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Hopkins: Ward must smother Kovalev’s offense

Andre Ward Bernard Hopkins Sergey Kovalev

Byn Allan Fox: Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) must disarm IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev to beat him in their fight on November 19, according to Bernard Hopkins. He feels that Ward has to take away Kovalev’s right hand immediately to be successful. From there, Hopkins thinks that Ward can smother the 33-year-old Kovalev all night long in their fight on HBO pay-per-view.

What this means for boxing fans is that they would likely see Ward clinching a lot, and wrestling on the inside for 12 rounds. We saw a lot of the wrestling last night with Ward’s 12 round unanimous decision victory over Alexander Brand (25-2, 19 KOs) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

We also saw Ward exclusively using his smothering approach in the Super Six tournament in his fights against Carl Froch and Allan Green. Ward was able to wrestle them for 12 rounds to win easy fights. Ward’s grappling was less successful when he tried it against Sakio Bika in 2010. Ward took a lot of punishment in that fight by trying to wrestle Bika on the inside.

Bika was the stronger guy and was able to frequently work an arm free to club Ward to the head. Ward was finally forced to give up on his smothering/wrestling style in the second of the Bika box from the outside.

When asked what Ward needs to for him to beat Kovalev, Hopkins said to fighthype, “[avoid] The right hand, his power, and not being at the end of Sergio’s punches. I think he has the ability to smother him, to offset him, and has all the skills to confuse him. He’s going to have to do all those things to be successful. This was not a fight to measure whether he will beat Sergey Kovalev or not,” said Hopkins in speaking about Ward’s fight against Brand. “This was a fight for activity, as for as rust, mental rust, physical rust, getting the round, and getting the feel of being back on a big stage. You’ve got to understand that if a man has something in his hand that can hurt you, if you take that away from him, it’s called disarming. He must disarm his opponent. That might not be easy in the first half of the fight. Just because I said, ‘Don’t get hit with the right hand,’ doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s [Ward] going to win. He has to disarm him. When you disarm him, now let’s see what you have left. It’s calling having tricks in the bag. If you don’t have one than the fight is over,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins isn’t saying who he thinks will win the fight between Ward and Kovalev, but he seems to have a great deal of praise for Ward, who some boxing fans feel has a Hopkins-like fighting style.

If Ward is going to use the Hopkins approach to fighting Kovalev on November 19, then this could turn out to be a very easy win for Kovalev, because wrestling/smothering is a failure of a plan. That’s a strategy that works on smaller, weaker fighters, but not against guys that outweigh you and are naturally stronger. If that’s going to be Ward’s Plan-A for the Hopkins fight, then I hope that he has a good backup plan when I fails to work. For Ward to go back to his tired old plan of fighting that he used in the Super Six tournament five years ago is probably a dumb idea.

Hopefully for Ward’s sake, he doesn’t follow Hopkins’ advice to try and smother Kovalev’s power, because it likely won’t work and it will produce a very boring fight. The last thing that Ward needs is to bore the boxing world with a second straight boring fight on HBO.

The idea is for Ward to produce exciting performances in each fight so that it brings in good ratings for HBO. If you bring great ratings, then the network will more likely want to continue to televise your fights when your contract is up. But if you bore the boxing fans with dull fights, then there’s no real reason for a network to hang onto you because there are many more fighters out there who entertain rather than smother or make it dull by running.

Ward didn’t do a lot of initiating of the clinches last night against Alexander Brand, but he did wind up wrestling him a lot when they did clinch. That was boring to watch because it looked like wrestling rather than fighting. The referee should have stopped the wresting because it was dull to watch.

Hopkins lost badly to Kovalev in losing a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores of 120-106, 120-107 and 120-107. As bad as Hopkins lost to Kovalev, I’m not sure if he’s the right guy to be giving advice to Ward. With Hopkins’ track record of losing every round to Kovalev, I think he’s the last guy that Ward should be listening to advice from for the Kovalev fight. Ward would be better off listening to advice from Isaac Chilemba, because he did a lot better against Kovalev than Hopkins. Chilemba lost a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores of 116-111, 117-111 and 118-109. The fight was fairly one-sided, but Chilemba had his moments in the fight. Chilemba is a better fighter than Ward in terms of defensive skills and mobility. Ward, 32, is older and slower than the 29-year-old Chilemba, so it’s not surprising that he’s not as fast as him.

It’s going to be hard for Ward to take away Kovalev’s right hand because he’s able to throw it from short or long distance. However, even if Ward does take away Kovalev’s right hand, he has a great jab and nice left hook. It’s going to be extremely hard for Ward to take away all of Kovalev’s weapons because Ward isn’t the young fighter he was years ago. He’s also dealing with a guy that is naturally bigger than hi and the guys that Ward has fought in the past. There’s no one on Ward’s resume that Kovalev wouldn’t beat. Kovalev would have been too much for the likes of Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, Edwin Rodriguez and Mikkel Kessler. Those were the best guys that Ward has faced during his career. Most of the other guys were weaker opponents.

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