By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
A lot of us doubted it would happen for the first time and we shared equal scepticism at the rematch happening. Charades we are as this Saturday on the 17th of June 2 P4P kings go back at it for our enjoyment. Andre Ward took a unanimous decision victory home with him last time and there has been much debate about the legitimacy of that call. For what it’s worth, the cards were all extremely close so there’s no right to shout robbery here but we can’t ignore the controversy surrounding the fight. The vast majority of people I’ve spoken to or seen discuss on forums etc seem to have scored the fight for Kovalev, as did I.
I can live with the decision as it was incredibly close, but one thing about the scoring of that fight has bothered me and that’s the 10th round. Each judge scored this for Ward and many observers (myself included) consider this one of the more clear Kovalev rounds. For reference, the 10th round is when Ward tried to showboat by swinging his right arm around before eating a Kovalev jab. Anyway, the fight was razor thin all the same and it delivered in entertainment value too. I think all we can ask for in the next fight is a clear winner, ideally by KO so as to avoid our squabbling in the future.
The rematch is all about adjustments. Neither fighter has had a fight as close as that before so it’s difficult to know who will be able to adjust better. I don’t think we’ll see a different tactic from Ward to be honest. He was actually being outboxed on the outside by Kovalev’s excellent jab and learned in the first round that he needed to respect his barbarous power. To his credit, Ward began to read Kovalev a little more successfully as the fight wore on and his body work throughout paid dividends in the last couple of rounds. We’re used to seeing Ward be able to bully fighters on the inside but he wasn’t allowed this luxury fighting not just a Light Heavyweight but a very physically imposing one in Kovalev. To that extent, I don’t see Ward trying anything too drastically different as I think he’ll look to react to Kovalev’s plan. Kovalev seems genuinely apoplectic about the result and Ward is a sagacious enough fighter to castigate any crude mistakes made by the Russian.
Kovalev on the other hand has made it unequivocally evident that a KO is his plan. Should Ward elect to try and counter all night long then that could well benefit the crafty American, although with Kovalev one right hand can be enough to end a fight. Kovalev’s success came from the outside in the first fight and from his ability to nullify Ward’s inside game at times. Instead of going for a reckless KO he might be better served to try and sit behind his jab, then pounce should an (unlikely) opportunity present itself. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing: the possibilities and the tactics. There’s also the mental aspect. Ward clearly believes he won, but he’ll know himself that this was a very close fight and will have to mentally prepare for that again. Whereas in Kovalev’s mind he has already beaten Ward, so he can do it again. Complacency is dangerous, however. This applies to the judges too, should they be required. If it’s a close fight will they lean toward Kovalev owing to the controversy of the previous fight? Will the all American panel perhaps give the ‘home’ fighter the benefit of the doubt? Will they score it for the correct fighter?…
I personally don’t want to forecast a winner. My big fight predictions are woeful and this is as 50-50 as the come, as overused as that axiom may be. I will again say that I consider Ward to be the better technical fighter but only just. Kovalev can box really really well. For all of Ward’s technique it’s the (sometimes unnecessary) ugly side to his game which sets him apart from other fighters. He doesn’t have considerable power at Light Heavyweight but you don’t need stony hands to cause damage to the body. Kovalev’s conditioning didn’t look great in the Chilemba fight either so to me a lot of this depends on if this is something he can work on. It may not feel like it (see here – http://firstclassboxing.com/ward-kovalev-ii-arrives-this-weekend-to-bizarrely-little-british-fanfare/ ) but we have an absolutely world class fight on our hands here and its importance cannot be overlooked for the sake of lacklustre promotion. It’s worth staying up for, that much I can forecast.
The bouts leading up to the main event are interesting too. Chief support sees Cuban virtuoso Rigondeaux defend his WBA Super World Super Bantamweight title against legitimate challenger Moises Flores. For all his clear talent, Rigondeaux has had a pretty stagnant career aside from the excellent Donaire showing. Flores is unbeaten in 25, around a decade younger than Rigo and actually a pretty decent fighter. He doesn’t quite have any standout names to his credit yet but 36 years old at this weight is very old, plus Rigo hasn’t exactly been doing lots of rounds in recent times – he has to get old eventually; father time is unbeaten too. Do I think Flores is the man to capitalise on the inexorable decline of Rigondeaux? No, I don’t. But it’ll be a good win for Rigondeaux and hopefully can build toward a marquee fight for him.
Luis Arias takes on Arif Magomedov in what is sort of a prospect fight. Magomedov was recently upset by the relatively unknown Andrew Hernandez and will look to try to build himself up again. He’s a competent enough boxer but Arias is probably the favourite here, despite not looking spectacular himself. Speaking of prospects, the ever exciting Dmitry Bivol is pitted against Cedric Agnew who has a loss to Bivol’s previous victim Samuel Clarkson. Bivol looks real good and with this being his 11th bout he is moving at quite a fast pace through the ranks. Being at Light Heavyweight means he could well be taking on one of the guys in this main event one day.by