Sanchez: Andre Ward won’t be competitive against Kovalev

By Boxing News - 04/16/2016 - Comments

ward66By Allan Fox:
Trainer Abel Sanchez thinks unbeaten Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) won’t be competitive if he faces IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs) later this year in November. Sanchez, who trains Sullivan Barrera, says what he saw from the 31-year-old Ward in his 12 round decision win over Barrera last March wouldn’t be enough for him to be competitive with a huge puncher like Kovalev.

Sanchez feels that Ward would need at least two more fights to sharpen up before he could be competitive against Kovalev. Unfortunately for Ward, he’s only going to get one more tune-up fight before he’ll be asked to fight Kovalev later this year in November.

If Ward loses the fight, perhaps there can be a rematch if the fight is competitive or interesting to watch. If the fight is a total blowout, then it might be in Ward’s best interest to go in another direction towards one of the weaker 175lb belt holders like Juergen Braehmer of WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.

“The Andre Ward I saw that night [against Sullivan Barrera] wouldn’t be competitive against Kovalev,” said Sanchez to “The Andre Ward that could be if he fought a couple of more fights like that one, where someone presses him to work on his skills to get the rust off to get the inactivity out of the way, and to sharpen his eyes and his reflexes. Andre Ward would be competitive against Kovalev [if he fought a couple of more tune-ups]. This Andre Ward I saw that night, I don’t think he would,” said Sanchez.

Ward has fought only twice since making his comeback last June after nearly two years out of the ring. Ward defeated an out of shape super middleweight Paul Smith by a 9th round knockout. In Ward’s last fight, he defeated previously unbeaten Sullivan Barrera by a 12 round decision on March 26 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

Ward won the fight by the scores of 117-109, 119-107 and 117-109. Ward did not look unbeatable at all in that fight. He mostly looked defensive, and only capable of connecting with single shots when Barrera would go on the attack. If Barrera had the ability to fight on the inside like Kovalev, Ward would have been forced to hold all night long, because he was not the stronger guy in the ring or the better puncher. Barrera was clearly the better puncher of the two.

Ward’s lack of punching power at 175 will put him at a tremendous disadvantage against Kovalev. Ward won’t be able to count on getting a knockout, and his power shots won’t compare with the power shots that Kovalev will be hitting him with. Since Ward is just a one punch at a time type of fighter, he’s not going to be able to compete with Kovalev when he’s throwing combinations, which Kovalev will surely be doing all night long.

Kovalev also has the far better jab. He hits a lot harder than Ward with every punch in his arsenal, and there’s not much Ward will be able to do to compete in this fight other than using the old punch and grab technique to slow down Kovalev’s work rate. If Ward chooses to do a lot of holding all night long against Kovalev, then the fight could wind up being a real eyesore.

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That’s not a fight that Ward would win because he would still be getting hit with the harder shots each time there would be separation between the two fighters. The fans and the judges would see Ward just trying to stall out the fight, and they wouldn’t like what they’re seeing. Ward’s stock would plummet after the fight. If you’re going to lose, it’s better to go out looking brave than someone who is trying to turn to glue to stop Kovalev from throwing punches.

I don’t think it’ll matter how many tune-up fights that Ward has. He’s missed too many years of activity in the last five years since 2011, and he’s not the same fighter that won the Super Six tournament in 2011. Ward also doesn’t have the power or the offensive to compete with a big power puncher like Kovalev at 175.

Kovalev is a high work rate fighter with crushing power in either hand. Ward can’t hope to beat a guy like Kovalev by throwing single surprise shots that catch him while he’s moving forward, because Kovalev will take those single shots and fire Ward up in close with chopping shots to the head. Ward will be forced to hold every time, and that kind of Bernard Hopkins style won’t endear himself with the judges.