In the 8th round, Ward let off a flurry of body punches, many of which Kovalev complained were low blows, and usurped what remained of Kovalev's energy. Ward a right then a left. Referee Tony Weeks stopped it at 2:43. While that is up for debate, the current reality is that Andre Ward finished off a fighter who had been feared by much of the boxing world. I'm sure he's made some adjustments and he's going to come harder, but I'm ready. What can not be questioned is the right hand that clearly sapped the fight out of Kovalev.
There were several close rounds, and going into the eighth round, Ward led 67-66 on two scorecards and Kovalev, 34, who is from Russian Federation and fights out of Los Angeles, was up 68-65 on the third. "Whatever the excuses were this time, I just don't have the energy". "You've got to raise your game to the next level and thankfully that's what we did tonight". "It's a strategy that did wonders for Wladimir Klitschko over the second half of his career and needs the right referee to enable". Whether the punches that came right before the end of the fight were low or not can be discussed. So I just have to keep my head down and keep working. All I got to do is be myself and that will be enough. I felt I could have continued.
But by the sixth, Ward said he could sense Kovalev was fading. But the shots forced Kovalev to bend over, and he looked spent. Ward, who caused a brief pause in the fight in the second round when he hit Kovalev below the belt, was never warned after that by Weeks for low blows. "It's inconceivable to have a fight stopped like that", Duva said.
Kovalev would not be the first boxer to drive a Hummer through standards of common decency, but the racist overtones and hints of homophobia leave him on the wrong side of public sentiment in this fight.
"They seem to work well together", Kovalev's trainer, John David Jackson, said this week. "I told the press that I only trained Andre for a knockout twice", Hunter said. I wanted to continue fighting.
"We will take a look at it". But Kovalev was fading, just as he had in the first fight, and he picked up the pace. Ward thought he had, but he also knew his opinion didn't matter.
And while he failed to land anything truly telling, he was the early aggressor and HBO analyst Harold Lederman had him winning the opening three rounds before Ward rallied in the fourth. Announcer Michael Buffer, after a pause to stop everyone's breath, said, "And the NEW...." Truly, it was a stunning and brutal end for the light heavyweight title fight.
It's this Saturday, June 17 (or the early hours of Sunday 18, depending where you're reading this from) at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Kovalev ditched his former conditioning coach and hired Alexandr Mikahilovich, who had worked with Russian biathlon athletes. Ward cornered opponent at the ropes and struck him several blows below the belt.
Ward (31-0, 15 knockouts) isn't about to invite Kovalev over for dinner, either.
And any efforts to generate buzz this week were dashed when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor announced their own fight. We'll see how many fools are born in the interim. He is a great fighter.