Ward TKOs Kovalev in 8th Round, Makes Strong Case for P4P King

The highly anticipated rematch between two of the top fighters in the world delivered some exciting and controversial moments for boxing fans on Saturday night. Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev squared off in their second fight in seven months to determine who the king at light heavyweight was. The first fight ended with Ward winning a not so convincing decision that left boxing fans still debating on exactly who the better fighter is because the first bout was so close.

Well, the second go around answered the questions as Andre Ward once again beat Kovalev but this time in convincing fashion. Ward blasted Kovalev with a huge right hand that left Kovalev on weak legs and he could never recover. Ward would target the body of his opponent, drilling him with constant blows to the mid section. The referee would step in and call the fight as Kovalev was no longer defending himself and was slumped over in pain from the shots. The 10,000+ fans at Mandalay Bay Events Center were cheering throughout the fight and finally brought to their feet as the pro-Ward crowd was overjoyed with the result.

The TKO victory in round 8 was even more satisfying for Ward because of who he defeated. A fighter who has made a name for himself by his devastating power and high stoppage percentage was bested at his own game by the traditionally technical Ward. Before the fight, Kovalev had promised that he was going to finish Ward and “end his career.” Those vicious shots that he took in the eighth round derailed those plans.

“I’ve never been the best, but I’ve always worked the hardest,” Ward said. “I could tell he was reacting to my body shots, and I knew I had him then. I knew he was hurt. It takes something to do something.”

Up to the final round, the fight was, like the first, very competitive and very close to call. It was revealed on HBO’s telecast that up to that point two judges had Ward winning while the other had Kovalev. Ward did not want to leave it in the hands of the judges, he wanted to convince the fans that he was clearly the superior fighter.

“I saw him reacting to body shots that were borderline, so I knew I had him,” Ward said. “I knew he was hurt, trying to cover up. I went back to the body. I went right back there again, and he wasn’t reacting. Then the referee stopped the fight.”

Ward’s longtime trainer Virgil Hunter was very pleased with the outcome of this fight, saying after that he trained Andre for the finish this time, something that they traditionally do not do.

“I told [the media] this week I have only trained Andre for a knockout twice,” Hunter said. “The first was Chad Dawson [in 2012], and the second was tonight. And they laughed at me. But I knew what was going to happen, because he was healthy. Now we have quieted all those who were whining and thought we didn’t get it the first time.”

Despite the buildup to the fight revealing bad blood between the two fighters, Ward had nothing but respect for his opponent when it was all said and done.

“He’s a good fighter, and I have nothing but respect for him,” he said. “First time around, the man is world champion, and he’s been on top a long time. I give him credit. He is a great fighter, and when you fight great fighters, you have to raise your game.”

Not all things were perfect, however, as the replay of Ward’s final shots to Kovalev’s body may have been below the belt line, signaling an illegal strike below the belt. The referee did not see it that way and made the decision to stop the fight rather than penalize Ward, who was warned for a low blow already earlier in the fight.

Kovalev and his team did not agree with the decision to stop the fight and felt that the shots were below the belt. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, who promotes Kovalev, said in a press conference after the fight that she will file a protest with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, claiming Ward landed several low blows without being penalized.

“I’m still having a hard time processing what I just witnessed,” Duva said. “I saw someone who should have been disqualified get his hand held up. [Kovalev] got hit with three low blows, four actually, in the last round. We asked the commission for an instant replay analysis, and they did not give it to us. We’ll file a protest on Monday.”

Kovalev was in shock at the outcome and seemed to be in disbelief over the events that just transpired.

“I don’t know. I can’t explain it,” Kovalev said about the end of the fight. “Not every round, but I thought I was doing very good. I was better, and he was better this fight. I didn’t feel like I was getting knocked down with his punches.”

He told HBO’s Max Kellerman in the ring after the fight that he could have continued the fight and felt that the referee stopped it too early.

“I could have continued,” Kovalev said. “I didn’t feel the punch. This is fighting. We are boxers. Yes, he did punch me, but he didn’t hurt me. The fight should have continued.”

Low blow or not, Ward proved with his strong performance and vicious overhand right that staggered Kovalev for good that he is one of if not the best boxer in the sport has to offer currently. This victory continues his undefeated professional run (32-0) and puts him right in the middle of the discussion for the number one pound for pound spot. Before the fight, Ward was asked about how he felt about the pound for pound list, he said that it was not up to him to decide and that he was only focused on the fight with Kovalev.

After the fight, he was a little more open to the discussion of him being at the top of the list.

“Can I ask a question? Am I No. 1 now?” Ward said. “Of course, I hope so, but I don’t have a vote, and hopefully we top that pound-for-pound list.”

What’s next for Ward is unclear at this point in time. Predicting the next fight a day after is a foolish idea considering boxing’s matchmaking history. Ward said in his post-fight interview that he has an interest in moving up to cruiserweight and even heavyweight. He says he wants more belts.

“Cruiserweight? Heavyweight? I dream big, and everything is possible when you have God.”

The Son of God is certainly at the top of the boxing mountain and will continue to be in huge fights that fans will be excited to see. His promoter Michael Yormark said that they will celebrate this victory then evaluate options and determine the biggest and best fight for Ward next.

“This performance was spectacular, probably one of the best we’ve seen in a long, long time, and he finished [Kovalev],” Yormark said. “We’re very proud of him. A great night for the Wards. He was so spectacular tonight. He realizes he is the best fighter, pound for pound, in the world. Who he fights next? Who knows? He will enjoy the moment. He deserves to enjoy the moment.”

A great night it was for the Ward family indeed.

Featured Image via Al Bello

Sports have been a part of my life for years. First playing and watching, now just watching. I stopped playing after I discovered that you actually have to have real talent in order to play sports at a high level. Anyways, my favorites are Hockey, Baseball, Football, MMA, and Boxing. Thank you for reading my articles and feel free to leave a comment if you have one.

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