To put it bluntly, the first half of 2017 has been absolutely brilliant for boxing. We have had massive fights (Joshua-Klitschko), fights with huge implications (Brook-Spence, Thurman-Garcia), entertaining rematches (Frampton-Santa Cruz) and a whole host of fights that seemed to truly embody the notion of the “best fighting the best”. Hell, we even got the confirmation of perhaps the biggest fight post-Mayweather and Pacquaio announced (Canelo-Golovkin).
So there is nothing to blame if you forgot about a few. James DeGale vs. Badou Jack was one of the best fights of the year but its hard to believe that was in 2017. Same goes for Takashi Miura vs. Miguel Roman. Even the embarrassing bouts were still big enough spectacles that ate up a lot of attention (Canelo-Chavez Jr., and this ongoing Mayweather-McGregor bullshit) and wonder.
Yet, perhaps the most important fight of them all might be taking place this upcoming weekend. It even checks all the boxes off in terms of massive fights, implications, and entertaining rematch that signifies the best fighting the best. Hell it could lead to one of the most entertaining trilogies of the new millennia.
Where is the hype for the light heavyweight showdown between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev? If you forgot or just aren’t that pumped up, I guess I could see that. HBO has had a 24/7 for it but the Face/Off with Max Kellerman was cancelled. Ward isn’t the most charismatic fighter and Kovalev does/says enough racist shit to be ignored. An elite American boxer versus a degrading Russian should particularly sell well due to today’s political climate.
Yet, that hasn’t been there. The first fight has pretty much been debated since the close but controversial unanimous decision for Andre Ward was announced back in November. There is a very large and prominent portion of the boxing community who thinks Kovalev’s early round dominance (including knocking Ward down in round 2) was just enough to clinch the fight. Kovalev immediately exercised his rematch clause and while Ward floated retirement, negotiations did not take too long to finalize.
The peculiarity that is the mainstream ignorance of this fight has struck a chord with myself. Where is Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman bloviating on First Take? Where’s the commercials touting and demanding you buy this can’t miss pay-per-view special? Is HBO’s noted drifting from the sport that pronounced where they aren’t even bothering, sans a 24/7, to really push for this? Did Canelo-Golovkin basically take all the juice out of the promotion for this?
Throughout the week I hope to cover this fight a bit more because well, I have been thinking about this fight for a couple months now. The undercard features the dominant but inactive Guillermo Rigondeaux, who can often toe the line between boxing brilliance and sleep-inducing, against a game and undefeated Moises Flores. A potential showcase fight for future LHW contender Dmitry Bivol should also entertain.
At first blush, I lean Ward to take the rematch. While I believe Kovalev is a top ten pound-for-pound contender, I do think he has shown definite problems with his stamina and issues with fighting on the inside. Ward easily exploited that once he figured out Krusher’s timing and while it was ugly, Ward took advantage of clinching and using a quick jab.
But while Kovalev is no brawling brute, he still has the big equalizer and that’s the power in both his hands. Kovalev has made mincemeat out of enough contenders, and while his two batterings of Jean Pascal haven’t aged well (thanks to Pascal’s slide); they still were absolutely dominating a genuine contender. Ward’s power isn’t anywhere near Paulie Malignaggi levels but he hasn’t shown the ability to pulverize opponents in a way Kovalev has had.
But hey, let’s kick up this hype machine a bit shall we?
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