By Jason Gonzalez
When the highly anticipated matchup between light heavyweights Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward was announced in the late summer, immediately fight fans were buzzing. The number one question being asked was would the victor receive top billing as the sport’s head honcho.
According to the pundits, the general consensus was a resounding yes. As the fight drew near, whatever respect each fighter had towards each other, was long gone. At the weigh in just the day before, the undefeated Ward told the media, “He [Kovalev] don’t like me, I don’t like him.”
But what transpired on this particular night in the fall at the T-Mobile Arena, in front of a crowd of 13,310 was enough to convince all three judges that the Oakland native did enough to take a razor thin decision by scores of 114-113, in what would be Ward’s first fight ever in Las Vegas.
Maxboxing had it 115-112 for Kovalev.
But when all of the talking ceased, Kovalev, 33, made the biggest statement of them all. He not only hurt Ward in the opening round with a stiff left jab to the face, but would drop him in the second with a straight right hand that caught Ward flush on the kisser.
Kovalev, 30-1, (26) looked strong, and appeared to have been beating Ward at his own game. The native of Chelysbinsk, Russia applied intelligent pressure, landed the more telling shots, and was able to beat Ward to the punch.
As the fight progressed, Ward,32, managed to have his moments, in which he would goon in Kovalev, with the intention of smothering Kovalev’s punches, while utilizing rough house tactics in between. Due to Ward’s courage and pedigree, he was still two rounds short in the eyes of most observers.
Ward won rounds 4, 5, 7, 10, and the 11th, but was it enough to win the fight? He still had to make up a two-point deficit on the scorecard.
Was it enough to be considered the best fighter pound-for-pound?
To Ward’s credit, now 31-0, (15), he managed to make it a grudge match, but he failed to get off first. Ward, who was once known for his combination punching, was simply landing one punch at a time. The pro Ward crowd rejoiced every time he swung, it didn’t matter if he landed or missed.
Ward, who now has victories over Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Chad Dawson, and Kovalev, both made a strong case for being the best. One would be remiss to not propel him to the top, but time will tell. A rematch with Kovalev is inevitable.
"It’s the wrong decision," Kovalev told HBO in the ring following the outcome. "Witnesses are here. Everybody saw what happened."
During the post-fight conference Ward said that he would give Kovalev a rematch, in turn Kovalev said that he would gladly accept it. Kovalev has the right to a rematch, which was stated in his contract. His promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events, expressed that they will be exercising the clause as soon as possible.
With the victory, Ward captured the WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles.