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Andre Ward says Kovalev not the strongest puncher he’s faced

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev

By Eric Baldwin: Andre Ward wasn’t in the mood to give former IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev much credit after beating him last Saturday night in their fight on HBO pay-per-view. Despite winning the fight by a very narrow margin of 114-113 on all three scorecards, Ward boasted about Kovalev not being the hardest puncher he’s ever faced, and how he believes he wore down in the second half of the fight.

Kovalev appeared to be the one on the attack in the 11th and 12th rounds, while Ward was moving away, trying to hold. It’s unclear what Ward means by him thinking that Kovalev faded.

Ward was asked if he would be willing to fight WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, and he said he’s not interested in talking about him. Ward said that Adonis has had chances for big fights in the past and he’s not done it.

Ward said to this about Kovalev’s punching power not being the best he’s faced:
“I’ve pretty much tasted everything there is to taste as a professional fighter except a loss,” said Ward to the boxing media after his win over Kovalev.

When asked if Kovalev is the biggest puncher he’s ever faced in his career, Ward said, “I can’t say that. He had a strong punch, but it was nothing. Did y’all see me running tonight? He’s a strong puncher, but there was nothing in his punches that made me feel like, man, I can’t engage with him at all.”

The obvious question is if Kovalev wasn’t a big puncher, then why was Ward moving all around the ring for 12 rounds and holding so much? If Kovalev couldn’t punch, then why did Ward get dropped in the 2nd round? Why did Ward stop throwing right hands after he was knocked down?

Kovalev must have had enough power to make Ward clinch and move frequently, because he wasn’t fighting like that in his three previous fights in his comeback against Alexander Brand, Sullivan Barrera and Paul Smith. Ward was standing in the pocket against those guys the entire fights, looking to nail them with shots. Ward fought a completely different fight against Kovalev. He didn’t stand in the pocket much, and there was a lot of clinching, wrestling and moving.

It was real spoiling tactics from Ward. It obviously worked enough to keep him in the fight for the full 12 rounds. It impressed the judges, who gave Ward the win by a 12 round decision by the scores of 114-113. However, it wasn’t the type of stuff that you usually see from winners. The survival oriented stuff that Ward did was stuff that fighters use that are just trying to go the full 12 rounds without getting knocked out. But surprisingly, Ward’s spoiling impressed the judges working the fight, because they gave him the win with a 7 rounds to 5 score.

Kovalev is a good puncher, but he’s not one of those one-punch guys that you see in boxing. You can argue that WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, Joe Smith, and Artur Beterbiev might all be harder punchers than Kovalev. What makes Kovalev so good is he has good power, great range, an excellent jab and he’s hard to hit, as Ward found out last Saturday night.

Ward was missing more than he was landing. He only connected on a little over 30 percent of his shots.

Ward was then asked if he’d be interested in fighting WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in a unification match. Ward said, “I can’t call it. It’s not even about the titles right now. Adonis has had so many opportunities to fight. It’s funny that all of a sudden he’s calling the winner out of this fight. I’m not even interested in talking about Adonis. I think it was pretty much what it was. He’s [Kovalev] sharp, technically sound. He’s got the European style. We’ve got a couple of these fighters in our gym, so I knew how they work, how they fight. It’s a great style. I was a little surprised how much he faded physically. As a fighter, you can feel it. He just couldn’t, he didn’t have another gear,” said Ward about Kovalev.

Ward’s comments about not being interested in speaking about Adonis Stevenson might be interpreted as a sign that he’s not up for taking on the dangerous WBC champion. Stevenson isn’t someone that Ward could just walk over. This isn’t Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera or Alexander Brand we’re talking about. Stevenson has the punching power and the speed to give Ward problems if he lands something flush.

Ward would be picking himself up off the canvas in little pieces if Stevenson connects. He’s a huge puncher. Stevenson knocked out Chad Dawson in the 1st round in 2013. It took Ward 10 rounds to get Dawson out of there in 2012.
“I always want to give the fans a good show,” said Ward. “I know what I have in me.”

It wasn’t a good show. After the 2nd round, the fight became kind of stale to watch. I wanted it to become interesting again, but it never did. I wanted to see action, knockdowns, knockouts, and solid landing shots. Instead, I saw a calculated chess match that lasted the full 12 rounds instead of just a few. Ward needed to mix it up more to show that he had done enough to take the three titles from Kovalev. When you take a champion’s titles, you’re supposed to do it in a conclusive manner. That’s the way it used to be. Ward didn’t win in a conclusive manner. He won a controversial manner. With the fight being for the pound for pound No.1 position, it was even more imperative that Ward to make it more entertaining. I don’t think Ward put in the kind of effort that boxing fans would expect from a top No.1 pound for pound fighter. If Ring Magazine goes ahead and gives the honor to Ward anyway, it’s going to look bad, because they’ll be taking it away from a guy who always puts in thrilling fights in Roman Gonzalez in order to give it to a fighter who spoiled for 12 rounds in Ward. I think it would look bad. Giving Ward the top pound for pound spot would make it look like they were just doing it to help validate the Kovalev-Ward fight as meaningful. It was a fight that meant a lot, so it didn’t need the pound for pound tag attached to it.

Ward may need to fight Kovalev a second time, because he’s got a rematch clause. The only way the rematch doesn’t take place is if both fighters agree not to let the second fight take place between them. We haven’t gotten the results yet for the amount of pay-per-view buys their fight brought in on HBO PPV last Saturday. There’s talk that it could bring in 200,000 buys, according to Yahoo Sports News. Those are not big numbers, but perhaps they’ll be satisfied with that amount of buys. Even those low numbers are likely more than what either of these two fighters can get by fighting other guys in the division. There aren’t any big names for the to fight other than themselves.

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