We recently asked the question whether Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev deserved to be anointed match-up of the year?
I thought it was deserving of that recognition, due to the caliber of the fight’s competitors, their respective records and the pound-4-pound best bragging rights that were on the line in that fight.
Now that the fight has been and gone: we have a chance to ask if the outcome of that match-up would be deserving of being awarded “fight of the year?”
Personally, after having watched it, I don’t think it would be deserving of that. Although it was a good fight, it wasn’t a great one.
However, due to the results of the scorecards from Saturday night’s bout at the T-Mobile Arena, it might now instead be in the prime position for the less than savory award of “most controversial fight of the year?”
(I say it’s ‘probably’ in a prime position, as there’s been a few controversial fights this year that could contend with it, thanks to some of the poor quality judging the sport is increasingly suffering from.)
Basically, what was considered a good night of entertainment on Saturday between Ward and Kovalev in the ring has been marred outside of the ring by the dubious judging of that bout that saw Andre Ward declared the victor instead of Sergey Kovalev by unanimous decision, with all judges controversially favoring the American 114 – 113 over the Russian.
It was like the Trinidad vs Oscar De La Hoya fight all over again. Only this time the style of the winner was in reverse, in the sense that the puncher did more than enough to win, but the boxer came out the victor.
It’s interesting how those three judges sitting at ringside all came to the same overall conclusion and had almost similar scores, round by round, and even in rounds that were very close and not that easy to define a clear victor.
Even in the rounds where you could distinguish a clear winner there was some dubious judging. Round 10 in particular stands out, as not only is that clearly a Kovalev round(as far as I can tell after watching it three times now), but Compubox stats back this up and prove that Kovalev landed more blows by a good margin in those three minutes than compared to other rounds.
Out of all the rounds, bar the 2nd round where there was a knockdown, this one probably represented the best and most clear scoring round for Kovalev in terms of number of blows landed compared to his opponent and would have been one of the easier rounds to discern the Russian as being the victor, yet all three judges gave Ward this round?
You could accept maybe one judge getting that wrong, but three throws up a flag.
All three judges also happened to be American. Which is strange. Especially when you consider a contest of this magnitude that features on its main event two contestants from countries whose international relations have soured considerably in the last decade or so to levels reminiscent of the Cold-war period. Even if it’s highly unlikely that there’s a political propaganda angle to be had here, you would still expect the boxing powers-that-be to err on the side of caution and to make sure that a mixture of nationalities are appointed to oversee the bout in order to remove all doubt of any ‘home advantage’ bias influencing the result of the fight.
Having personally viewed the fight for a 2nd time on Youtube and with the volume down, helping to exclude the slanted decibels from a loud rapturous pro Ward crowd that could betray by overemphasizing on his successes or TV commentary that might portray an influencing bias(however subtle), I still have the Russian winning.
I’ve outlined my reasons below in a simple and brief round-by-round summary of how I think the fight went and why I think Sergey Kovalev deserves to be declared the winner and not Andre Ward.
As I mentioned above, I’ve watched the fight a number of times without any influencing factors and disregarded any post-fight analysis on social media from notable experts, hardcore or casual fans, and although my views of individual rounds have changed now from doing so, I still have Kovalev winning.
Kovalev started the round well, finding success with his powerful jab which at one point rocked a cagey Ward who became ever more reticent over the course of the 3 minutes after feeling the punching power of the ‘Crusher.’
Ward here started cautiously and did very little to win the round.
You could also judge by the look on Ward’s face at the end of the round that he might have underestimated Kovalev’s power going into the bout.
Kovalev was easily the busier fighter of the two and produced the better work in this round.
Round: Kovalev (10-9)
If Ward wasn’t entirely sure of the power that Kovalev could produce, then this was the round that really brought home how dangerous he is, when, with almost 30 seconds on the clock left, the Russian caught Ward with a large right hand that dropped the Californian to one knee, causing him to take a standing count and to lose the round 10-8.
Ward recovered well, but by this point it looked like Sergey was too big and strong for the relative new comer to the division and that it would be only a matter of time before he would be overwhelmed by the Crushers power.
