A real marquee fight

Conrad M. Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

From the onset, I never expected the fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev to end in a knockout or stoppage, but it still rated as a marquee match-up to most fight observers. And it lived up to its expectations.

I never expected a stoppage or knockout win because Ward isn’t stupid to get into a slugging match with Kovalev, who in turn has a granite chin that Ward cannot crack. And I expected the result to be close because Ward’s counterpunching skills can hold up Kovalev’s power. That was what happened over the weekend.

The decision was close with Ward taking all the three scorecards, 114-113, although some saw Kovalev winning because he registered a knockdown in the second round. I actually saw the decision going either way.

I followed the blow-by-blow account from the Internet and watched the replay of the fight over Youtube, and I must say Ward-Kovalev is the type of fight that can save boxing from sinking into the doldrums. I also admire how these two undefeated fighters were willing to risk their “zeros” and prove who was the best at light-heavyweight (175 pounds).

Ward, who dominated the super middleweight (168 pounds) division for many years, was entering the fight with record of 30-1 with 15 knockouts and played the role of the counter puncher. Ward is the only fighter today who remains undefeated in both the professional and amateur ranks. How about that Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

On the other hand, Kovalev entered the ring with a record of 30-0 with 26 KOs. Despite his high KO percentage, the Russian was no mindless slugger and picked his opponents apart before setting up the kill.

Both fighters were also in their prime or in their early 30s.

Though I hunger for a marquee fight like Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns that ended in a dramatic third round stoppage, or “The Thrilla in Manila” where Muhammad Ali forced Joe Frazier to retire in the 14th round, the Ward-Kovalev fight still proved to be the type of fight that must be made today for fight fans.

During the actual fight, Ward looked like he would be dominated as Kovalev landed more clean shots during the first five rounds. Kovalev even decked Ward in the second round. The Russian also looked bigger than Ward and ready to outmuscle the American throughout the fight.

But Ward started to find his range from the fifth round and it looked like Kovalev’s power was fading into the later rounds, which the American took advantage of.

While Kovalev’s power faded during the later rounds, he did not buckle down and even landed some good shots at Ward and the scoring could have gone either way.

This early, there have been calls for a rematch between Ward and Kovalev. I definitely would like to see a rematch!

Ward-Kovalev demonstrates that there are still very few top-ranked or elite fighters today who are willing to stake their undefeated records or take risky opponents. And that is good for fight fans.

Besides risking his undefeated record, Kovalev put on the line three of his light-heavyweight belts. The Russian proved to be too courageous for comfort but that is admirable. Very admirable!

Also, money wasn’t the first thing in the minds of protagonists, as Ward pocketed $5 million and Kovalev $2 million, exclusive of share from the pay-per-view revenues. Unbelievable!

Now I must say this—unless we see more fights like Ward-Kovalev, boxing will never have the “golden eras” where boxers of the past got into the ring more to prove who was the best, with money not being the first thing in their minds.


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