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Ward vs Kovalev: Prediction, preview and analysis

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Well boxing fans, we are in for another treat – Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward.

On Saturday night, light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev will defend his titles against current super middleweight champion Andre Ward in a bout that most observers will consider the winner to be the best pound for pound fighter in the sport.

Another intriguing factor will be the aspect of undefeated champion verses undefeated champion.

Kovalev vs Ward has all the aspects that make this sport great.

It takes years to build fighter into an internationally recognized world champion who dominates his respected weight class. And it is not very often that two undefeated fighters dominate and clean out their weight classes, and then because of their desire to prove that they are the best; immediately sign to fight each other.

This is the treat we are in for this weekend.

Ward vs Kovalev preview
There is no question regarding either fighter’s talent or ability. Both are very well proven with victories over other elite level world champions and devastating punchers. I don’t feel that in this bout we have to ask the general questions that are commonly asked when a fight of this magnitude comes about such as “does he have a chin that will hold up,” or “can he punch hard enough to keep this guy off of him.” That being the case, I have taken a somewhat different approach in evaluating the preparedness of both men for this bout.

Ward vs Kovalev
Date: November 19, 2016

Network: HBO PPV
Location: Las Vegas
Venue: T-Mobile Arena

Division: Light Heavyweight
Titles: WBA, IBF, WBO; (Mythical) Top Pound for Pound status

Champion: Sergey Kovalev
Favorite: Slightly Ward

Sergey Kovalev’s question mark came when he faced ring legend Bernard Hopkins. In a bout that most people thought the slick veteran would lure the young lion into traps and counter him all night, Kovalev scored a first round knockdown and then unexpectedly boxed the most disciplined fight we have seen him in.

He didn’t fall into the traps.

He used his jab without committing to it which set up power combinations keeping Hopkins on the defensive all night. In this fight, he proved to himself and everyone else that he can slow the pace down and fight a disciplined and calculated fight.

Ward has more than proven himself by entering and winning the “Super Six” Tournament. He beat three veteran world champions in Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch to unify the super middleweight division in that tournament. Then, immediately after the tournament, accepted the challenge of then light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.

At the time, Dawson was coming off two wins over both light heavyweight legends Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, and a victory over the great Bernard Hopkins.

It took Ward two rounds to figure out Dawson’s tendencies and subsequently counter him with a left hook that was shorter and straighter than Dawson’s, putting badly hurting “Bad Chad” and putting him on the canvas.

Chad would survive several rounds on shaky legs but that first knockdown took a lot out of Dawson and set the tone for Ward to score an upset knockout in round 10.

So both Kovalev and Ward are the elite level fighters who have the ability to deal with and overcome any style of fighter as we have seen.

In the Ward vs Kovalev mega fight, we will see who is the better man and very much deserving of the pound for pound title.

I have read and heard interviews of trainers and writers asking all the questions such as “Can Ward handle Kovalev’s power?” along with “Will Ward’s speed and timing confuse Kovalev?”

... And of course “does Ward have a strong enough chin to survive.”

Both men have already answered all of these questions and any other questions that critics may have. Both guys have overcome difficult styles, big punchers, and top level competition.

This is as close to a 50-50 fight on paper that we can get. But the problem with that is we don’t fight on paper. We fight in the ring.

Ward vs Kovalev prediction
My prediction is that both men will come out boxing, and the fight will be close. These guys are among the best of the best. They have made it to where they are because of their abilities.

I can’t see either guy getting dropped by a big shot early in the fight because of a positioning mistake or not paying attention (although anything is possible).

Both guys know their range and control it well.

Rounds 1-6
For the first six rounds I think it will be pretty even. Ward is a little bit better at changing range so I can see him stealing some early rounds if he can confuse Kovalev by staying long and then smothering him.

A mid-range fight is bad for Andre. He doesn’t want to be at the end of Kovalev’s big right hand and I’m sure his camp has prepared to deal with that. Kovalev cannot afford to give rounds away by following Ward around the ring because he will run into traps allowing Andre to throw 3-4 punch combinations and then step away.

I believe Kovalev’s team understands this and is preparing to keep the fight close on the score cards.

Rounds 7-9
Ward vs Kovalev will come down to conditioning and experience. In 7 through 9, I can see the more battle tested and excellent conditioned Ward taking over by starting long and then closing the gaps with spurts of energy and fast combinations.

Going the 12…
Ward has been the 12 round distance on several occasions. He is well prepared to go deep into tough fights and pick up the pace in the second half. Kovalev has been 12 rounds twice.

In his most recent 12 round distance outing, Kovalev had problems with Chilemba who was able to hit Kovalev with his jab off of the back foot.

Kovalev began leaping in with his jab and his lead rights in attempting to close the distance but Chilemba saw the attack, took a step backwards with his back foot which caused Kovalev’s punch to fall short, and then stuck the jab in the “Krusher’s” face.

Chilemba did this for several rounds and won some of them. He didn’t have all the tools to keep a fighter of Kovalev’s talent and power off of him but his strategy enabled him to win some rounds and finish the fight. You can bet that Ward’s camp saw these tendencies and is prepared to keep Kovalev leaping into counter punches come Saturday night.

Prediction: I’m calling this one for Ward via unanimous decision.

I think we are going to see how talented this kid really is on Saturday night. His discipline inside and outside the ring, his faith, and-God given ability will all be evident when it matters most.


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