It's been a few days since I was ringside amongst the 13,000 screaming fans in the T-Mobile Arena who were there to witness the Ward vs. Kovalev event, the biggest boxing event of the year. Now that the initial hype has simmered down, I decided to write this story to reflect on what I witnessed.
No matter your thoughts on the outcome, it can't be denied that both fighters went all out and left it all in the ring. Being ringside enabled me to feel the emotions, excitement and punches being thrown by two of the best in the sport today. Andre Ward survived a second round knockdown to emerge from behind and score a unanimous decision; yet some, including future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez, told me he gave the fight to Kovalev, and that basically summed up the night for fight fans.
(Photo Credit: Angelo Reyes)
Larry Merchant gave me his view on the fight, saying "If this was in Russia Kovalev would have won 9-3...it's clear that it was home cooking (having 3 USA Judges)...tonight was OCEAN's 11 a robbery." Others I spoke to, ESPN's Claudia Trejos and Top Rank's Lee Samuels, echoed Merchant's sentiments, giving the decision to Kovalev. But on the other hand, people like like Rick Reeno of Boxingscene.com, veteran Referee Joe Cortez, Yahoo's Kevin Iole, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and former champion Paulie Malignaggi scored it for Ward. So the controversial decisions plaguing boxing continues on.
(Photo Credit: Angelo Reyes)
In this fight, more clinching and grabbing seemed to be allowed than normal, which set the tone for the type of fight we were all in for. Needless to say, many were critical of this type of fight, including Kathy Duva, who said Andre Ward is suited for the UFC as she hadn't seen that much grabbing since Connor McGregor. Ironically, Paulie Malignaggi and I had talked about MMA tactics the night before the fight, and how Kovalev is very aware of these types of techniques. Indeed, we did see both fighters doing a lot of grabbing and pushing as they fought for position and to control the distance, but if that's the type of fight that's being dictated, then you just have to adapt.
Andre Ward, obviously, was pleased with the decision, stating “I thought I won and it sounded like fair scoring."
“It was about those in the trenches moments. Sergey has no inside game. So my mid-range and inside game is what I focused on."
At the end of the day, the fight is over and the decision is in. The 3 judges scored it for Ward and referee Robert Byrd gave it to Kovalev. When looking at the scorecards, you can see the judges agreed on 3/4 of the entire fight; Rounds 1,2 (including the knockdown of Ward) and 4 went to Kovalev, but Rounds 7-11 went to Ward, with the disagreements occurring on rounds 3,5,6,12.
In boxing, we know that controversy sells, so fans are hoping that a rematch will be coming in 2017. Michael Yormark, Roc Nation President & Chief of Branding and Strategy, gave fans some hope with his comments, saying “Great night! Great performance by Andre! Terrific fight by two great champions. It's a great moment for Andre and his entire family. Roc Nation is very proud of what he accomplished tonight. On to the next one...”
Giving more assurance to a rematch was Kathy Duva, who promised an automatic rematch. Let's hope they stick to their promise.