The War Report: Hang-up your hang-ups (Week 24, 2017)

Photo credit: Squint Foto / @squint2mylou

The first time we ever saw them in a ring together was August 6th, 2016, in an awkward post-fight interview that resembled the gawky tune-up fight that preceded it.

Back then, Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward had the utmost respect for one another, but after their first fight left more questions than answers, respect had gone out the window in the rematch and it led to a problematic promotion fueled by the words of the frustrated Russian, who took a razor thin decision loss out on the American in some clever and not so clever ways. There were eye-catching remarks from Kovalev that promised to end Ward’s career, and unabashed explanations of why he faded in a fight which he labeled as an outright robbery. He stirred the pot of contempt so much, it forced Ward to not like him back, and brought out a vocal side to an otherwise introverted fighter hidden in Oakland, California.

Likely the last time we ever see them in a ring together was this past Saturday night, and after an awkward stoppage by referee Tony Weeks in the eighth round, Kovalev opined he was fit to continue and complained about the low blows in the post-fight interview on HBO pay-per-view. There were a few from Ward throughout, some borderline low, but after all, they do happen in fights. Ward was warned once by Weeks in the second round and continued with his body attack, but what Kovalev didn’t do was try and exploit Weeks’ generous strike zone on this night. With that included, there was a reason why his grievance of the end result wasn’t fully manifested to those who just saw what happened: Kovalev getting beat-up.

The fight ended on a low blow, maybe even a few of them consecutively. Not exactly a choice ending to a rivalry sparked by controversy, however, what was quickly forgotten was how Kovalev got there — hunched over and spent once facing serious adversity. About thirty seconds prior to the stoppage, Ward landed a big right hand to Kovalev’s chin, and it sent the “Krusher” into a jelly-legged two-step — a move no one knew he had. Kovalev then started to retreat as he was hurt by the shot, and as he tried to tie up his culprit in a clinch, the slippery Ward calmly placed precise, legal body shots that furthered Sergey’s withdrawal. Under his own accord, Kovalev bent over against the ropes, probably thinking of the knee he should’ve taken, and that’s when Ward threw those final shots to the torso. Once waved off, Kovalev squatted down with a beaten look on his face, and with Weeks right in front of him, saved his objection for the post-fight interviews.

Kovalev was deprived of the chance to come back from his low point in the fight, and do what Ward did to him last November. While their low points in each fight were two completely different situations, Kovalev couldn’t follow-up once hurting Ward with his right in the first fight, and that wasn’t the case when with the roles reversed in the second. In retrospect, Kovalev panicked after sending Ward to the canvas and it eventually led to him tiring out. Perhaps Kovalev panicked again for a split-second as Ward had him where he wanted him — hunched over for the taking, and giving Weeks a reason to do something.

As it turns out, the composed fighter in each situation was Ward, and in return he got himself two wins over Kovalev. Forever in history, footnotes of how each win went down are left for debate, but you’re going to have to hang-up your hang-ups when it comes to the argument of who’s the better all-around fighter after seeing 20 rounds. It’s Andre “S.O.G.” Ward.

Fight of the Week

Andre Ward TKO8 Sergey Kovalev (WBA/WBO/IBF 175) | June 17 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev | Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Roc Nation Sports

Just as competitive as the first fight, but the rematch had more offense — making it more intense and better overall. Kovalev started off well behind his jab and follow-up right hand, but that was all he had. Ward specialized with his left hand, and even turned southpaw in the fight for a time. It was a dead heat midway through with plenty of close rounds throughout, but Ward started to land big shots by the end of the seventh and went on to force the stoppage in the next round.

Replay of the fight will be on HBO this Saturday night.

Honorable mentions

Jono Carroll SD10 John Quigley (130) | June 17 — Belfast, Northern Ireland

KOs of the Week

Walter Kautondokwa TKO5 Obodai Sai (160) | June 16 — Accra, Ghana

Luis Arias TKO5 Arif Magomedov (160) | June 17 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Honorable mention

Bakhtiyar Eyubov TKO1 Cesar Soriano Berumen (154) | June 16 — Detroit, Michigan

Fighter of the Week

Andre Ward (32–0, 16 KOs)

Photo credit: German Villasenor

Honorable mention

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (49–0, 26 KOs)

In perhaps the most lucrative fight of his career, “Money” Mayweather will do it against a fighter making his professional boxing debut. Have to hand it to Floyd for living up to his self-entitlement. 2017 has been a wild year.

