 32 fights, not Kovalev. “You’ve got to raise your game to the next level and thankfully that’s what we did tonight”.
Ward’s assault didn’t slow down until he had Kovalev pinned against the ropes and as he bent over from the succession of punches, the referee had no choice but to stop the fight at 2:29 of the eighth round. This is fight. We are boxers. It doesn’t mean you stop a fight every time somebody gets hurt.
“I could have continued”, the Russian said.
The 33-year-old Ward needed this victory to validate his first win as many felt the Russian won that fight and that Ward had been given a gift decision by the three judges.
Kovalev seemed to get the early advantage with his aggressiveness as he pressed forward with his punches while backing Ward up with a straight jab.
From the fight, Ward was guaranteed to walk out with $6.5 million, while Kovalev was left with earning his money from the PPV and gate revenue.
“He’s a great fighter”, Ward said.
In his post-fight interview, Kovalev questioned the intervention of Weeks and suggested that he had received an illegal punch. What doesn’t sell tickets and pay-per-views is a fighter who refuses to talk to the media two days before his fight and walks off the stage during the fight’s final news conference, as Kovalev did Thursday. There were low blows. But if Kovalev got stopped only because of that – and he didn’t, because, reminder, lots of legal blows, too, including one that rocked his ass – then maybe he was going to get stopped anyway. I knew he was hurt. He landed a big right hand that snapped Kovalev’s head back and really signaled the beginning of the end. Rigondeaux’s punch landed, and Flores dropped to the canvas where he was counted out.
The immediate reactions will be to complain about the referee or the perceived low blows, but what shouldn’t be lost is Andre Ward leaving no doubt about who’s the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by dismantling yet another world class opponent.