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Kovalev needs to accept loss to Andre Ward

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev

By Chris Williams: Sergey Kovalev has now experienced what it feels like to lose for the first time in his 12 round decision defeat at the hands of Andre “SOG” Ward from last Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now it’s a good time for Kovalev to accept his defeat mentally, give credit where credit is due, and learn from the loss.

Kovalev needs to lick his wounds from the battle, accept what has happened, and move on. If Kovalev, 33, and his promoter Kathy Duva want the rematch with Ward, then now is the time to make themselves heard by asking for it in a professional manner without anger or complaints. It doesn’t help things if they bitterly complain to the media about the decision from last Saturday against Ward.

The fact of the matter is that the three professional judges that worked the fight felt that Ward was the better fighter by the scores 114-113, 114-113 and 114-113. If Kovalev wasn’t happy about the way things went, he should have done something about it by fighting harder, not holding so much on the inside, and by knocking Ward out.

It’s not going to help things for Kovalev to complain in the aftermath of the fight about the results by trying to deny what happened. The fact of the matter is, Kovalev lost the fight. He needs to accept reality and make a careful decision whether he wants to fight Ward again. If I was Kovalev, I would sit down and watch the replay of the fight before I made a decision whether to fight Ward again. I would decide whether I had the boxing skills and the intelligence to beat Ward a second time around. I would have known that I failed to get the job done the first time around.

From what I saw of the fight, Kovalev will never beat Ward in a rematch, never. He doesn’t have the inside fighting skills, and he doesn’t have the game plan to do the job on Ward. That’s not going to change unless Kovalev makes MAJOR improvements in his fighting style and his game plan. He might want to think about getting a new trainer, because I don’t think his current trainer John David Jackson can improve him enough to beat Ward in the rematch. In my opinion, I think Kovalev needs to go back to his old trainer Abel Sanchez, so that he can make him more aggressive, increase his work rate, and style him like a bigger version of Gennady Golovkin. Right now, Kovalev is too tentative with his offense for him to ever beat Ward in this lifetime.

Here are the improvements that Kovalev needs to make for him to beat Ward in the second fight:

– Attack nonstop with punches. Never stop throwing shots for instant. Kovalev needs to study some of Aaron Pryor’s old fights to pattern his new fighting style after his, because that’s the only style that beats Ward and beats him easily. Ward cannot handle a Pryor type of fighter, because he doesn’t have the work rate to hang with that type of guy and he never will.

– Improve the inside fighting. Instead of Kovalev holding each time Ward gets inside on him, he needs to throw punches. Forget about the holding. It wasn’t Ward that was doing the holding last Saturday night. It was Kovalev. Watch the tape of the fight. It was Kovalev that held. Ward was trying to fight on the inside. For Kovalev to beat Ward in the rematch, he must learn to fight on the inside, because he tired himself out by using wrestling in close. Wrestling takes a lot out of both fighters, but it clearly took more out of Kovalev than it did Ward last Saturday. Ward is used to wrestling, so he wasn’t bothered by any of that stuff. Ward could have fought like that even if it were an old fashioned 15 round fight. I don’t think Kovalev could have. If Kovalev wants to beat Ward in the rematch, he’s going to need to learn to resist holding, and focus on throwing nonstop shots. Kovalev might want to get with Artur Beterbiev to learn to fight in close, because I think he’s the best in the light heavyweight division in that department. I rate Beterbiev as being better than Ward in fighting on the inside, because he’s so strong and he’s able to hammer his opponents with devastating shots one after another with whatever free hand he has. Ward would have a great deal of trouble with a guy like Beterbiev if he tried to fight him on the inside. I don’t think he would though. Ward would recognize early on that he couldn’t fight Beterbiev on the inside, so he would look to pick him off with single shots on the outside the way he was doing against Kovalev at times.

