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Mark F. Villanueva

List of Articles by Mark F. Villanueva

Boxing Insight: Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev Rematch Controversy

By Mark F. Villanueva
20 Jun 2017

The best stories are not immune to controversy. It may even be said that controversy is the seed that grows and makes up the best of them, germinating into branches that reach out and pique the elements of human interest, which in turn brings about happiness, disappointment, or even anger out of its audience. The road to the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev rematch had what it takes for a story to bloom into a bestseller.

The second fight between two of the best light heavies in the world took up where it left off. It did not have much of a feeling out round at the onset, and both fighters started to capitalize against each other’s weakness as early as possible. For all intents and purposes, Kovalev’s punches signified that he didn’t want the outcome of the fight to rest on the judges’ hands as when they first fought. Knowing that Kovalev has a tendency to gas out in the middle rounds Andre Ward, too, did not waste time to aim at his opponent’s body to hasten such.

“Krusher” took control in the early rounds with his trademark aggression, but unlike their first match Ward stayed very close behind. He waited to take over any minute and at the right opportunity, businesslike. Kovalev hit him in succession in the second round, but the American slipped a jab and landed a couple of burning body punches. He would land more of them as the fight progressed.

Known as one of the best tacticians of the sweet science today, Ward caught Kovalev with a straight right hand in the fourth. A selfsame punch would reappear later on in the eighth round that would signal the start of the end for Sergey Kovalev, who would be outboxed in the fifth.

Kovalev started to slow down sooner than expected. Inversely, Andre Ward’s spirit soared at every sign of his opponent’s degradation. Caught in a wax in the sixth he tried to step away, shifted to southpaw on the fly, and took advantage of a gradually dispirited aggressor whose jabs did not fully retract by slipping in a right hook to the head.

In the middle of the eighth and final round of the rubber match Sergey Kovalev sidled, as if to turn on his heels, that prompted a puzzled Andre Ward to check on the referee. Tony Weeks, probably as baffled as Ward was at that instant, ordered for the fight to continue. At that point, Kovalev appeared to be complaining about too many things, which may have caused a certain distrust against him. Later on, for no apparent reason, he turned around as if the round was signaled over, and Tony Weeks told him never to turn his back again for his own safety.

The instant Andre Ward cracked Sergey Kovalev with his right hand the remainder of the eighth round appeared to be for mere formality. By and large, its outcome was now determined and directed toward closure, the characters' roles had mainly been played out. Sergey Kovalev, who no longer looked like the fighter who declared to destroy his rival, moved around the ring as in a ghost dance. Andre Ward stepped in to finish him with uppercuts to the body as he bent down low until the referee decided to stop the fight.

Had Sergey Kovalev been struck with low blows toward the end, as many now claim, he surely didn’t appear to complain about it when it mattered. They say he was fouled at least thrice in the final seconds, but it would have only took one low blow for him to take a knee. Fighters’ trunks are set way up the waistline besides. He didn’t even defend himself, not in a way you’d expect from someone who had been aggrieved, or in any way at all. His face was an expression of resignation, if not defeat. He must have accepted that had they been low blows the real punch that did him in was that straight punch that landed flush on his chin.

Maybe the fight should not have been stopped, yet the outcome would not have changed. It shall have only been added with four more punishing rounds at the most for everyone’s insatiable sadistic pleasure. It appears to be a horrible call by the referee. The fight should not have been stopped for the sake of technicality or the pursuit of fair play, and it would have been a resounding hell for the staggering Russian.

The Ward-Kovalev rematch had the makings of a great story, but some find themselves trapped in its twists and turns, in the low blows of plots and subplots, so much so that the moral of the story may have been missed entirely; that when two of the best fighters in the world vow to fight and give their all it becomes an instant classic, a story with a theme that crosses throughout generations. Low blows or not at the end, Sergey Kovalev already had one foot outside the ring when Andre Ward stepped up his attack. He certainly did not do enough to not lose that fight.

Mark F. Villanueva

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