Ward impressed with Kovalev’s win over Alvarez

By Boxing News - 02/04/2019 - Comments

Image: Ward impressed with Kovalev's win over Alvarez

By Mike Smith: Andre Ward liked what he saw from Sergey Kovalev last weekend with his 12 round unanimous decision victory over WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez at The Ford Center at The Star, in Frisco, Texas, Ward was openly skeptical about whether Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) could avenge his defeat to Alvarez based on how he’d performed in his knockout loss to him in their first fight last September, as well in his two losses to himself in 2016 and 2017.

Ward was pleasantly surprised to see Kovalev, 35, go out and box his way to a 12 round unanimous decision over Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs) last Saturday night on ESPN+. Kovalev didn’t try to KO Alvarez like he had in their first fight. He instead fought smart, stayed on the outside and used his jab. It was a similar style that Kovalev had used to defeat Bernard Hopkins in November 2014. Kovalev didn’t try to knockout Hopkins. He focused on boxing him, and won an easy 12 round decision.

“He can go wherever he wants to go,” Ward said about Kovalev to Fighthype when asked where he can go from here following his win over Eleider Alvarez last Saturday. “I mean, I wouldn’t waste a lot of time on tune-ups. He’s getting older. [He should] try to unify the belts, and try to make the most money, and then get on out,” Ward said.

Beating Alvarez doesn’t mean Kovalev will automatically be able to defeat the likes of WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksander Gvozdyk, IBF champion Artur Beterbiev or WBA champion Dmitry Bivol. Those fighters are more technical than Alvarez, and they possess more punching power. Kovalev will have to box smart to beat those type of guys. Making a fight against the Matchroom Boxing USA promoted Bivol would be a hard fight to negotiate. He fights on a different platform as Kovalev, and that could be a show stopper. But there’s nothing preventing a fight between Kovalev and Beterbiev and Gvozdyk from taking place. The only question is would there be enough interest from boxing fans in the United States for those fights to be worth the risk for Kovalev? Beterbiev and Gvozdyk are good fighters, but they’re not huge stars in the U.S, and definitely not household names.

“I wouldn’t say the last three to four years, but I would say clearly as of late,” Ward said in answering the question of whether this was the best performance by Kovalev in the last several years. “It wasn’t just the win, but how you go about it. I love the mindset the old school Buddy McGirt brought to the table. Can you box? Can you go back to what you did during your amateur days, throwing combinations, getting out of the way? That breeds longevity, and that got him his title back,” Ward said.

At Kovalev’s age, he needs to box the younger fighters, because he doesn’t have the built in conditioning, the chin or more importantly the youth to be slugging it out with them like he once did. Beterbiev, 33, and the 31-year-old Gvozdyk aren’t young fighters either, but those guys haven’t shown the same stamina problems during their careers that Kovalev has in the last three years of his career. Kovalev would need to box Beterbiev and Gvozdyk for him to have a chance of beating them. Kovalev’s boxing skills are a little bit better than both of those fighters. You can’t say the same thing about a comparison between Kovalev and Bivol. The 28-year-old Bivol would have to be considered a better boxer than Kovalev, and he’s a lot younger with better stamina. Fortunately for Kovalev, he doesn’t need to worry too much about Bivol, since he’s with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, and he fights on DAZN. The only way a fight between Kovalev and Bivol makes sense is if one of them is willing to cross the pond to make the fight happen in the future.

Now that he’s recaptured his WBO light heavyweight title, Kovalev has a good situation going for himself. Even if Kovalev doesn’t fight any of the other champions at light heavyweight he can hold onto his title for a long time to come defending it against the likes of Antony Yarde, Dominic Boesel, Mike Lee, Robert Parzeczewski and Badou Jack. Marcus Browne appears to be going in a different direction towards either Bivol or Gvozdyk, so Kovalev doesn’t need to worry too much about him.

“I don’t know,” Ward said when asked where does Eleider Alvarez go from here. “I don’t understand the performance. It took him a long time to get that belt. He got it the hard way, and he came from behind in his last fight to get it, and I feel like he just gave it away. I know it’s not that simple. Obviously, there was something going on [inside the ring] that he didn’t like, that he couldn’t figure out. He’s still tough. He’s still durable. He can still fight. But will that guy, that Alvarez we saw tonight, will he show up if he gets in another big fight against another one of the champions at 175? We don’t know,” Ward said.

Ward sounds like he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the 34-year-old Alvarez in picturing where he goes from here If Ward had seen some of Alvarez’s past fights against the likes of Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal, Edison Miranda and Isidro Ranoni Prieto, he wouldn’t be so surprised at what he saw last Saturday night in Eleider’s loss to Kovalev. Alvarez has been a flawed fighter from day one. He’s got talent, but has a massive amount of holes in his game, and he can be out-boxed when he faces clever fighters. Alvarez has struggled in the past against past their prime fighters like Pascal and Miranda, and he didn’t look good against Chilemba in beating him by a controversial 12 round decision in 2015.

“He’s right up there with the best of them,” Ward said about Kovalev when asked how he stacks up against the other light heavyweight champions. “That Kovalev is going to be hard to beat by anybody in the division,” Ward said.

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