Boxing fans will get to witness the sport at its highest level on Saturday with a much-anticipated rematch, as Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) looks to get revenge against Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) in a light heavyweight title contest.
In November of last year, Ward stormed back from an early knockdown to nick the powerful Kovalev on the cards, with all three judges scoring it 114-113 in the American’s favor.
Ward used every bit of his intelligence, skill and accurate counter-punching to come up with the result, which saw him win the WBA, IBF and WBO world light heavyweight titles in just his third fight in the division.
Kovalev, who one could make a compelling case for having deserved a win against Ward, will get a chance to avenge the only loss of his career to this point.
Both fighters’ unimpeachable talent, determination, power and speed will be on display in the boxing mecca of Las Vegas on Saturday night. Here’s how to view the fight.
Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Viewing Info
When: Saturday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK), HBO pay-per-view
Live Stream: SkySports.com (UK Only)
There is more on the line than pride and three world titles for Ward, who only just a couple of years ago faded from the sport’s spotlight as he dealt with injuries and a contract dispute. Of course, those who watched his ascent through the super middleweight ranks couldn’t forget his calculating, precise style and ability to pinpoint opponents’ weaknesses.
Sure enough, after a 19-month layoff from November 2013 to June 2016, Ward returned with a stoppage win over Paul Smith, and three more fights later, he reached the pinnacle of the sport with his win over Kovalev.
Indeed, Ward is Ring‘s top pound-for-pound boxer, with Kovalev right behind him. Other outlets have Ward very near the top, so a loss to Kovalev would mean relinquishing his titles and his spot as boxing’s top dog in any division. After barely surviving an early onslaught from Krusher to win by a close unanimous decision in their first meeting, Ward hopes to deliver a more clear-cut victory this time out.
“I expect a hard, tough fight and I predict a tremendous victory. I’ve got to have it and I want to do it in a better fashion this time,” per SkySports.com’s Mark Crellin.
If Ward can avoid hitting the canvas this time around, he’ll certainly have a much easier time of it. He was certainly behind on the cards early on, as Kovalev’s powerful punching and occasionally overlooked technical ability saw him control the first few rounds, with his second-round knockdown the obvious highlight.
The Oakland native had to dig deep to pull out a win, pressuring Kovalev to close the distance and prevent him from winding up his crushing right hand. CBSSports.com’s Brian Campbell analyzed the first fight, detailing how Ward used his skill, tactics and psychology to defeat Kovalev:
“Ward not only proved to be Kryptonite for Kovalev’s offense once he adjusted, he kept coming back after getting up off the deck, which can have a hand in playing against a big puncher’s psyche when he’s unable to finish an opponent off.
“It’s because of this that Kovalev has more questions to answer in their second fight. To do so, he, which should make the first half of the fight in particular a tense game of chess for Ward.”
As for Kovalev, he will have no shortage of motivation to pummel Ward, knowing his power is far greater than his opponent’s.
If he gets another knockdown, look for him to apply even more pressure in the aftermath as he looks to end the fight early and avoid a repeat outcome, one that left him with a hollow feeling in the immediate aftermath of his lone defeat to this point, per ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael:
“Yes, I was quiet because I was empty. I had no emotions, no energy to do something, you know? I was empty and I was just killed by [the] decision. I shouldn’t do something. I couldn’t change something. What happened has happened. I just understood that I was robbed and I don’t have any more belts now. I already thought, “When will be the rematch?'”
There is so much on the line for these two highly accomplished boxers. If Ward wins again, he will be able to dictate how he handles the rest of his career, with potential opponents having little to prevent him from making fights on his terms (of course, that is if top contenders dare to challenge him). A fight with the powerful Adonis Stevenson could be in the making.
Should Kovalev win, he too could take on Stevenson, or perhaps prepare for a rubber match against Ward, which would no doubt be something to look forward to no matter his manner of victory on Saturday.