Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev both tipped the scales at 175 pounds at their weigh-in for Saturday night’s rematch at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two fighters looked in great shape with neither of them appearing weight drained. Ward, 33, looked a little tired, but other than that, he looked in fighting shape. The two fighters had a long stare down with Ward saying something to Kovalev while smiling at him.
Kovalev never said a word. Kovalev’s stony silence and the mean look on his face was clear indication of what he intends on doing on Saturday night when the two of them face each other for a second time. Unlike the first fight, Kovalev doesn’t look as haggard as he did last November when the two of them fought to a close 12 round decision, which Ward won controversially.
A lot has been said about which tactics the two fighters will use. Ward is giving anything away, but he’s made it clear that he’s going to start in right away to get a fast start this time. In their previous fight, Ward tried to box Kovalev and he knocked down in the 2nd round. Ward then turned the fight into a street fight with him rouging Kovalev up in close, and then looking to land shots from the outside. It was still very close.
The judges gave Ward a lot of credit in the second half of the fight. There were a lot of rounds that the judges could have given to Kovalev, but they chose not to. Had the scoring been a lot more even, Kovalev would have won. He was landing the better shots, but not getting credit from the judges.
Ward will be defending his IBF World, WBA Super World and WBO World light heavyweight titles on Saturday night. This will be Ward’s first defense of those belts. He won them last November in beating Kovalev by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 114-113, 114-113 and 114-113.
HBO commentator Jim Lampley believes that Kovalev needs a knockout to win. He thinks that if Kovalev can knock Ward down, he could keep him down this time. But short of that, Lampley sees Ward winning another decision. The fight is once again taking place in Las Vegas, and it’ll likely be in front of a large pro-Ward crowd like last time. Kovalev is from Russia, and Ward from nearby Oakland, California. Ward is also a 2004 Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. Ward is going to have the crowd in his favor. That usually transfers over to the judges. That doesn’t mean that Kovalev can’t win a decision. It means that for Kovalev to win rounds, he might have to really pound Ward to the point where the judges can see past the pro-Ward cheering that will be done each time he lands a shot.
“My prediction is we’ll see a very close fight with the appearance of what we saw in the first fight,” said HBO commentator Jim Lampley to IFL TV. “Ward will probably be able to do a better job of starting earlier and imposing his style on Kovalev in the first part of the fight. Kovalev will be more sustained and energetic fighter over the course of the 12 rounds. He has a chance if he knocked Ward down to keep him down, which he has to do win the fight,” said Lampley.
Kovalev can win if he fights better on the inside. That’s what he’s going to need to do for him to have a chance of getting a decision. Ward is going to take the fight to the inside and dare Kovalev to prove that he can beat him in that kind of fight.
“I think it’ll be a very close fight,” said Malignaggi to IFL TV in talking about the Kovalev vs. Ward fight. “It’s very difficult to make this a clear fight, because Ward is a good boxer. He’s not going to stand up and box Kovalev, because Kovalev is a good boxer himself. Kovalev will land if you try and box him for 12 rounds. If you give Kovalev a half hour to box, he’s a good enough boxer where he will land a big right hand. So Ward has to avoid that. How does he avoid that? By taking away the leverage. Kovalev has his power. How do you take away the power? You make it a street fight. You get in there in the trenches and try and rough him up. Kovalev doesn’t have the leverage in his shots. Let’s see if Kovalev can make some adjustments to the inside game. In the outside game, Kovalev obviously has it down pat. He even dropped Ward. We’ll see how he makes the adjustments from there, and if Andriy can make some adjustments as well. It’s going to be close again. I’m pretty sure, a similar fight, yes. Ward will try and make it a street fight again. I don’t believe he can box straight up with Kovalev for 12 rounds. Kovalev will land, so Ward isn’t going to take that chance,” said Malignaggi.
“He’s going to try and box in spots and make it a trench fight,” said Malignaggi about Ward. “I can’t see it any other way. If it’s a similar fight as the first one, then it’s a close fight.”
The promoters for the Ward-Kovalev 2 card are Roc Nation Sports, Main Events, Andre Ward Promotions, and Krusher Promotions.
In the co-feature bout, WBA Super World super bantamweight champion Guillermo “The Jackal Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) weighed in at 121 ½ pounds for his title defense against #1 WBA Moises “Chucky” Flores (25-0, 17 KOs). For his part, Flores weighed in at 122 lbs. Rigondeaux, 36, is expected to win this fight comfortably. Rigondeaux recently beat James Dickens by a 2nd round stoppage last year in July. Rigondeaux broke Dickens’ jaw and he was unable to continue. Before that, Rigondeux beat Drian Francisco and Hisashi Amagasa. Flores, 30, has recent victories over Paulus Ambunda, Luis Emanuel Cusolito, and Oscar Escandon.
USBA middleweight champion Arif Magomedov (18-1, 11 KOs) will be facing Arias (17-0, 8 KOs). Magomedov was recently beaten by Andrew Hernandez by a 10 round unanimous decision in May 2016. It was a one-sided fight with Hernandez dominating Magomedov in winning by the scores 100-89, 100-89 and 98-91. Magomedov bounced back from that defeat to beat Chris Hermann by a 2nd round knockout.
Light heavyweight contender Dmitry Bivol (10-0, 8 KOs) weighed in at 174 ½ pounds for his scheduled 10 round bout against former light heavyweight world title challenger Cedric Agnew (29-2, 15 KOs). Agnew, 30, weighed in at 175 pounds. Agnew previously lost to former World Boxing Organization World light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev by a 7th round knockout on March 29, 2014. Agnew was also beaten by Samuel Clarkson by an 8 round split decision on February 20, 2015. Agnew has since won his last two fights in beating journeyman Kevin Engel and Martin Verdin.
Bivol, 26, is coming off of a recent 4th round knockout over Samuel Clarkson on April 14. Bivol knocked Clarkson down two times in round 1, and once in the 4th. It was pretty impressive to see how easily Bivol handled a very good fighter in Clarkson. Bivol’s other recent wins cane against Robert Berridge, Yevgeni Makhteienko and Felix Vera. Bivol dominated Vera, who is a very good fighter. Bivol is a highly decorated former amateur standout from Russia. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, and perhaps could wind up winning a world title someday.