This Saturday is going to be filled with fights from all around the globe, but the one I’ve been looking forward to the most is the Kovalev/Ward bout. Lately, I've started getting interested again in boxing thanks to fights like this, and fighters like GGG, Kovalev and Ward. I like guys who are hard hitters, and we’ve got one now in Sergey Kovalev. I mean, he's 31-0 with 26 knockouts and one draw. He's the champion.
You would think Kovalev, being the power hitter, would be slow, but that's the whole thing here—he’s not. He's really fast. After Kovalev fought Hopkins, Hopkins said that he was the hardest puncher he'd ever faced. That's a big deal coming from Bernard Hopkins. Kovalev is tough, he's relentless, he's calm, he has stamina and he's a great ring general. He's going to keep Ward on the outside of his shots.
I think he's actually going to throw some lazy shots. By lazy shots, I mean something he can use to lure Ward in. Ward has such great footwork that he'll be in and out over and over again, you need to make him plant his feet to make him counter. So, Kovalev throws something sloppy out, Ward will go for the counter, and then Kovalev will counter that.
Kovalev can counter from anywhere, from any position. He just hits so hard from everywhere. He even stopped a guy with a jab to the body! I love that kind of thing. He has great speed, so he should propel himself forward. Ward cuts great angles, but if Kovalev can explode, he can catch him.
A key thing for Kovalev will be to close the distance fast, but not get too close, especially with straight punches. This is a mistake I still see in MMA striking, don’t get me wrong, there are good guys who don’t do it, but it still needs work on others.
Guys close the distance too fast. If you can't straighten your arm out at the end of your straight punch, a lot of the power is gone. The most powerful part of a straight punch is the last 20% of the punch. If you can land it when it's that close to fully extended, you'll land with the most power. Really, we don't need to worry too much about Kovalev getting that wrong because he's great at it.
Something else I like from Kovalev is a trick I teach my students all the time. It's the right-left; not the normal 1-2, left right, but a right-left straight. It's a very effective punch, especially if you throw the right straight to the head, and the left to the body. If both fighters are orthodox, your opponent’s body lines up better for a left straight to the solar plexus than it does for a right straight. If you're facing a southpaw when you're orthodox, you should throw a lot of right straights to the body.
There's a long lineage of boxers who have won gold medals at the Olympic games who then went on to become world champions. Andre Ward is one of them, and to win this fight, he just needs to do what he always does, which is be super technical and avoid getting hit. Now, with Mayweather gone, he might be the most technical fighter out there.
Sometimes, that's not great for the audience, but he avoids getting hit and he's doing the hitting, so you can't take anything away from him. It might look boring to the people who have no clue what they're watching, and you might hear some people booing, but if there was ever a fight he needed to stick to that style, it's against this Russian.
Ward has better defense than Kovalev, and he moves in and out extremely welll. He's moving up in weight for this fight because he wanted to fight Kovalev. That blew me away. Going up in weight to fight a monster like Kovalev, that's pretty cool!
Just like Kovalev, Ward will be wanting to control the distance in this fight. The difference is Ward needs to cut angles constantly, without any pattern. He can't go left, right, left, right, because he'll give himself away. Ward has lots of different kinds of jabs that he throws, and he should make use of them.
He's got that crazy stiff jab, he has one for measuring distance, he makes a lot of feints with his jabs--he’ll even end a combination with a jab, which can be very confusing for his opponent. He'll throw them from different angles at the body and the head. It's a crazy thing, even if the punches aren't that hard, if you just keep getting tapped over and over, no matter where you move, that gets in your head.
Ward takes a lot of time off, and I understand that, because I took seven years off. It's not that different, mainly because in boxing, they spar a lot, and so did I. I'll talk to other mixed martial artists and they'll tell me how they go hard on Fridays at like 80%, and 60% the other days. I would spar 100% every day. I wouldn't go 100% to the head, but to the body? Yeah, I would go 100% all the time.
In boxing, they spar so much, they'll do hundreds of rounds before a fight, and that's what I would do for MMA fights. Hitting a bag or focus mitts isn't the same as hitting a person. You can't fake someone out, you can't feint, you can't get that experience without actually sparring. Of course, you can do more things with focus mitts than a bag, like throwing counters etc, but still, it’s not a person.
Making a prediction is very tough. A lot of people have said that Kovalev is going to win, and he is super fast and he absolutely can win, but I think if it goes to a decision, Ward could win by throwing punches in bunches and racking up the points. Thing is, if one of Kovalev's big bombs lands, it could be night night for Andre.
If there's a knockout, it'll come from Kovalev, but if it goes the distance, I think Ward might take it. Kovalev is so fast, but Ward's defense is great. In any event, this is sure to be a fantastic fight.