Round: Kovalev (10-8 knockdown)
Ward, at the start of this round(presumably in desperation), tried to increase the pace and force the action but ended up engaging in some scrappy exchanges with kovalev. By mid-point of the round the fight started to transcend more into a chess-match with Ward on the back-foot, boxing cautiously behind his jab and finding more success than he had done in the previous round.
Although Ward landed one more blow than his Russian opposite (6-5: according to Compubox), not enough came from the American to convince that he deserved the round, while Kovalev in pressing the action looked the more dangerous and hungrier of the two and landed some good blows of his own.
On that basis I give the round to Kovalev.
Round: Kovalev (10-9)
This round would see Ward try and resort to the inside “mauling tactics” that he had employed with success in previous bouts, but Kovalev in this particular fight appeared to be too big and strong for those tactics to be effective, and the Russian was also too smart to allow for that to happen – smothering and tying Ward up whenever he would try to get close to let off punches on the inside.
As the round progressed, it seemed Ward had became too tentative to commit himself, presumably due to the power, sharpness and counter-punching success Sergey was having whenever Ward tried to “bring it.”
Ward’s only highlight of that round for me was a leaping left-hook that appeared to catch Kovalev, but never did much damage to his opposite.
Round: Kovalev (10-9)
This round was similar to round 4, with the only difference being that both men fought more at range with Ward boxing on the back-foot and Sergey pressing the action.
Very little happened in this round that could give an indication of a clear winner. It could have went either way but Ward might have just taken it due to the more accurate work.
It was at this mid-way stage in the fight that you could slowly see the tide starting to turn in Ward’s favour. Kovalev was also starting to slow a little while on the front-foot, which allowed Ward to slowly creep back into the fight.
The round would also see Ward starting to stand his ground more in the center of the ring in order to exchange more with the Russian.
But little came from the Californian for large parts of the round and he seemed to be content to posture and not commit to his punches, and in the scarce times that he did, it was in the form of single jabs. Whereas Kovalev, who for the first part of the round was not as lively as he had been in previous rounds, started to pick it up at the end and found some success with his combinations.
There was also some scrappy exchanges in the round that seemed to take their toll on the Russian in the stamina department.
Although it was close, I think Kovalev just pipped this round on desire and his intent to press and engage the action.
ROUND: Kovalev (10-9)
This round was where Ward “came alive” and started to land more successfully with jabs to the body and head. The American was also, for the first time, having some success backing his opponent up and winning the round with intermittent spurts of spoiling and mauling.
This was also the round where you could see that Kovalev’s power was starting to wane and a sloppiness in his punches starting to develop, which gave Ward more confidence and encouragement to take the lead.
Kovalev did find a little redemption in a nice eye catching feint followed by a jab that caught Ward completely unaware at the end of the round, but apart from that, Ward did the cleaner more accurate work and conclusively won by a decent margin.
It was becoming clearer by this point that the effect of the ‘crusher’s’ punches weren’t as potent as they were for the first quarter of the fight, and that the contest was starting to shift away from the earlier domineering and stalking success of Kovalev to a more balanced match-up between the two in the centre of the ring.
Ward looked by now the more composed and sharper fighter and was producing the better work, while kovalev’s own output, in contrast to earlier rounds, appeared forced and laboured.
I had Ward winning this round due to the cleaner more accurate punching.
Kovalev came out for this round seemingly more revitalised and committed than he had in the previous round(perhaps realising that Ward was starting to get into the fight and could take over?), but by this time it was evident that Ward had adjusted to the “Crushers” diminishing power, which allowed him to produce the same sharp and accurate work as he had in the previous round to also take this one.
The Compubox punchstats making it clear that this was one of Ward’s better rounds, due to out-landing his opponent 17
punches to 11.
ROUND: Ward (10-9)
If most of the second half of the fight appeared to going in Ward’s direction, then this round would be the one that put a “spanner in the works”. For three minutes, Kovalev showed similarities to those earlier rounds where he was dominating and backing Ward up, and would see the Russian have great success with his jab, while Ward was seemingly content to retreat without returning anything meaningful in return.
I give this round to Sergey based on the better work with his jab and due to pressing the action and wanting it more.
This was also a clear round for Kovalev according to Compubox stats that had him landing 21 shots to Ward’s 16
This round would see Ward return to his composed self and land some excellent counters in rangy exchanges between the two.
