Key Points from Kovalev vs Ward 1
Ward’s Front Hand Control
Andre Ward fights from an orthodox stance despite being left-handed, this means his front hand is actually his strong one, as a result Ward has lots of variety and confidence in his lead hand. The front hand variations allow Ward to control distance and also score with a mixture of punches.
Level changes along with the unpredictability of Ward’s lead hand made it difficult for Kovalev to get any continued momentum going during the fight.
Kovalev’s Size Advantage
Both fighters are the same height though Kovalev has a one and a half inch reach advantage, however, Kovalev is naturally the stronger man.
Kovalev has campaigned as a light heavyweight for the entirety of his career as opposed to Ward who had only fought twice at light heavyweight prior to Kovalev vs Ward 1.
Ward was cautious due to the natural size and power of Kovalev, the respect he was given enabled Kovalev the freedom to hold the centre of the ring for a large part of the contest. Ward was forced to utilise lateral movement more than I’ve ever seen him use before.
From all the possible outcomes Kovalev was (and still is) more likely of the two to finish the fight within the distance. Boasting an 81% knockout rate in his 30 wins Kovalev is a proven puncher, Ward felt the power early in the first fight suffering a knockdown in round two.
Whatever happens in the rematch Kovalev knows he’s only ever one or two punches away from ending the fight, it doesn’t matter if he’s down on the cards or having minimal success the slightest opening is all he might need.
Ward’s Defensive Awareness
The knockdown seemed to wake Ward up as his immediate response was to try and get off first instead of countering in order to prevent Kovalev taking the initiative.
As the fight went on Ward’s measure of distance improved drastically which caused Kovalev to miss more and more in the latter half of the fight.
Kovalev’s Reluctance to Work in Close
What surprised me most about the first fight was how uninterested Kovalev seemed to be in fighting on the inside. One would assume being the bigger man it would provide an ideal opportunity to impose himself on Ward, Kovalev looked happy to hold until the ref separated the two men.
If Kovalev chooses to engage in a game of tag at distance once more he’ll severely limit his chances of winning. A slow paced fencing type contest suits the Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward far more than Sergey Kovalev.
The biggest talking point from the first fight was the scoring, all three ringside judges had it 114-113 in favour of Ward.
After the fight there was some controversy as many fans and observers thought Kovalev had done enough to win, out of 63 scorecards from the ringside media 46 scored it for Kovalev, 16 scored it for Ward, and 1 scored it a draw.
I personally had it 114-113 to Ward but the fight was such a tight contest I could see a case for all 3 outcomes.
Let me explain why I scored the fight for Ward. The rounds I gave Kovalev without any doubt were pretty easy to score as during those rounds (one, two, and ten) he was the guy coming forward and clearly landing more shots, pretty simple to score.
In the close rounds (and there was many of them) not only did Ward seem to be landing the cleaner punches he also made Kovalev miss giving me the impression he was controlling the close rounds.
Compubox stats back up my observations, if you take a look at the round by round punch stats above and pay close attention to the rounds in which there’s minimal difference in punches landed you can see how much higher Ward’s land percentage is.
When the total number of combined punches landed in a fight is as few as 242 the criteria for scoring becomes a lot more scrutinised.
In low scoring fights, defence becomes a crucial factor in swaying rounds either way. Ward is unquestionably the smarter defensive fighter & unless Kovalev can do something drastically different the fight will follow a similar pattern.
Andre Ward, in my opinion, wins that type of fight 9 times out of 10 and more importantly, American judges on American soil will score a fight like that for Andre Ward 10 times out of 10.
Andre Ward wins on points.