According to Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, since Ring Magazine began to keep records of the best pound-for-pound fighters, there have only been two occasions when two top-five fighters have competed in the ring for pound-for-pound supremacy.
The first was Meldrick Taylor vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. in '94. Chavez dominated that fight and won on an 8th-round TKO. However, the 1990 matchup between the two gunners is most memorable and it incites emotions and evokes memories within every boxing fan to this day.
Taylor appeared to have the fight won before the legendary Chavez -- behind on the cards and as clutch as they come in the boxing game -- got the stoppage on Taylor with three seconds left in the fight. To this day, it's one of the most controversial stoppages in boxing history.
The second time was Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad in 1999, when Oscar solidified himself as a future Hall of Famer.
“That means that on November 19th, this will be the very first time in the 21st century that such an event will occur in our sport,” said Duva, who opened up the pre-fight press conference held in the penthouse of Le Parker Meridien in New York, for the highly-anticipated Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward title fight.
“Let’s hope this is the start of something new, a throwback to the way boxing used to be when it was at its best,” Duva said. “Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 17 years before this happens again."
The battle for the title of best pound-for-pound fighter will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, November 19th. Kovalev “AKA” The Legend Crusher defends his WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Championships and puts his 30-0 record on the line against two-time world middleweight champion and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist Andre “SOG” Ward, who is also 30-0.
The event will be produced and aired live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9pm ET and is presented by Main Events, Roc Nation Sports, Krusher Promotions and Andre Ward Promotions.
“There was a time when fighters didn’t consider preserving their undefeated records to be paramount to engaging in actual competition,“ said Duva, obviously taking an indirect shot at Floyd or any other fighter who avoids potential losses to preserve increased financial gain.
“There was a time when undefeated fighters who were heading to the Hall of Fame actually sought out greater and greater challenges as their careers progressed. There was a time when fighters were courageous athletes and not simply cynical businessmen."
Floyd Mayweather has changed the game with the way he has strategically hand-picked specific opponents en route to a miraculous and unblemished yet unmemorable 49-0 professional record, so it’s refreshing to have two undefeated fighters at the peak of their careers, willing to grapple with each other.
Two fighters who are literally giving the people what they want, which is something Pretty Boy Floyd never really did -- inside the ring. If only Floyd's flamboyance, reckless behavior and bravado outside the square matched his disciplined fighting style and astute business acumen. Then again, under those circumstances, maybe he wouldn't be one win from 50-0 and richer than some countries.
“The two men who are here with us today—both in their athletic primes, both unbeaten, and, in my opinion, both heading to the Hall of Fame someday—chose to put their 0’s on the line and face each other to find out just which one of them is the very best."
This fight has a chance to be the best fight in boxing in the past three to five years. Ward has not lost a fight, amateur or professional since he was 12-years-old. Kovalev is a rags-to-riches story from Russia, who once killed a man in the ring and bolted to fame after convincingly pulverizing “The Alien” Bernard Hopkins and effectively sending the OG into retirement.
Like Ward, who is the prized boxing client of Roc Nation, Kovalev has been ripping opponents like stockings on an old lady for some time now. Most fighters are scared to face Kovalev, whose combination of power, agility and unsuspecting technical boxing skills makes him a tough draw for any pugilist.
Ward, in desperate need of a "superfight" to elevate him into the primetime marketing stratosphere of a Canelo Alvarez, was the only champion with enough guts to put his career on the line against the 2016 Ivan Drago, who has 26 knockouts in his career. And from the looks of things "GGG" has no intention of shooting five with Ward.
In fact, Ward’s people over at Jigga’s Roc Nation Sports are framing this fight as another monumental confrontation in a long political, athletic, technological and scientific rivalry between Russia and America. That notion drew some polite chuckles from the audience.
“The Cold War may long be over, but the USA vs. Russia rivalry has never been stronger,” said Michael Yormark, Roc Nation President & Chief of Branding and Strategy. “It is a battle of world superpowers, a matchup of styles as well as beliefs, a collision of two fighters, two cultures, two fan bases. Just like old times, it’s the Americans and the Russians once again. But this is not the space race or Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago. This is for real, and Andre Ward is no underdog. Andre has been training and preparing his whole life for a moment like this – facing an elite opponent on a global stage to find out who the best is. I have no doubt that Andre will..(win) a decisive victory over a worthy challenger in Kovalev, and the title of pound-for-pound king.”
Neither fighter said or did much to frame the moment as two hated opponents from different parts of the world fighting in the name of patriotism. They both know the stakes and Ward summed it up best in his brief speech at the podium.
“I thank God for this opportunity", Ward told the 75 or so media members in attendance. “I thank God for my career and being able to compete at a high level through the peaks and valleys. Sometimes that gets overlooked, a veteran in the game. I’ve paid my dues and I continue to pay my dues. This is just another opportunity. I’ve been in this position before and so has my opponent. When those bright lights come on...it’s all about who executes and who gets it done. I don’t have to throw chairs. I don’t have to cuss. I don’t have to act crazy. I said let’s fight, lets fight. You’re selling yourself. I know that what I possess and what I have is in me, and not on me.”