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PICK EM FRIDAY | STAFF PICKS | ANDRE WARD VS. SERGEY KOVALEV 2

Just a day away from their highly anticipated rematch, Light Heavyweight king Andre Ward will look to cement his standing as the division’s best against a man hell bent on revenge in it’s former ruler Sergey Kovalev.

Both men have since engaged in a back and forth verbal battle, more so on Kovalev’s part who feels an injustice as been carried over from their first fight which he was adjudged to have lost.

Uncertainty seems to be the common feeling whenever this fight is brought into context, the TopClassBoxing team will attempt to bring some clarity in this week’s Pick Em Friday.

Paul J Daley: Ward MD12 Kovalev – Talk of overtraining, feeling empty after the midway point of the contest were the explanation Sergey Kovalev offered for giving away some of the crucial rounds in the first fight, Personally, which is often the case for a big puncher, they can so easily get frustrated by a technical boxer which is the explanation I give. case in point, Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas, George Foreman Vs Muhammad Ali, Felix Trinidad Vs Bernard Hopkins, you get the point? It as happened since the creation of our great sport.

Ward got off the canvas in their first encounter with a smile that said to me, Okay you got me, but let me show you what I can do,  intentions focused on getting those points back which he did by blunting the attacks of Kovalev, cutely setting traps which the Russian was more than eager to walk into.

This is not to say I scored the fight in favour of Ward, I felt Kovalev did just enough to win the fight, especially with the old adage that he was the champion and should get the benefit of the doubt.

I’m honest in saying I’m a little unsure still on my pick because I can see ways in which both men can improve on their last performance, Kovalev needs to keep his punching distance but also needs to harness his energy for a longer contest, Ward, on the other hand, needs to start quicker, narrow the gap between the two fighters to get inside the  guard of Kovalev where the power of the Russian is incapacitated to a certain extent, this is where he does his best work, hitting on the hips and body of Kovalev which act to sap the strength.

I’ve always had a soft spot for technical boxers, hence why I am such a big fan of the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Vasyl Lomachenko and such, so I am inclined to edge in favour of Ward. I think he follows the gameplan put to him by Virgil Hunter and wins another close decision, maybe, just maybe even getting dropped again on route.

Bob Day – Kovalev KO WardThe first fight ended up closer than I expected, due to Kovalev fading. The wrong man got the decision. This time, I believe that “Krusher” will come out all guns blazing. He looks to have addressed conditioning issues and we will see if he is better prepared on the 17th.

This is another big fight in 2017 and a rematch was certainly needed. The build-up has been unsavoury and full of spite. The fight should produce a memorable night in boxing.

Andre Ward is a master at taking you out of your game-plan and then dictating the fight. This time, I see Kovalev hurting the American early and then walking him down over the rounds. No, let up and no escape.

Umar Ahmed: Kovalev SD12 Ward I had Kovalev winning the first fight, for me, he dominated the first half of the fight where his work was much cleaner, and also won rounds 10 and 12.

I think he needs to replicate a similar performance, but with more focus on his inside work. Whenever the clinch was being broken up in the first fight, Kovalev would back out and reset himself, whereas Ward would throw at least two crisp body shots and wear Kovalev down.

Kovalev needs to either avoid the clinch as much as possible, but this is very tough to do against Ward, therefore Kovalev needs to think about doing more body work this time. If he can manage that, and box just like he did last time at range, he’ll win on points for me.

Steve Haigh: Ward UD12 Kovalev – These two could face each other 10 times and every round would probably be marginally won unless knockdowns occur.

We learned from the first fight that Ward has to be 100% focused for the full 36 minutes, it probably applies more so in the rematch as Kovalev enters having a point to prove and a promise to end the career of SOG

If the Russian tries to load up on every punch it plays into Ward’s hands.
Kovalev has to keep the volume and tempo high and not look to land the one big one.
His kinetic chain and body mechanics are superb so as long as he can keep his preferred range to operate his work will have an effect on Ward.

In contrast, the American must try and kill the pace as well as take that range from his opponent and in doing so he will minimise a main weapon in the lead hand

Ward needs to be smart and I expect to see him on the inside a great deal trying to bully the bully as the more frustrated Kovalev becomes the more it turns into his fight

As Max Kellerman said in the first encounter, Only a great fighter can win this fight

I expect Ward to make the adjustments and do what’s necessary to take a decision but again it may not be without controversy?

Richard Lewis:  Kovalev UD12 Ward – How this mega fight and rematch hasn’t received the attention it’s deserved after the close fought and controversial or debatable scoring from the first meeting is beyond me.

