LAS VEGAS: American champion boxer Andre Ward kept his IBF, WBA and WBO titles by stopping Russian brawler Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round of their light heavyweight rematch on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The unbeaten Ward hurt Kovalev with a right hand that buckled his knees and then finished him off on the ropes 30 seconds later with a series of body shots around the mid-section at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino.
“He’s a great fighter, not a lot of people are going to beat him,” Ward said. “But when you are facing a great fighter you have to raise your game to the next level.
“I hurt him with a head shot and I just had to get the right shot in to finish him.”
Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight with 31 seconds left in the eighth with Kovalev kneeling down from what he said was a low blow.
Ward improved to 32-0 with 16 knockouts as he held onto three of the four major boxing belts that he snatched from Kovalev by winning the first fight in November by a slim unanimous decision.
The 33-year-old Ward needed this victory to validate his first win as many felt the Russian won that fight and that Ward had been given a gift decision by the three judges.
“I have never been the most talented, I have never been the biggest, I just keep knocking down giants one by one,” said Ward.
Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 knockouts) sent Ward to the canvas in the first fight, and while he landed several big shots in the rematch, once again he failed to close the deal and appeared to tire after the sixth round.
“I cannot explain,” Kovalev said.
Kovalev added he wants an “immediate” rematch because he felt he got hit with a series of low blows in the eighth.