By Sam Constantinou Coulter
In the wake of a first fight that left so many heatedly debating who should have walked away victorious it always seemed likely that a rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev would have to take place.
Following months of speculation, it was announced that the pair will face off once more with the WBA, WBO and IBF titles on the line come June 17th at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The first fight was so eagerly anticipated with two of the best fighters in the sport today squaring off in a real clash of styles. Many felt that Ward’s technical ability would frustrate Kovalev whilst others believed Kovalev’s size and power would prove too much for the American.
The fight itself proved to be a close, competitive battle in which Kovalev asserted dominance early with solid, accurate punches resulting in a knockdown before Ward turned things in his favour during the second half of the fight by nullifying Kovalev’s offensive work and landing well to the body himself.
After twelve fascinating rounds, the judges scored the fight in favour of Ward and immediately the arguments began. Fans seemed completely split down the middle as to who they believed was the worthy winner.
Many felt Kovalev had won the majority of the early rounds which combined with the 10-8 round for the knockdown and perhaps a couple of the later rounds should have seen him claim the win. In contrast, others felt that Ward won nearly all of the second half of the fight as well as claiming a share of some of the earlier rounds.
In all honesty, it was a tough fight to score with many rounds being difficult to split and a draw or even a victory for either man by a couple of rounds being reasonable to see. Personally, I scored the fight in favour of Ward but can more than understand calls for Kovalev to be the deserved winner.
With this in mind, a rematch simply had to take place to settle the debate once and for all and thankfully both men have agreed to met once more.
As with the first fight, there are two main trains of thought heading into the rematch. Firstly that Ward now knows exactly what to expect from Kovalev and that things will pick up where they left off in the first fight with him in using his defensive capabilities to stifle Kovalev whilst landing his own shots.
Ward will know that he has the ability to frustrate Kovalev and will believe that he will have an easier task second time around,
The second theory is that Kovalev will know that he can hurt Ward and will go after him with all out aggression and systematically break him down. Kovalev will be angry having in his mind had his undefeated record unfairly taken from him.
He will be determined to exact revenge over Ward and will look to leave nothing to chance the second time around with a knockout clearly his target.
Looking at each of the fighters individual skills and analysing the first fight it would seem that another close contest is likely but in terms of predicting a winner, Ward has to be the favourite. He has shown throughout his career that he always finds a way to win and adapt to the challenge in front of him.
Having got to grips with the style of Kovalev in the first fight he will know exactly what he has to do the second time around. He is a phenomenal talent who for some reason goes largely unappreciated.
If he is to win the rematch then perhaps a fight with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson will be targetted. Stevenson is an awkward, hard-hitting southpaw who presents a real danger to any man, however, his reputation has taken a large dip in recent times for a seeming unwillingness to fight the best in the division.
Stevenson would really be the only other option left for Ward at light heavyweight that would generate real interest. If that fight could not be agreed then it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Ward walk away from the sport.
He has mentioned leaving the sport before agreeing to the Kovalev rematch so the thought is clearly in his mind. such talk is of course for another day as there is no foregone conclusion that he will defeat Kovalev.
Whilst Ward seems to lack the love of the fans that perhaps his skill and achievements deserve he is without a doubt, one of the very best fighters of his generation.
This is a fantastic match-up that should leave fans licking their lips with anticipation with debate ebbing and flowing as to who walks away victorious. This is the sort of fight that the true boxing fan craves and it is refreshing to see such a fight take place twice.