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“Experts,” stop crying, Kovalev beat Kovalev

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev


By Kurt Jean: Independent of your agreement, Andre Ward is the new world light heavyweight champion after beating IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev by a 12 round unanimous decision last Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The three judges at ringside scored in his favor. That is the official result. Now, depending on liking and what is valued when assessing a fighter’s effectiveness, which is our perception, there could be a million different variations, and believe me, there are and they wouldn’t be wrong.

They would reflect our own inherent personal preferences and what we estimate as action and output sufficiently decisive to win a fight. That’s life. It is all strictly relative. If Kovalev had won, I would have felt like, based on the total picture, all in all, it would be a very correct and plausible outcome also.

It is what it is. Amidst this circus of buffoonery and self-righteousness, there’s one reality that the self-appointed priest of boxing seems to forget. The reality is that there are three judges who scored for Ward. Yes, sometimes, they absolutely get it wrong. But how wrong did they get this time? The judges measuring stick, in scoring the fight, in my very humble opinion was Kovalev’s own success. Yes, that’s right, nothing to do with patriotism. Nor with big bags full of cash delivered in dirty dark alleys.

They juxtaposed how remarkable he looked in the beginning, to how he appeared down the stretch, and in doing so, they were able to surmise that he wasn’t fighting the same. Simple enough, right? Ward wasn’t doing so well, in fact, he was doing pretty badly, till he started showing what he looked like when he did look good, so they based their interpretation of the fight on those glaring extremes, for both parties. If Kovalev was now ineffective and less comfortable, key word is comfortable; it forcibly meant that something Ward was doing bothered him. Logically, it sounds so simple and simplistic, but that’s judging. Kovalev’s sheer brilliance and comfort, pace control, ring control, distance control and confidence in the beginning was such a stark contrast to how he unfolded as the rounds went on. You are trying to impress the judges. It is an exhibition. If there isn’t a knockout, or some extreme and drastic beating, then yes, it will rest on the competence and personal preference of the judges. They are humans, they have biases and idiosyncrasies just like we all have them in life and in judging a fight.

If you want to trap a person, where do you bring them? You bring them to a place you are familiar with. When Ward trapped Kovalev in the house that he built, Kovalev was now operating under his, Ward’s time zone. In his house, as the master, he knows exactly every nook and corner, every centimeter, and that allowed him to outmaneuver his opponent. That is what ring generalship essentially means, which fighter can make the ring operate under his terms and dictates or at least give this impression to the judges beyond a reasonable doubt. By the same token, sway the judge’s opinion in their favor. When you fight in a certain manner for 12 years, and you spar and train that way, it becomes second nature, you develop an expertise. You develop acute reference points to decrypt the state of being of your opponent and you slowly break him down. That second nature makes you exude a sense of confidence, of poise, and of control that is entrancing. Your movements become almost automated and your opponent obliges and gets caught in your traps. Per the words of trainer Virgil Hunter to Ward in his corner “Set those traps.” This self-assurance and the accompanying body language has a very profound effect on how the judges perceive the action. Call it a masterful illusion, that’s the conundrum of the subjectiveness of the position of a judge. Even if Kovalev is still landing some shots and is still active, he is always one step behind, being that he’s playing in a territory that he isn’t familiar with. Or, at least, he doesn’t appear to be compared to how he looked in the earlier goings of the fight. He is now reactive and that shows to the judges. Reactive aggression is keenly perceptible and distinguishable from purposeful and efficient aggression. Kovalev did land great punches throughout the fight, but again, to the only people that mattered, at least in my interpretation of their decision, which is based on the unanimity in which they scored the fight and how their cards followed somewhat similar patterns, he lost control. Ward tamed Kovalev’s power and deactivated the only component of Kovalev’s game that interfered in the establishment of his own game plan. Once Kovalev mentally took notice of that fact, he stopped using all the other elements of his arsenal that served to amplify and put that power to the forefront of Wards concerns.

