It’s finally here, the much anticipated clash between light heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev and former super middleweight ruler Andre Ward with the pair meeting tonight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
At stake are Kovalev’s WBA, IBF and WBO belts, which the heavy-handed Russian has held since defeating Bernard Hopkins in November, 2014.
Ward, who previously held the WBA and WBC super middle titles, has performed at light heavy since 2015 and has handily won all three of his bouts at the higher weight.
But can the 32 year old Californian not only nullify the potent offense of Kovalev, 30-0-1 (26), but at the same time manage to outbox the greatly feared unified champion?
Kovalev’s primary form of defense has always been his own offense, cutting off the ring and herding opponents into positions that allow him to launch his accurate, powerful punches, keeping opponents on the defensive.
Ward, 30-0 (15), has built his career on the back of his superb defensive skills and has the reflexes to allow him to avoid getting hit before launching effective counter-attacks.
This should be the toughest fight in the career of both Kovalev and Ward as neither man has faced an opponent of this quality.
If it is to be a one-sided bout, it will be Ward winning a very boring, safety first contest with very little punching from him and a lot of misses from Kovalev.
But, if Kovalev can force Ward to trade punches or Ward decides to get in the trenches with Kovalev, the fight should be a very torrid affair that will test the chin of Ward.
Realistically, Ward doesn’t go in for a slugfest and will have to be forced to fight Kovalev, which would likely occur later in the bout and only if Ward was tired out and had no other choice.
Kovalev could become frustrated by Ward’s lack of engagement and go looking for one big punch to end the fight, and if that occurs, Ward will win easily.
The champion is very adept at cutting down distance over the course of a contest and could bring enough pressure to bear in order to make Ward lose focus.
This deciding factor of this pairing will probably come down to stamina and conditioning. The boxer who can preserve his energy the longest will likely win the battle of wills and gain control of the fight and also the outcome.