Ward vs. Kovalev 2 odds and prediction: Conditioning or ability? (Radio)Written by Joseph Herron
This Saturday night, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in "Sin City" Nevada, Andre "S.O.G." Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) will make his first title defense as the incumbent WBO/IBF/WBA Light Heavyweight Champion against prolific knockout artist and former division kingpin Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs).
(Image courtesy of InsideBoxing.com)
The scheduled twelve round championship bout is being presented by Main Events and Roc Nation Sports, and will be broadcast through HBO PPV for a one-time cost of $64.95 in HD.
This weekend's main event will mark the two pound for pound fighters' second meeting, as well as the immediate rematch, which was enforced by Main Events and Team Kovalev after a belabored negotiation process during the months subsequent to November 19's controversial first contest.
Although many fans and critics believe the coveted 175-pound distinction deserved to remain in the possession of the Russian-born puncher, the current champ's mid to late round efforts in last year's riveting chess match were rewarded with a unanimous but razor thin decision victory, with scores of 114-113 from all three judges at ringside.
Due to the controversial nature of the initial encounter, most Race & Sports Books list Andre Ward (-160) as the slight betting favorite, with the former titlist, Sergey Kovalev (+135), at virtually even money.
The tight figures directly reflect the overall sentiment of fight fans who have wagered on this hotly debated return bout, which is apparently split down the middle. Although Ward seems to have the slight edge on the betting line, should the margin reflect a much wider advantage in favor of the reigning title holder?
In contrast to the numerous conspiracy theories currently floating amidst boxing chat rooms and discussion boards, which site a Kovalev robbery or Ward gift decision, the Bay Area native apparently made effective adjustments during the early to mid rounds to successfully control the range and tempo in the back-half of last year's twelve round affair...at least according to the only three opinions that really matter.
And although Team Kovalev insists that poor conditioning was the primary cause for his opponent's mid to late round surge, many ringside experts believe stamina and energy had absolutely nothing to do with "The Krusher's" diminished punch output or altered fight tactic.
Was the 34 year old's decline in stamina really to blame for an apparent lack of ability on the inside? And was a sudden loss of energy the cause for Ward ostensibly winning the jabbing contest from mid to long range in the back six of their first meeting?
Unless head trainer for Team Kovalev John David Jackson successfully educated his hard working pupil on the seemingly lost art of proficient infighting throughout the eight-week training camp, boxing fans shoudn't be surprised if Ward gets another decision by an even wider margin on Saturday night.
S.O.G. did a brilliant job of dictating the pace during the mid to late rounds by using his ring intelligence and crafty footwork, consequently taking away Sergey's primary weapon, or customarily effective lead left hand. By using lateral movement and successfully maneuvering in and out of his opponent's punching range, Ward negated the punch that ostensibly sets the table for the Krusher's entire arsenal of shots.
It's often said that a genuine solution comes from directly identifying the cause or root of any given problem. Unless poor conditioning had anything to do with Ward's ability to successfully control range with his feet and effectively work on the inside, Sergey and Jackson haven't figured out precisely what went wrong on November 19.
With an adimitted focus on conditioning, it would appear that either Kovalev doesn't want to reveal any strategic improvements made during camp, or his team truly believes in Sergey's "depleted energy" excuse for his first professional defeat.
As a result, the wagering public and emotionally invested fight community should look forward to seeing a more decisive victory in favor of Andre Ward on June 14.
Listen to James Gogue and Joseph Herron discuss Ward vs Kovalev 2 live on Monday, June 12 at 10pm ET.
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