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Andre Ward: ‘Kovalev needs to grab that Canelo $$$’

Andre Ward Canelo Alvarez David Haye Sergey Kovalev

By Barry Holbrook: Former world champion Andre Ward says Sergey Kovalev needs to take the money fight against Saul Canelo Alvarez next after watching him struggle to beat inexperienced mandatory Anthony Yarde (18-1, 1 KOs) by an 11th round KO last Saturday night at the Traktor Sport Palace, in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Ward says that Kovalev was only “2-3” shots away from being knocked out in the eighth round by Yarde last night. To Kovalev’s credit, he weathered the storm, and came back to knock Yarde out with a left jab to the head in the 11th round,

Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) was ahead on the three judges’ scorecards by the scores 97-94, 98-92 and 96-93. However, Yarde came close to knocking Kovalev out in the eighth round when he hurt him with a right hand to the head, and then bombarded him with shots. Yarde emptied his gas tank in that round, and was unable to get his second wind for the remainder of the fight. It was similar to how former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua gassed against Andy Ruiz Jr. in their fight last June. Joshua couldn’t recover, and Ruiz went on to win by a seventh round knockout.

The criticism that Yarde is taking from boxing fans is the fact that he waited until round eight to start attacking Kovalev’s body. Yarde wasted time, and then didn’t follow up with body shots once he had Kovalev hurt. He was head-hunting for the remainder of the fight, and Kovalev out-boxed him.

Andre Ward: Every fight will be hard for Kovalev now

It doesn’t require a genius to understand that the 36-year-old Kovalev needs to take the fight against Saul Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) now. That’s a fight that Kovalev or any top fighter would take. If Canelo called out Ward to fight him, it’s difficult to imagine SOG turning it down. Fighting Canelo is like winning the lottery, because the payday will be so good. Kovalev obviously needs to ‘cash out’ out with a big payday against Canelo before retiring, from boxing because he’s not going to stay WBO champion for too much longer.

Even in Kovalev’s prime, he would have had major problems against the top level light heavyweights in the division that are around today. Kovalev was fortunate that he fought during a dead period in the 175 pound weight class in which there no one other than Adonis Stevenson as the top guys. Kovalev and Stevenson fought on different networks, so they never met up. But right now, Kovalev is fighting in era where there are talented fighters in the 175-lb division like Dmitry Bivol, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Artur Beterbiev. Ward likely would have lost to all of those guys, and he retired without fighting any of them. Kovalev will have the same problems Ward would have against those guys.

Kovalev doesn’t match-up well against the 175-lb champions

After the Yarde fight last Saturday night, Kovalev said that he either wants Canelo or one of the light heavyweight champions next.  Kovalev would be asking a lot of himself to beat the lions in the division right now, because his punch resistance isn’t there. He’s still better off fighting one of the champions if he can’t get the Canelo fight, because he had Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez breathing down his neck. Although Ramirez would be a winnable fight for Kovalev, there’s a good chance he’d lose.

The money wouldn’t be good for Kovalev to defend his WBO title against Gilberto, because he’s not a big name. As such, Kovalev would be better off fighting one of the world champions at 175 if Canelo chooses not to fight him. It’s difficult to judge what Canelo will do at this point. He might change his mind about fighting Kovalev after watching him knockout Yarde, and who could blame him? The shots that Kovalev landed on Yarde would have given Canelo problems.

Ward retired in 2017 after beating Kovalev for a second time rather than continue his career and fight the other light heavyweights. A lot of boxing fans think Ward ducked Beterbiev, Bivol and Gvozdyk, who he would have been pressured to fight had he not retired.

Haye says Yarde couldn’t get his second wind after gassing

“I was hopeful even in the early rounds, which he was losing,” said David Haye to BT Sport about Yarde. “His timing was good, and his right was good. He was showing m all the signs of someone that was springy. And, he really did put it on Sergey, and I thought he was winning it. He had been waiting there for seven rounds to then turn it on in the eighth. It’s just unfortunate that he couldn’t reload after shifting so much energy, and so much thrust in that one round. The minute [in between rounds] wasn’t enough for him to fully recover to go back to go out in round nine, and maintain the attack. That comes with experience. He now knows in round eight, you can’t empty the kitchen sink.

Maybe he needs to adjust some of his training. He’s got to have harder spars to replicate the feeling he had there in rounds 5, 6, 7 and 8. In training, it’s not comfortable. It kind of reminded me a bit of Anthony Joshua. He was taking some shots, and Ruiz kept the pressure on him. It didn’t seem like he could recover, and get his second wind. The jabs to the body were key for Kovalev, and he wasn’t allowing Yarde to recover. He [Yarde] didn’t know what it was to dig deep. You don’t know how to come back from behind until you’ve done it. It’s all well saying you can, but until you’ve done it, you don’t know,” said Haye.

It’s a given that Yarde needs to adjust his training regimen in order improve his game, and take it to the next level. Changing trainers is a must for Yarde. He needs a better trainer. His corner was useless to him after he hurt Kovalev in the eighth, and then gassed out.

Haye says Yarde was playing “possum” against Kovalev

“I was going crazy, and I was on my feet. I thought, ‘this is it,'” said Haye about Yarde having Kovalev hurt in round eight. “He’d been playing possum for the first seven round, and then all of a sudden he sprang into action here. After the eighth round, he was’t able to reload. He started walking down, and taking more punches than we’d seen in the early rounds. His defense [was lacking]. It’s not as if you forget how to slip punches. You just don’t have the energy to slip the punches or block the punches. It’s not like he didn’t want to do that. These little shots [from Kovalev] that don’t look like much; these little shots take it out of you. They really weaken your legs.

I think there was an argument at that point that he could have been pulled out of the fight,” said Haye about Yarde. “In my first loss [against Carl Thompson], I ran out of gas, and he turned it on me. Sometimes it only takes a loss like that, a demoralizing loss where everyone goes, ‘Ah, your finished. You’re not good.’ Everyone said I was a hype job. I’d had 10 fights in a row with 10 knockouts. In my 14th fight, it all fell apart. I was able to come back from that loss to become the fighter I was,” said Haye.

It’s debatable whether Yarde, 28, will improve after the loss. Cheerleaders like Haye believe that he’ll learn from this loss to Kovalev, but that might not be. To improve, a fighter needs a quality trainer, and he needs experience. Yarde will likely stay with his trainer, and probably he’ll continue to be matched the same way. It would be a shocker if Yarde’s promoter suddenly started matching him against top level contenders.

Yarde showed the ingredients to become world champion says Haye

“He [Yarde] showed all the ingredients that you would require from a world champion,” said Haye. “He showed heart, chin, speed, and power. It wasn’t anything that he didn’t show there. He didn’t know how to put it all together in a 12 round fight. He’d never fought a 12 round fight. I think he’ll review this fight, and realize the difference in the eighth round where he had the most success. He needs to train like h fought in that round. The intensity that he was punching, he showed it was in him. It was there. It was clearly in him. He just needs to be able to do that for a minute of every round, the intensity that he fought there. He needs to be able to do that to win rounds.

What he was doing in the first few rounds with Kovalev was good to beat the level of caliber of his opposition he was fighting up until this point. Now he realizes that’s not enough. What he did do in the eighth round, that’s more like what he needs to do. Give me a minute of that intensity in every round for a 12 round fight, and I’ll show you a world champion,” said Haye.

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