The people bringing up issues of nationality are simply showing on what frequency their own thoughts are and their very limited understanding of the psychological intricacies of combat sports. Why dabble in the imaginary, if certain facts at hand can elucidate the robbery? Who robbed who? Kovalev robbed Kovalev. He coasted and faded down the stretch. His undoing was Ward’s doing. A puncher just like a bully, doesn’t only dependent on his power to hurt his prey, he also feeds on all the nonverbal signals that the prey sends him, in terms of fear, concern, helplessness and submission. Ward cut that subtle food source from Kovalev, and that affected his moral. That is as important as the punches themselves at such a high level of boxing.
The self-righteous critics are so enamored by Kovalev’s early success that they convinced themselves that he looked that way all throughout the fight, which he didn’t. Instead of blaming nationality, location, politics, ask this question, “Why didn’t Kovalev put Ward away?” What happened? You want to blame someone, something that badly, then blame Kovalev; he lost the fight. He lost the mental fight. And Ward made him lose the fight.

Kovalev lost because he let the fight slip away from his grasp, he got away from his successful jab, and he got away from cutting the ring off. He got into the habit of running after Ward and missing again and again. He didn’t find a proper defense against that gutting jab to the sternum, which by the way was a very key rhythm disrupter and range finder. He didn’t look desperate or as hungry as Ward, in my bias estimation. To cry robbery is comprehensive. To insinuate every other reason apart from what actually happened in the ring is simply disingenuous and highlights a crude and downright superficial understanding of boxing. Yet, robberies do exist, and so does poor judging.

Oh, and another thing, the so called experts strike back, they always do. Boxing is dead? For how many years have we’ve been hearing that?

How can boxing be dead if there are still people boxing and thousands of boxing gyms around the world? So called experts keep regurgitating that horrendous cliché. It’s just a fallacious statement and a lame pressure tactic to drown the popular opinion in the sea of their own fullness in themselves. Millions are practitioners around the world, yet, boxing is dead? According to you, mister expert? You who has never thrown a jab, or receive one? Right, you who have never even fought. Sure expert, sure. You are the one loading the gun of racism and discrimination, and recklessly shooting its bullets because of your incapacity to get the slightest whiff of the beautiful odor of that emanates from the understanding of the noble art that boxing is. Oh, maybe it’s because you don’t get that little warm fuzzy feeling that you used to get back in the day? Like a little child you are pouty, mouthy and frustrated, aren’t you? Boxing, better yet the world should coincide with your little itty bitty feelings and preferences, shouldn’t it? I’m sure it should. To poetically paraphrase Jay z “Hov is on that new thing, fellows are like” Oh my, how come?” Fellows want that old thing, buy my old album”. We get it, you are an historian, and you can parrot all the names, dates, fights and all the fighters that are so much better than what there is today. We get it, good for you and your kind though, honesty. However, I must interject; boxing isn’t limited to anyone or anything in particular. It keeps evolving and it keeps on moving with a spirit unto itself, free from our narrow conceptions of it. It doesn’t die every time you are mad mister expert, nor does it when you pronounce it so. It is alive and well and will outlive our likes and dislikes and even our persons. At ease with the dogmas, your opinion, just like mine, is a reflection of what I prefer, that’s it, that’s all. If you can back it up with facts, great. Better yet, even twist those facts to fit your agenda, that’s part of the game too, we can work with that.

Ward out-willed, out-hustled and outsold his performance. Yes, he outsold his performance. Did it help his pitch that he was an American, fighting in the U.S, with American judges? Possibly, in fact, it’s very probable. Yet, if we wish to be thorough and sensible, those things should be put in context only after carefully considering what transpired in the ring, not before. Nuance! Because, if it’s going to be like that, might as well wait for infallible, impartial, perfect, omniscient creatures to either emerge out of the deep the sea or to fly in from outer space to come judge those boxing fights. Or we might have to wait until we can invent Androids with built-in hyper complex algorithms able to decipher and completely interpret any data produced by the combatants in the ring. But that would take time wouldn’t it, mister expert? Until then, old fashioned, imperfect humans will have to do.


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