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Ward says Kovalev fight a 50-50 affair


By Allan Fox: According to Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) his fight against IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) is a 50-50 toss-up fight between them on November 19 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, Ward says that he sees ALL of his fights as 50-50 affairs going into them, so he sees Kovalev as being no different from the guys that he’s been in against in the past.

Courtesy Squint Foto / Roc Nation Sports

Ward, 32, isn’t exactly giving Kovalev much credit for being a better fighter than past Ward opponents like Alexander Brand, Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera, Edwin Rodriguez and Chad Dawson. It would be hard to keep the average boxing fan from laughing in the fact of Ward if he were to tell them that Kovalev is no different than those guys that he’s faced in the past.

They would wonder if Ward has his head on straight, because if he can’t recognize that Kovalev is a better fighter than the guys that he’s feasted on in the past, then he’s his own worst enemy. Someone needs to break the news to Ward that he cannot lump the better fighters like Kovalev in with the weaker guys he’s fought.

Ward said this about his thoughts about the Kovalev fight on November 19 on HBO pay-per-view:

“I feel that this fight with Kovalev is 50-50. That’s how I approach all of my big fights. I don’t go into the fight thinking, ‘I’ve got a clear-cut advantage here’ or ‘I’ve got to run through this guy.’ Personally, for me, I can’t roll like that. I’ve got to keep myself honest, stay on my grind, keep my head down and force myself to keep working. I truly believe Kovalev is everything they say he is, and I’m everything that I’ve shown over the years.”

It goes without saying that Ward cannot afford to go into the Kovalev fight thinking he’s the favorite, because that would be a real disaster for him to be kidding himself. Kovalev is the better offensive fighter by far of the two. The only thing that could make this a competitive fight is if Ward an make Kovalev miss with enough of his shots for him to win a narrow decision.

That’s about the only thing that Ward can realistically hope for in this fight, because he has no chance of outdoing Kovalev on the offensive side of the game, because the Russian fighter is a lot stronger, and throws more punches and has a better jab. In every area of Kovalev’s offensive game, he’s better than Ward.

There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re Ward. It just means that he’s going to need to do a lot of spoiling on defense to slow Kovalev down so that he can’t get his shots off, because if Kovalev throws 60 to 80 punches per round, there is no way that Ward can win unless you get poor judging.

“We’ve got to find a way to get it done, and we’re going to find a way to get it done,” said Ward about Kovalev. “I don’t care what he’s got in his gloves, who he’s knocked out or what he’s done. My job is to get my hand raised, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

The best way for Ward to get his hand raised on November 19 is for him to go back to his back of tricks to slow the fight down to a crawl by choosing to clinch, wrestle and not let Kovalev get any separation to unload on him with his powerful right hands and jabs. If Kovalev is able to get separation to throw his power shots, then Ward is going to be in for a world of hurt.

Ward’s best chance is to use the Ricky Hatton tactics of wrestling his opponents. We saw how Hatton used wrestling to defeat a far better fighter offensively than him in in his fight against Kostya Tszyu in 2005. If Hatton had let the fight take place without wrestling, he would have been destroyed by Tszyu in the same way he ended up getting destroyed by Manny Pacquiao, because Tszyu was a far better fighter offensively.

The way that Hatton got around that was by choosing to grapple with Tszyu for the entire fight. The referee working the fight Dave Parras failed to address Hatton’s holding and wrestling, so he got away with it. When Hatton came over to the U.S to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007, the referee working that fight Joe Cortez didn’t let Hatton hold, so he was forced to fight. We discovered quickly that Hatton was no match for Mayweather without his ability to wrestle. Ward needs to test the referee working the Kovalev fight to see if he can get away with wrestling and stalling out the fight for 12 rounds. If Ward can do that, then he’ll probably win.

Ward would have likely lost to Carl Froch in their fight in 2011 if he wasn’t able to smother him on the inside by wrestling him, because Froch was the better fighter when there was separation between them. Froch was landing the bigger shots and forcing the fight. However, Ward kept getting close and forcing the fight into a wrestling match on the inside where Froch had no grappling skills.

It might be harder for Ward to beat Kovalev in a fight on the inside, because the Russian fighter is bigger and stronger than him. If Ward tries to keep the fight on the inside all night long, he could be out-muscled by Kovalev in the same way he was out-muscled by Sakio Bika in their fight in 2010.

What Kovalev needs to do is be ready to rough Ward up if he tries to wrestle him. Sakio Bika roughed Ward up on the inside so badly that he didn’t want to wrestle him after a while. Ward gave up on the idea completely by the 6th round. Ward was then able to take the fight to the outside and pot shot Bika to win a decision. The fight was far from an easy one for Ward, because he took a lot of punishment from Bika on the inside before he gave up on the idea of trying to maul him.

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