This weekend, fight fans have a heaping plate of goodness to enjoy. In addition to a slew of MMA action, we'll see a battle between two of the best boxers of our generation when Andre Ward (30-0) and Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1) face-off in Las Vegas. With Kovalev ranked #2 and Ward ranked #4 on the Ring Magazine pound for pound list, this will be only the third time in the 26 year history that two of the top five pound for pound fighters will face each other. Not even Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao could stake that claim.
Get the skinny on this can’t-miss boxing title bout, below, with our Champions guide to Ward vs. Kovalev. Then, look like the smartest fan in the room on Saturday night.
What: The long-awaited battle between the longtime best super middleweight in the world (Ward) and the longtime best light heavyweight in the world (Kovalev).
When: November 19, 2016
Where to watch: HBO PPV
Andre Ward Quick Points:
- Won a gold medal in boxing while representing the USA Olympic team in 2004 before turning pro. Also the last American male to win Olympic gold in boxing
- Coached by longtime trainer Virgil Hunter
- For years, some felt as if Ward was being brought along in the pro ranks too slowly, not facing good enough competition soon enough. Ultimately, the strategy was proven the right one for Ward, however. He would become super middleweight champ and is still, to this day, unbeaten against top fighters like Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, Sakio Bika, and Edison Miranda
- Ward last defended his super middleweight championship in 2013
- Afterward, Ward battled out of the ring with promoter Dan Goosen for a year-and-a-half until 2015, when Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports bought out his contract
- Ward gave up his super middleweight (168lbs) title in 2015 and moved up to light heavyweight (175lbs) with a future fight against Kovalev targeted from the start
- Ward has been near the top of many pound-for-pound rankings lists for years
- What to look for: Ward closing the distance, fast, with punches. Darting in and out, and angling-off to the side after throwing his own punch combinations. Ward is also able to switch stances and fight both right-handed and left-handed
Sergey Kovalev quick points:
- The Russian native got a relatively late start in pro boxing in 2009, while in his mid-twenties. He told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports that he never thought he’d be able to go pro, and has been surprised by his success
- Kovalev went largely unknown while building a great record in Europe, for years, until the American Main Events promotion signed him about five years, ago
- In 2011, Kovalev fought and stopped Roman Simakov. Simakov would soon after go into a coma, and eventually died from his injuries. After this, a distraught Kovalev considered walking away from boxing forever, before ultimately deciding to fight on for his own family, and for Simakov’s memory as well
- In August 2013, Kovalev scored a TKO over Nathan Cleverly to first become light heavyweight world champion
- To date, Kovalev’s highest profile win is still his unanimous decision victory over all-time great Bernard Hopkins in 2014
- Kovalev is trained by former world champion John David Jackson
What to look for: A heavy right cross and overhand right, fired-off after an excellent, stiff jab
Kovalev is one of the hardest-hitting boxers in the world, with 26 of his 30 career wins coming by way of stoppage. Ward has only had about half of his total wins come by way of TKO or KO. Yet, Ward has been largely dominant throughout his career, thanks to precision, movement and timing. Still, Ward packs a punch, especially to the body.
Both men have high boxing IQ’s. Ward’s seems to speak for itself in the minds of most observers, but Kovalev’s is also obvious to keen observers, seen in fights like his technical (though thudding) and dominant win over one of the most skilled boxers in history – Bernard Hopkins – in 2014. There, Kovalev was unable to rely on his power to get a threat out of the fight early, and had to exchange blows and match wits with B-Hop for 12 full rounds.
In all, this match-up is very difficult to predict a winner in, and that’s what makes it so fascinating. Will Sergey Kovalev be too big, too powerful and too skilled for Ward?
Will Andre Ward be too tough and elusive a puzzle for his slugger opponent to solve? Will either man surprise the other, and the world, with unexpected attributes shining through?
The only way to find out is watching, Saturday.