In a result that stunned onlookers from ringside and in front of TV sets across the globe, American light heavyweight Andre Ward somehow won a unanimous decision against reigning WBA, IBF and WBO champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The rangy Kovalev absolutely battered Ward in the early rounds, including a knockdown in the second. Ward responded by adjusting his style for the rest of the bout to include roughhouse tactics that were allowed by referee Robert Byrd.
Kovalev was guilty of a lot of rough tactics as well as this fight resembled an alley rumble at times, but the champion continued to rock the challenger with bracing shots.
Ward got himself into the bout by the middle rounds and scored some good shots on a tiring Kovalev, but the champion came back by the tenth and it was a pitched battle the rest of the way with Ward taking the 12th and final round.
After a genuinely very difficult to score bout, the cards were announced as a surprisingly close 114-113, but the biggest shocker came when Ward, who climbs to 31-0 (15), was announced as the winner. No one seemed more surprised than Ward, who indeed had shown great courage and skill in refusing to buckle against a stronger, bigger and harder punching world champion, now 30-1-1 (26).
Kovalev's team announced their intention of enforcing the rematch clause in the initial fight contract and expect the second clash between these two to feature a different lineup than the three American judges that awarded Ward the contest on Saturday.
The undercard featured more questionable scoring as Colombia's Darleys Perez, 33-2-2 (21), chased lanky American Maurice Hooker, 21-0-3 (16), all over the ring, nailing his far taller adversary with big shots in nearly every round.
Hooker had his moments, using his height and reach advantage to pick off Perez at times but it's questionable that the Dallas man earned the 97-93, 93-97, 95-95 draw on the scorecards.
Also on Saturday, the Tui Arena in Hanover, Germany saw the return of cruiserweight Marco Huck, 40-3-1 (27), who retained his IBO strap with a 117-111, 117-111 and 119-109 UD against Dymtro Kucher, 24-2-1 (18).
German based Huck came out strong but Ukrainian southpaw Kucher gained control when the champion seemed to tire in the middle rounds but the more seasoned Huck regrouped in the later rounds.
Heading down to South America, two-weight world champion Erica Anabella Farias, 24-1 (10), defended her WBC Female super lightweight crown for the third time with a unanimous decision over fellow Argentine Marisa Gabriela Nunez, 7-7 (2), at CDC1 in San Fernando, Argentina.
Nunez came to fight and pressured Farias but the champion's greater experience allowed her to pull away and sweep the scorecards by margins of 7-93, 97-93 and 98-92 after ten rounds.
On Friday, there was an important clash at super middle as England's George Groves, 25-3 (18), defended his WBA International crown with a 119-109, 119-109, 119-110 UD against German based Eduard Gutknecht, 30-5-1 (13).
Groves, who is ranked in the top ten of all four sanctioning bodies, had the upper hand for almost the entire bout but could not stop his tough Kazakh opponent.