Andre Ward (-180) vs Sergey Kovalev (+230)
When American Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KO) stripped Russian Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KO) of his WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight titles earlier this month (Nov. 19), the majority of the Las Vegas crowd went home happy. But Ward’s unanimous decision victory was controversial to say the least, and now a rematch – though not officially scheduled – is in the works.
Kovalev scored the only knockdown of the first fight, sending Ward to the mat in the second round and completely dominated the opening rounds. Ward came back and outboxed Kovalev in the second half and the judges felt it was enough to seal the win. All three judges scored the fight 114-113, with two judges awarding the last six rounds to Ward.
“Krusher” was quick to point to the possibility of bias. All three judges were American, and each awarded the fight to the American fighter. The unofficial scorers at ESPN, HBO, The Guardian, and Boxing Monthly seem to agree with the Russian — each of them awarded the fight to Kovalev.
Now, rumor has it that Kovalev’s side have exercised the rematch clause in the contract for the first fight. And they want it as soon as possible. Realistically, this would mean April or May 2017 at the earliest.
But a rematch gives the advantage to Ward, who now has a much better understanding of how to handle Kovalev. Ward’s gift is his ability to dissect his opponents, breaking them down and targeting their weak points. Now that he’s fought 12 rounds with Kovalev, he has a much better idea of how to deal with him.
Kovalev will not want the rematch to go to decision. After knocking Ward down in the second round of the first fight, Kovalev was a little too cautious and did not capitalise on a stunned Ward. In the rematch, he will definitely throw more into the early rounds. He knows that if the fight goes to decision, his odds of winning are slim.
Both fighters will enter the rematch much better prepared. But more preparation plays into the hands of Andre Ward, who is the more technical and cerebral fighter. He has already started talking about some of the weaknesses he saw in Kovalev’s game, and he’ll come into the rematch with a better idea of how to handle Kovalev’s explosive power in the early rounds.
Pick: Andre Ward (-180)
Photo credit: “Andre Ward v Allen Green” by showtime_sports, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.