Roach: Andre Ward isn’t the same fighter
By Allan Fox: Andre Ward’s last three fights in his comeback hasn’t fully convinced trainer Freddie Roach that he’s going to come out ahead in his fight next month against IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) on November 19.
Roach continues to believe that Ward is not same fighter he was before his two year absence from the boxing ring from 2013 to 2015. Ward has come back to win his last three fights against Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand, but he’s not looked like the fighter he was in the distant past.
Ward thinks he’s got more than enough left to give Kovalev his first loss of his career, but there are a lot of fans who don’t feel the same way. Ward isn’t helped that he’s had arguably inadequate preparation for the Kovalev fight with him facing largely poor super middleweights rather than high quality fighters from the light heavyweight division. Only Ward and his promoters at Roc Nation Sports know why he’s chosen to fight 168lb fighters rather than 175lb guys to get ready for the Kovalev fight. It is a backwards way to get ready for what could be the toughest fight of Ward’s life.
“It’s a tough fight. Ward, it seems that the layoff hurt him a little bit,” said Roach to fighthype.com about Andre Ward’s two-year layoff taking something away from his boxing skills. “I love that fight. I don’t think he’s quite the fighter he used to be. Kovalev’s really strong. He’s a good puncher, but he looked like [expletive] in his last fight too. I think it’s a very good fight. I like both guys so much. I’m not going to puck one or the other,” said Roach.
Ward didn’t show anything in his last three fights that would ive the indication that he’s going to be able o win against Kovalev.
The thing that you notice about Ward immediately when looking at his last three fights is his lack of movement. Ward used to be a mobile fighter during his best years. He was able to move around the ring to elude some of the bigger punchers like Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch.
However, it could be that Ward doesn’t feel like he needs to move for him to beat the guys that his promoters at Roc Nation Sports have been feeding him in his last three fights. Movement would be needed if Ward was fighting high quality fighters like Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, but he’s not been fighting those types of guys. He’s been facing fringe level contenders that didn’t have the required boxing skills to give him a lot of problems.
Roach isn’t making a pick for the Kovalev-Ward fight, which is somewhat surprising, because in the past, he’s leaned in the direction of Kovalev to win the fight. It could be that Kovalev’s less than impressive performance in his last fight against Isaac Chilemba last July has Roach questioning whether he has the goods or not to beat Ward.
Kovalev still beat Chilemba by a 12 round unanimous decision by he scores 116-111, 117-111 and 118-109. The outcome was never in doubt, Chilemba didn’t have the fire power to get the better of Kovalev in the exchanges. The only thing that Chilemba was able to do was land pot shots. When Kovalev would unload with his combinations, Chilemba got the worst of it due to his lack of punching power.
Ward looked better in winning his last fight against 39-year-old Alexander Brand than Kovalev did against Chilemba. There was a big difference in talent between the two fighters’ opposition. Chilemba is a top 10 talent in the 175lb division. Alexander Brand was little more than a guy with an inflated ranking at 168 in my view. He had never beaten anyone good for him to be ranked in the top 15.
Ward, 32, is going to need to try and prove everyone wrong when he gets out there with Kovlaev. It’s not enough that Ward believes himself to be the same fighter. He’s got to beat Kovalev and show that he’s the same fighter, because right now there are a lot of skeptical boxing fans that don’t think he’s the same fighter he once was.
If Ward can beat Kovalev, then there’s going to be huge pressure for him to be matched against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. That would be the last guy that would stand in front of Ward proving himself as the best fighter in the 175lb division. Hopefully, Ward would be able to get that fight. It’s not likely though, but it would be great. That would be an even tougher fight for Ward than the Kovalev fight, because Stevenson is a southpaw with speed and a lot of punching power. He would force Ward to have to come up with something good for him to have a chance of winning.
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