Kovalev, although still pressing the action, seemed to struggle with his timing and the snap in his punch that he had shown in the early rounds had all but gone, which Ward had no doubt sensed, due to how comfortable the talented American now looked in the ring.
Compubox had Ward just edging this round by one punch (13-12), but personally I think it looked like he landed more and showed the better more accurate work with his jab and hooks.
ROUND: Ward (10-9)
The final round compared to previous rounds was a scrappy affair, with both men smothering, mauling and holding up-close with very little clean work coming from either.
There was also little meaningful action to go on for this round, but I give it to Kovalev on the basis that he seemed to want it more than Ward, who for large periods of the round seemed a bit content to “run the clock down” and only became a bit more assertive in the last 30 seconds or so.
ROUND: Kovalev (10-9)
WINNER: Sergey Kovalev (115 – 112)
|Sergey Kovalev||Andre Ward||Round|
There’s no doubt Sergey dominated the first half of the fight. There is also a valid argument that Ward maybe took 1 or even 2 rounds from that portion of the bout. And while it’s is also true that Ward seemed to dominate the second-half more(but not by that much), it’s also clear that Sergey took the 10th and arguably another 1 or 2 rounds from that segment of the fight as well.
No matter how you cut it, the knockdown that Kovalev scored should have been enough to decide the outcome.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that Kovalev was the champion and Ward was the challenger. So any of the very close rounds(and there were a few) should swing in favor of the Champion. landing one or two punches more than your opponent shouldn’t automatically be deemed more credible or worthier than other factors such as champion status, desire, hunger, positivity, assertiveness, effectiveness, etc, and especially in a fight of this magnitude.
What was also interesting about this bout, were how many credible experts got their assessment wrong on how Ward would win. Most assumed that Ward’s “trump card” was his excellent offensive ability on the inside and that he would excel against the ‘gangly’ power-puncher from this standpoint.
In reality this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Although Ward had some success landing shots to the body, the majority of his success came from long-range exchanges and namely in the form of jabs and left-hooks.
Credit must be given to team Kovalev for finding a solution to nullify this part of Ward’s game, which they did perfectly by having their man move closer when Ward got close, tying his(Ward’s) arms when he got close or using the ropes to lock the talented Californian’s back tightly against them to the point that it gave him very little leeway to move his arms to punch. With-that-said, it also looked like the spoiling strategy employed by Kovalev taxed him a lot in the stamina department and affected the ‘sting’ on his punching power, late in the contest, that formed a particular important facet of his game in this fight and was also key to overcoming Ward’s advantages.
Credit must also be given to Ward for coming of the floor to “ride the storm” and to give a good account of himself as he did mid-way and late in the fight.
But again, it should be made clear that he was the challenger and the onus was on him to ‘rip’ the title away from the champion. In my personal opinion, Ward didn’t give off the aura that he was the hungrier more determined man and was prepared to grab the title away from Kovalev at any cost.
Ward postured a little too much and played it far too safe in many of the rounds for my liking, as well.
However, with-that-said, for all of Kovalev’s success in this controversial bout, I think that a rematch would actually be in Ward’s favour next time, because he now knows the Russian’s style and that if he can weather the first 4-6 rounds of Kovalev’s power then he will have a chance to come on strong mid-way or late as the heavy-handed puncher’s stamina seems to wane as a fight progresses, that in turn takes the edge off his power which would allow the talented boxer/puncher to stand his ground. Ward is also aware that he can maintain a good level of sharpness and punching power well beyond 6 rounds and might be more assertive in latter portions of a fight, second time around, knowing that Kovalev is susceptible to tiring more than him.
Hopefully in a second fight we have a better and more sincere level of judging, as it wasn’t just Kovalev who lost on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, it was boxing that really lost by denying the rightful victor his just rewards and disappointing fans and newcomers to the sport alike, some of who may now refrain in the future from investing their time and money in a sport tinged by poor oversight and erroneous in-house politics.
When will boxing promoters, officials and administration come to their senses and realize the ‘big picture’: that they are poisoning the health and cutting-short the longevity of the sport with these controversial decisions, while needlessly helping to cede ground to competition from other combat sports?