This time I don’t see Sergey Kovalev making the same mistakes that he did in the first fight by allowing Andre Ward back into it when at the halfway stage he was 5 rounds to 1 ahead, and seemingly in control of matters. Ward matched Kovalev punch for punch but probably hasn’t got enough power to put him over and will be wary of what’s coming back having been dropped in the first meeting, and knowing that Kovalev is hell bent on revenge and winning his world titles back.

Because of this, I think that once again Andre Ward will box smart and use his skills and ability to take it the distance but this time I see it being scored in favour of Sergey Kovalev who will be the aggressor throughout, which will potentially set up a third meeting between the pair. Kovalev to win by a close fought split decision for me.

Dean Berks: Ward UD12 Kovalev I was one of the minority that felt the first fight could go either way and had no problem with Ward taking it.

Not a popular opinion I found out! For me, Ward looked uptight and uncomfortable, almost waiting for the knockdown before he could move into gear. I also felt that Kovalev showed too much respect for Ward at times, almost unwilling or unable, to assert himself fully.

Once Ward found his rhythm, he was able to adjust. And for me, that is the key. Ward now knows what to expect. He has sampled Kovalev’s power and survived. Kovalev is now aware that the counterpunching Ward can work effectively on the inside and not be intimidated. I expect better from both, but Ward on a clearer points decision is my pick.

Dez Lee: – Ward UD12 Kovalev – I see Sergey going for a knockout, I believe he will be looking for the knockout way too much by being overly aggressive, over stretching and open to counters all night, even though he usually sets his range really well which goes unnoticed to some but basically, in a nutshell, I believe we will see the best Andre Ward to date.

It was close last time and a tough fight, however, Ward is the product of a true boxer by that I mean how technical he is, his understanding of the sport and his boxing brain will allow him to learn from any mistake that may be made and has probably learnt more about Kovalev than Kovalev has learnt about him from the 1st fight.

Barbara Pinella – Kovalev KO Ward –  If the first fight was hard to call, to me this one is even more difficult. We have the cool, composed, controlled, and yes, sometimes considered to be a dirty fighter in Ward, and the emotional and anger-fueled Kovalev. Sergey sometimes lets his heated passion get the best of him, and to get the victory here he must not let that happen. He cannot become frustrated if he is unable to connect at will on Andre, as was the case in the first fight. I still believe that Krusher is the stronger fighter, but he has to use that power to his advantage in a calculated way.

Ward is tricky, and was able to avoid a lot of the punishment that Kovalev was trying to dish out. He is smart in the ring, so the chances of Sergey surprising him are slim to none. Ward caught on to Kovalev’s movements fairly quickly in the initial bout, and will probably feel confident that Sergey won’t come up with anything different this time. I don’t feel he will change his tactics, but what if Kovalev doesn’t tire in the stretch? Will the outcome be different?

I say yes. Many, and I was one of them, did not feel that Ward won the first fight. Assuming that Sergey did not over-train for this battle I have to pick him again. The biggest difference to me is that Krusher cannot let the fight go to the scorecards. He must win by a knockout and take it completely out of the judges’ hands.

Craig Morgan – Ward Pts Kovalev – In this fight, both men feel that they have something to prove. The first fight was close but I felt the right man won.

For Ward, to all the naysayers that said that he lost the first fight, he will be looking to put on a dominant display to leave no doubt in the judge’s eyes.

For Kovalev, who feels that he was robbed in the first fight, will be looking to take Ward out and get back his world titles.

Kovalev can’t outbox Ward but has a fierce competitive edge and will be looking to drive him onto the back foot, to force a stoppage. Both men have good chins but the edge in toughness has to go to Kovalev.

Ward has the better boxing skills and will be looking to pick Kovalev off with shots from the outside.

For me, Ward will pick up another points win but it won’t be as close as the first fight.

Lee Thorton – Ward SD12 Kovalev Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward will hopefully provide us with an answer of who is the very best light heavyweight in the world.

In the first fight, I picked Kovalev and thought he won a close fight. However, due to recent drama with Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson and Kovalev seeming to be emotionally too invested in his future encounter with Ward, I favour Andre Ward due to his ability to adapt and his proven track record in championship bouts. However, if Kovalev has increased his stamina his power punching and highly underrated boxing skills will cause Ward major issues.

I will be picking Ward to win a spilt-decision in the rematch. Kovalev and his team need to be on the same page against a fighter of the calibre of Andre Ward and its clear to me they are not.

Ward 6 – 4 Kovalev

I've been in the boxing industry for over 15 years but been a fan for almost double that figure. I'm the proud owner of TopClassBoxing which continues to go from strength to strength as we strive to give fight fans a voice to be heard amongst the community. I've also had several articles published by reputable magazines and you can usually catch me around ringside.

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