Andre Ward proved to the world that he is not only the best light heavyweight in the world, but also the No.1 pound-for-pound boxer when he stopped rival Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round in Las Vegas.
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) fought tooth and nail with his Russian counterpart as they connected with powerful punches to the head and waged a war of attrition on the inside. Each round in the duel was as close as they come as Kovalev was largely the aggressor behind his jab while Ward landed scattered blows between constant clinching. Ward’s style frustrated “Krusher” early and often, reducing him to being able to land only single blows for much of the contest and slowly depleting his gas tank.
With both men lumped up around the eyes in the eighth, Kovalev appeared to be coming on in the second half of the fight. But a wicked right hook to the stomach hurt Kovalev, who unsuccessfully protested to referee Tony Weeks that it was low. While still grimacing from the gut shot, Kovalev tried in vain to keep Ward away, but “SOG” drilled the former world champion with a murderous right to the jaw, a punch that would have flattened a lesser man.
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Kovalev (30-2, 25 KOs) stumbled around on rubbery legs as Ward gave chase. Kovalev tried to tie the American up, but Ward was relentless, slamming punches to the head and body. When Kovalev backed into the ropes, Ward landed a left uppercut that appeared low. “Krusher” covered up and slumped over, but two more punches came from Ward and they both were on the border. Kovalev doubled over in an effort to sway Weeks into calling a halt for illegal punches, but the veteran third man deemed them legal and decided to waive off the fight, much to Kovalev’s dismay.
The end officially came at 2:29 of the eighth allowing Ward to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight world titles at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Kovalev said afterward that he wants an immediate rematch because the punches were low. Ward, meanwhile, didn’t rule out a third bout with his rival, but intimated that he is thinking about moving up to cruiserweight and possibly heavyweight.
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