There was a time when Sergey "Krusher"  Kovalev was a fighter that had it all together. He had titles, an infallible training camp and an iron clad path to winning. That veneer came to a screeching halt with his life-altering first fight against Andre Ward last November. In an instant, the once indomitable Kovalev now seemed human and it unraveled some ugliness in the process.

24/7 Ward/Kovalev 2 - Full Show (HBO Boxing)

Watch the HBO Sports Special - 24/7 Ward/Kovalev 2. Ward vs. Kovalev 2 happens Saturday, June 17 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Subscribe to HBO Boxing YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Instagram: http://instagram.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HBOboxing HBO Boxing Podcast on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing Official Site: http://www.hbo.com/boxing HBO Sports on HBO GO® http://itsh.bo/ij8oqS.

First, Kovalev cried foul immediately after the fight and for the months following the loss. Of course, no one wants to lose, especially after scoring an early knockdown of Ward, but there is a way to protest gentlemanly. Instead, Kovalev went on a racist rampage, creating destructive tweets that took too many liberties with slang and racial slurs intertwined. It reawakened his penchant to racially disparage athletes of color. In the past, Adonis Stevenson and Jean Pascal were targets before Ward.

Next, he blamed over-training. He worked out too much, reportedly running 12 or more miles regularly and burning himself out by fight night. It was his justification for losing the later rounds and slowing down his blitzkrieg pace in the opening stanza.

Andre Ward Media Day (Ward-Kovalev 2)

Recently, his trainer John David Jackson was accused by Ward of attempting to jump ship, making overtures to Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter. Ward went on record saying that Jackson complained of his treatment by Kovalev and that there were conflicting training methods from his other Russian trainers. In addition, a language barrier in the corner was affecting his coaching style as he was speaking English and the other coach is speaking Russian and leaving him clueless to what was being discussed.

Whether true or not, Jackson has remained in the corner for Kovalev going into their rematch this Saturday, but the entire strange turn of events indicates a breakdown within the Kovalev machine. Promoted by Main Events and its CEO Kathy Duva, Kovalev is the shining star in her stable. After chasing Adonis Stevenson for years with no result, he finally has a formidable opponent to help showcase why he is an elite boxer.

HBO Boxing News: Sergey Kovalev Interview (HBO Boxing)

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one on one with Sergey Kovalev. Ward vs. Kovalev 2 happens Saturday, June 17 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Subscribe to HBO Boxing YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Instagram: http://instagram.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HBOboxing HBO Boxing Podcast on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/hboboxing HBO Boxing Official Site: http://www.hbo.com/boxing HBO Sports on HBO GO® http://itsh.bo/ij8oqS.

However, with all the weird, circus-like storylines, excuses and inter-camp turmoil, Kovalev is now in a must-win scenario. This weekend’s rematch is not only to regain the light heavyweight belts he’s lost, but also to justify his erratic and unprofessional behavior since the loss. To Kovalev, the unanimous decision victory was a most egregious action by the judges scoring his last fight. How could he lose after a knockdown? Even if he faded in the later rounds,  he thought he did enough to win, even as a split decision.

If Ward wins again, however, it cements the fact that the first bout was not a fluke and that Kovalev has merely met his boxing match. Ward has kept it classy the entire time before the first fight and leading up to the second. 

Admittedly, Ward doesn’t like Kovalev, yet he still has not stooped to the lows of negative promotion that his opponent has and has chosen not to bash him in public. A Ward win will cement Kovalev as one of boxing’s biggest sore losers and taint his legacy forever. To be honest, he has already shown his ass in irreparable ways, but a win at least would validate some of his points. 

Either way, this Saturday, Kovalev is in the fight of his life in more ways than one.