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Kovalev: I have to knockout Ward in rematch or be robbed

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev

By Allan Fox: Former light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) came up short last Saturday night in losing to unbeaten Andre “SOG” Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision defeat at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kovalev and quite a few boxing fans believe that he was robbed of a decision by the three judges that were assigned to the fight. All three of them scored the fight to Ward by the identical scores of 114-113, 114-113, and 114-113.

Kovalev looked surprisingly unmarked in the face in giving an interview this week, as if he didn’t fight at all. Kovalev says he’s going to fight Ward in a rematch likely in early 2017, and that he’s going to knockout him out this time. Kovalev says he must knockout Ward out or else the victory can be robbed from him, which he feels was done last Saturday night in their fight on HBO pay-per-view.

“When the rematch will happen, I’m not sure, maybe the first part of 2017,” said Kovalev to Fox Sports. “If he’s a world champion and he thinks he won the fight, then let’s prove it in the rematch.”

When asked if he plans on knocking out Ward in the rematch, Kovalev said, “Of course, because I already decided if I didn’t knock him out victory can be robbed.”

Kovalev had his chance to get the knockout in round two when he knocked Ward down. But instead of going after Ward hard to stop him, Kovalev was too patient, and let him off the hook. It must have seemed too easy at the time, because Ward was actually trying to fight Kovalev in that part of the fight. That was before Ward had started to gear up his wrestling and smothering tactics. After Ward started with the grappling stuff, then the fight started to change.

Kovalev was still getting the better of Ward when there was space between then, but large portions of the rounds started to get eaten up with Ward holding on the inside. We heard afterwards by some boxing fans that Kovalev was the one holding. That’s wrong. Ward was doing a lot of holding and wrestling. If you watch the fight back on replay, you’ll see Ward hooking Kovalev’s arms and then trying to hit him with a free arm while holding him.

The referee failed to stop the holding by Kovalev the way he should have. Never the less, all the significant power shots in the fight were landed by Kovalev. Ward was just landing jabs. The judges’ jobs were to idenitiy who was landing the better shots, and they appeared to ignore Kovalev’s power shots and give more value to Ward’s jabs, even though he was being out-landed. Kovalev’s jabs appeared more powerful than Ward’s. It didn’t matter. The judges still wound up giving Ward seven out of the twelve rounds.

Former WBA World featherweight champion Nicholas Walters told Dontae’s Boxing Nation this about the Kovalev-Ward fight:

“Nobody to blame but yourself,” said Nicholas Walters about Kovalev’s loss to Ward. “You have to think, ‘I knocked him down. I should have taken him out. With that in mind, that gives him a burning desire to get the rematch to prove to the world. If he’d [Kovalev] gotten beaten up, then you’d know he’s losing his touch, but he didn’t lose nothing. It was a close fight, a very close fight. It was a beautiful fight.”

It’s not just about Kovalev needing to take responsibility for him not knocking out Ward in the fight. You have to acknowledge how the fight was turned into a grappling contest by Ward, and how the referee failed to address it. You also have to acknowledge that the judges gave more value to Ward’s weaker shots compared to Kovalev’s more powerful ones.

From what I saw in the fight, Kovalev was landing the harder shots in each of the rounds. I couldn’t give Ward more than 3 rounds. The first time I watched the fight, I gave Ward one round, because he was just holding and jabbing. Kovalev was throwing the better shots in the fight. When I watched the fight a second time, I found a couple of close rounds that you can argue might have been Ward rounds, even though he was still getting hit by the harder punches from Kovalev.

Kovalev wanted to KO Ward, but he didn’t know how to do it last Saturday. Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson should have given him the directions in how to get the knockout. It was obvious what Kovalev needed to do. Many of the boxing fans at ringside obviously knew what Kovalev needed to do, because they were cheering loudly for him to attack Ward all out.

Kovalev needed to fight Ward like he was another Gennady Golovkin by throwing nonstop punches instead of throwing punches here and there. Kovalev needed to raise his work rate to throw 80 to 100 punches per round. That would be hard to do with Ward holding him. If Kovalev had thrown punches while in the inside more, he would have discouraged Ward to holding.
The keys for Kovalev beating Ward in the rematch are as follows:

– Fight on the inside. Throw punches the moment Ward grabs you. Whatever hand is free, hit Ward with it. Ward can’t tie up both of Kovalev’s arms while he’s inside. He’s not strong enough to do that. If Ward wants to fight on the inside, then Kovalev needs to give him the fight of his life by hammering him nonstop with incredibly hard punches. If Kovalev hits Ward hard enough on the inside, I suspect that Ward will taught not to try and fight on the inside and not to hold. Kovalev looked like he wasn’t trained properly what to do on the inside. He should have been. His trainer John David Jackson should have told him that he needed to fight on the inside, because he couldn’t just let Ward stall out each round with his smothering and wrestling on the inside.

– Kovalev needed to throw nonstop punches while on the outside. That means cutting off the ring quickly when Ward would run, and hitting him with one punch after another without respecting his power. Kovalev needed to watch some of Golovkin’s fights on video to learn from him how to fight a guy like Ward. Golovkin obviously would know exactly how to beat Ward. Kovalev used the wrong approach and STILL fought well enough to deserve to win the fight. But it could have been much easier if Kovalev had cut off the ring quickly on Ward when he moved around, and then hit him with punch after punch until he dropped. If Ward wanted to take it to the inside, then Kovalev should have let him. He should have hammered Ward in close and not held at all. Kovalev looked like he had been trained by Jackson to just tie up Ward to make sure he didn’t throw punches. That was a negative way of fighting. If that was all Jackson taught Kovalev, then he did it the wrong way. Jackson should have taught Kovalev to throw hard punches over and over again on the inside. Kovalev was the stronger guy last Saturday night, even on the inside. Kovalev’s problem was he wasn’t throwing punches in close. He was just holding. Kovalev would then back away and get nailed by Ward. He was forgetting that he needed to protect himself while coming out of a clinch. Again, that’s something that Jackson should have taught Kovalev.

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