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Andre Ward: “You got what you asked for”

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev Ward vs. Kovalev II

By Jim Dower: Andre “SOG” Ward wants “No excuses” from Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev for their rematch, which was made official earlier today for June 17 at the beautiful Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ward is rumored to be getting a 60/40 split of the revenue for the rematch with Kovalev. The fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view. The fight will be promoted to the hilt by Ward’s promoters at Roc Nation Sports and Kovalev’s promoters at Main Events. It’s possible that HBO will be creating a Ward/Kovalev 24/7 series to show to the boxing public to hype the fight.

”I’m going to keep it short & sweet, you got what you asked for, now you have to see me JUNE 17. This time leave the excuses at home. #EARNED,” said Ward on his Twitter on Tuesday.

The negotiations for the Ward-Kovalev rematch took a lot of time to complete, as Ward wanted a better deal than what was in the original contract for the fight. If the fight brings in over 200,000 PPV buys on HBO, the two fighters could get a good payday out of the fight. 400,000 buys would be ideal. It’s doubtful the fight will bring in those kinds of large numbers on HBO PPV, however.

There will be a 3-city press tour for the Ward-Kovalev II rematch, starting next week on April 10. The tour will visit Los Angeles, California, New York City and the Bay Area of California, which is up North. Ward lives in Oakland and he trains in Hayward with his longtime trainer Virgil Hunter.

Ward beat Kovalev by a 12 round unanimous decision 5 months ago on November 19 in winning by the very close scores of 114-113, 114-113 and 114-113. The results of the fight didn’t sit too well with the boxing world, as many of them were under the impression that the 6’0” Kovalev had done enough to earn the decision. The judges scored the fight in Ward’s favor based on many close rounds in the second part of the contest. Ward landed just a little more than Kovalev when the two of them were battling hard at close quarters. At the end of the night, it looked like an old fashioned Greco roman contest than a boxing match.

Kovalev’s face was looked unmarked at the end of the fight. In contrast, Ward’s face was reddened, swollen, and he looked very fatigued. That’s all that surprising because Ward stopped fighting frequently after the Super Six tournament ended in 2011. For a fighter that has become largely a part time guy, Ward did a good job against a full time fighter.

Kovalev was unhappy with his loss, which he called a “robbery”, so he requested an immediate rematch, which he was entitled to as part of his rematch contract. Shortly after that, there was a question of whether Ward would take the rematch or retire from boxing. He spoke of potentially retiring.

Ward was knocked down by Kovalev in the 2nd round last November. Things looked bad for Ward going into round 3 of that fight. Ward switched to his secondary plan in the 3rd round by moving into close range and not letting Kovalev have any breathing room to throw his big power shots. Ward was able to do this by holding onto Kovalev, and not letting him have an inch of space. The style was a bad one for Kovalev because he wasn’t well versed in fighting guys that stayed on the inside fior the entire fight like Ward did. However, Kovalev didn’t have the inside game to create Ward the kinds of problems that would cause him to abandon this strategy.

If Kovalev could fight on the inside, Ward would have been forced to switch to a Plan-C. It never got to that point though, as Ward was able to nullify Kovalev’s superior offensive weapons by staying in close. At the time, Ward was able to win a lot of close rounds by landing a few shots on the inside. It was a gamble by Ward to fight inside because Kovalev fought well enough to win many of the rounds in the 2nd half of the fight. Luckily for Ward, the judges were giving him all the close rounds in the second half of the fight rather than Kovalev. Those rounds could have easily gone to Kovalev.

“Andre showed the world he was boxing’s best,” said Ward’s promoter Michael Yormark. “No doubt he will build on his legacy come June 17 in another historic night. There’s no excuses. The rematch is one,” said Yormark.

The problem is that Ward didn’t nearly enough to the world to cement himself as “boxing’s best.” When you win a controversial decision that the fans disagree with in large numbers, then they invalidate the decision made by just 3 people, which was the 3 judges that worked the Kovalev-Ward fight. There was a mostly group of people that felt Ward did enough to earn the win. The larger mass of people thought it was a win for Kovalev. It’s not about excuses from Kovalev and his team.

It’s more about what the fans in general saw. The masses are the ones that saw Ward losing. If Ward had showed that he was “boxing’s best,” as Yormark said, there would be no interest in a second fight between Ward and Kovalev. It would be academic that Ward was the better fighter. But the fact that even HBO Boxing had Kovalev winning, it showed that the 3 judges that picked Ward to win were largely invalidated by the fans and the media alike.

There’s a lot of uncertainty what direction Ward goes in if he beats Kovalev a second time. Ward could retire, as he’s spoken about, or he could move down to 168 and look to get a big money fight against unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. The Kazakgstan fighter is supposed to be moving up to super middleweight after this year, and his promoter Tom Loeffler is saying that a fight against Ward at 168 is an option for him. There’s also a chance for Ward to move up to cruiserweight and take on WBO champion Alexander Usyk.

There are a lot of boxing fans that would like to see Ward and Usyk square off. It would be a tough fight for Ward, because the 6’3” Usyk is bigger than Ward, and he’s looking very hard to beat right now. If Ward stays at 175, he could be put in the position where he’ll have to face Artur Beterbiev. This is the opposite type of fighter that Kovalev is. Instead of Beterbiev a really great outside fighter like Kovalev, his specialty is fighting in close. Beterbiev is very good at landing huge shots while being held by his opponent. If Ward uses the same game plan against Beterbiev that he did against Kovalev, it could end badly for Ward. That’s why there are some boxing fans that are already predicting that Ward will vacate his IBF title if he beats Kovalev so that he can avoid the Beterbiev fight. That would look bad if Ward vacates his IBF title to steer around the Beterbiev fight. Beterbiev still needs to beat Enrico Kolling in the International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title eliminator, but that’s expected to happen. Beterbiev has a large power advantage over Kolling.

It’s surprising to some that Ward is finding his best success at this point in his career, because he doesn’t look nearly as good as he was when he was coming in the Super Six tournament from 2009 to 2011. Ward won the tournament by beating Carl Froch in the finals in 2011. Ward has rarely fought since winning that tournament. Ward moved up in weight to light heavyweight after beating Edwin Rodriguez in 2013. Since moving up to 175, Ward has beaten Paul Smith, Alexander Brand and Kovalev. Ward looked a lot better beating Barrera and Brand compared to his win over Kovalev.

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