– As I mentioned earlier, Kovalev needs to swap out his current trainer John David Jackson for Abel Sanchez. I think Sanchez will get the most out of Kovalev to improve his fighting style to get his work rate to increase tenfold. Kovalev was at his best when he was with Sanchez, and I think that trainer would be able to spot immediately what went wrong in his loss to Ward. Sanchez will definitely help. Kovalev needs to realize that no matter who trains him, he’s going to need to recognize that his rematch with Ward will be conducted on the inside. It’s going to be an inside fight whether he likes it or not. Ward knows now that Kovalev can’t fight on the lick on the inside, and gets tired from the grappling. Ward will definitely use that as Plan-A for the rematch. Ward will make Kovalev prove that he can fight him on the inside before he abandons that plan for a Plan-B. If Kovalev can’t prove that he can fight on the inside, then Ward will stay in close for the full 12 rounds and look to tire him out with all the pushing and pulling that goes on in close. Ward will work a hand free every now and then to get a clubbing shot to the head or a thudding body shot. What we saw last Saturday night was that Ward landed with better power in close than Kovalev. The Russian fighter couldn’t generate any power in close, and just looked tired. When the two fighters would finally break apart, Ward would often hit Kovalev while he was pulling away. That’s something that Kovalev never learned in the fight, as he was failing to protect himself after pulling out of the clinch. Unless the two fighters are pulled apart by the referee, Kovalev needs to be protecting himself. Kovalev should be protecting himself anyway, even if pulled apart by the referee. Kovalev was fighting like an amateur with the way he would drop his hands when pulling out of a clinch. He was assuming that Ward wouldn’t hit him, and he assumed wrong repeatedly. I was surprised at how Kovalev failed to learn from this mistake. A good fighter like Golovkin would have only made that mistake once before learning not to do it again. Kovalev kept getting nailed in the same, which tells me that he wasn’t learning from what he was doing wrong during the fight. That’s bad news. If you’re the type of fighter that fails to learn from the past, then you’ll never improve.

Granted, last Saturday’s Kovalev-Ward fight wasn’t n action pack fight, but it was still an exciting match to watch. There was suspense in every round, as both fighters took turns landing nice head-snapping shots. It was just unfortunate for Kovalev that most of the better landing shots were from Ward in the last six rounds of the fight. The boxing fans at ringside at the T-Mobile Arena weren’t cheering for Ward because he was an American fighter. They were cheering for him, because he was landing most of the better shots from rounds 7 through 12.

The same fans were cheering loudly for Kovalev after he knocked Ward down with a left-right combination in round 2. The reason why the fans stopped cheering for Kovalev after round 4 is because he stopped landing as many punches. In other words, Kovalev got tired from the inside fighting that Ward was doing, and he wasn’t able to get the same amount of power on his shots compared to earlier in the fight. Kovalev also became more tentative with his shots. He wasn’t throwing nearly as many punches compared to what he’d been doing earlier.

Instead of increasing his work rate to force Ward into a war that he didn’t have the engine or the youth to win, Kovalev threw one or two punches at a time, and did a lot of waiting around. Kovalev was using a lot of feints, and getting hit by Ward while doing so. It was obvious that the feints weren’t working, and the waiting around was only helping Ward.

Why Kovalev and his trainer Jackson didn’t make the adjustment to increase their work rate is unknown. If Kovalev wanted to dominate the last 6 rounds of the fight, all he needed to do was throw 80 to 100 punches per round. Ward would have never been able to keep up with that kind of pace, never. Kovalev could have thrown nonstop punches in the inside and gotten the better of Ward, but instead he elected to hold. If the two fighters face each other again, it’ll be the same thing with Ward dominating Kovalev on the inside.

I wouldn’t recommend a second fight for Kovalev. I don’t think he’s going to learn from his mistakes to improve his game enough to beat Ward. I think he’ll fight just like he did last Saturday night and wind up losing another close decision. It might even be one-sided in the rematch, because Ward won’t waste time fighting Kovalev on the outside like he did last time. He’ll take it straight to the inside to work him over.

It’s sad that the scoring of last Saturday’s fight resulted in controversy with boxing fans, because I think the three judges did a bang up job scoring the fight. The reason they all scored it 114-113 is because they’re professionals and they saw what I saw. Ward was the better fighter in the second half of the contest. Kovalev got tired and looked helpless in the last six rounds.

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