Hostile Agent of the Week

Nevada State Athletic Commission

Tony Weeks’ bad night paled in comparison to Vic Drakulich’s. In the HBO pay-per-view co-feature, Guillermo Rigondeaux landed a left hand after the closing bell of the first round, and Drakulich had no clue what to do. Moises Flores thought he did, and deliberately sprawled himself on the canvas knowing Rigondeaux fouled him.

Drakulich sucked the life out of the arena as he stared at Flores in awe, waved it off without a count, immediately deliberated with officials ringside, got out of the ring to speak with the executive director of the NSAC — Bob Bennett, looked at a replay, sought advice from fellow referee Robert Byrd, and after a timespan that lasted three times longer than the fight, made the wrong decision (no contest was the right one as both Rigondeaux and Flores threw after the bell while Drakulich wasn’t there to break them up).

All this for the NSAC a few days after approving Mayweather-McGregor swiftly. It shouldn’t be surprising they bend the rules for good business in their state and they’d be dumb to do so in this is a special case. The least they can do is keep weak officiating in the sport from being such a constant thing — especially with the Canelo-Golovkin super fight coming up — a fight not as lucrative, but rich in importance for the sport.

Results

From this past week (in order of weight class)

World title bouts

WBA/WBO/IBF 175 | Andre Ward TKO8 Sergey Kovalev | Ward defends the unified WBA/WBO/IBF light heavyweight titles for the 1st time

Andre Ward (WBA/WBO/IBF 175) | Photo Credit: HBO Boxing

WBA 122 | Guillermo Rigondeaux KO1 Moises Flores | Rigondeaux defends WBA junior featherweight title for the 2nd time

Guillermo Rigondeaux (WBA 122)

Notables

200

Alexey Zubov UD10 Demetrius Banks (scores unavailable)

175

Dmitry Bivol TKO4 Cedric Agnew

168

Tyron Zeuge UD12 Paul Smith Jr. (119–108, 119–108, 119–108)

Vaughn Alexander RTD4 Fabiano Peña

Claressa Shields UD8 Sydney LeBlanc (80–72, 80–72, 80–72)

Fernando Jasso (pro debut) TKO1 Eddie Chavez (pro debut)

160

Luis Arias TKO5 Arif Magomedov

Walter Kautondokwa TKO5 Obodai Sai

154

Limberth Ponce UD6 Noel Esqueda (scores unavailable)

Bakhtiyar Eyubov TKO1 Cesar Soriano Berumen

147

Custio Clayton UD10 Johnny Navarette (100–90, 100–90, 100–90)

140

Fidel Maldanado Jr. SD10 Pablo Cesar Cano (97–92, 97–92, 93–96)

Vergil Ortiz Jr. TKO1 Eduardo Reyes

130

Jono Carroll SD10 John Quigley (115–111, 115–111, 113–114)

126

Tramaine Williams TKO2 Christopher Martin

115

Joshua Franco UD8 Oscar Mojica (79–72, 78–73, 78–73)

112

Paddy Barnes MD10 Silvio Olteanu (97–94, 97–93, 95–95)

Nico Hernandez KO3 Jose Rodriguez

Imminent Conflicts

This week’s boxing schedule (click on city for that event’s BoxRec)

Television (U.S.)

Tuesday, June 20

Fox Sports 1 (9:00 PM ET / 6 PT) | Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall — Las Vegas, Nevada

Eddie Ramirez vs. Erick Bone (147)
Dennis Galarza vs. Omar Tienda (140)

Saturday, June 24

CBS Sports Net (10:00 PM ET / 7 PT) | Freedom Hall — Louisville, Kentucky

Derric Rossy vs. Carlos Negron (200+)
Steven Martinez vs. Anthony Lenk (160)
Peter Dobson vs. Jeremy Nichols (147)

BeIN Sports Español (11:00 PM ET / 8 PT) | Guadalajara, Mexico

Carlos Diaz vs. Sergio Puente (135)
Moises Fuentes vs. Jose Rivas (112) 
Emanuel Navarette vs. TBA (122)