Sunday, November 20, 2016
In a Presidential election year when the outcome surprised the majority and has caused an uproar within the nation, it seems only fitting that the biggest boxing match of the year has appeared to do the same. Not because no one thought Andre 'S.O.G.' Ward (31-0, 15 KO's) could not win, as he was the favorite going in. It is because the majority believes he didn't win. I am not part of that majority.
Let me clarify that by making that statement I am not saying I thought he won either. What I am saying is I thought the light-heavyweight title fight Saturday night against Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev (31-1-1, 26 KO's) was so close that it could go either way. This is just what happened as Ward won on all three judges cards by one point, so why such an uproar?
Well, among the four friends I watched the fight with and the texts that I received from a couple of other friends, they all believed Kovalev won the fight. When the fight was over and I was asked my opinion, my exact statement was, "It's close; that two point round on the knockdown could prove to be the difference." That knockdown came in round two when Kovalev dropped Ward with a short right, smack dab on the nose. Ward was clearly stunned by it, but got up right away and finished the round.
At the end of the fight before the decision was read, I texted that statement to two friends of mine, including one from Oakland who happens to be personal friends with Andre Ward. His immediate response to me was, "You took the words right out of my mouth." This obviously meant he too saw the fight as I did, too close for comfort.
To break it down quickly, Kovalev clearly won the first three rounds as he started out strong, which was expected. However, he was surprisingly effective in winning the boxing exchanges, which was not expected. It was obvious Ward was extremely wary of Kovalev's punching power, so much to the point it inhibited his own output.
A boxer of Ward's skill set and tactical acumen usually takes a few rounds to figure out their opponent and once the fourth round came, it appeared as though, he had slowly begun to do just that. Thus, the middle rounds saw a change in the pace where I felt Ward started to turn the tide with the use of his jab and effective body punching. This began to slow the bigger puncher down. It seemed as though the steam had run out on the "Krusher."
However, just when it seemed the fight had turned, Kovalev came back and in the "championship rounds" at the end of the fight, both fighters proved their championship worth. Each had their moments both boxing and power punching, which cemented a great fight that lived up to the hype. Now the only question was who won?
When ring announcer Michael Buffer said, "All three judges scored the fight 114-113," my immediate thought was Kovalev had won and it was because of that two point knockdown round as I had anticipated. Sure that means I was a little surprised to hear Buffer say, "and new light-heavyweight champion of the world," which signaled Ward won.
However, a little surprised and shocked are two different things and just like Max Kellerman said after the fight, "a controversial decision and a bad one are two different things." This decision is only controversial because it was close. It's not like we haven't seen this before in boxing.
Classic boxing matches such as the "Fight of the Century" between undefeated welterweight champions Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad in 1999 or the "Super Fight" in '87 between former middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard are two such fights. Both of these are just two examples of recent memory that still spark debate among boxing fans today 17 and nearly 30 years later respectively.
Every fan is a judge in their own mind, so every fan has an opinion. However, just like boxing judges, not every fan thinks alike. Some fans tend to favor the harder puncher or more aggressive fighter, while other fans, like myself, tend to appreciate the slicker boxer and clearer puncher. Thus, in these fights that I've mentioned, just like the Ward/Kovalev fight, no one's opinion is really wrong. The fights were obviously too close to call and left up for debate.
I want to point out that while Kovalev clearly had Ward in trouble early and built a lead on the scorecards, it is not unfathomable to think Ward could not come back to win a decision. For this, I remind every one of the first fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. In that fight, Pacquiao knocked down Marquez, no less that three times in round one. Had it not been that the three knockdown rule was not in effect, the fight could have easily been over. However, it wasn't and Marquez eventually boxed his way back to earn a draw.
Therefore, one knockdown is definitely not the end all be all, as I obviously mistook in this fight, and was not the prevailing or ultimate factor. Looking back on it, we got a great fight that lived up to the hype of two champions who laid their undefeated records on the line in the prime of their careers. That alone is more than many in boxing are doing these days, which should be commended on it's own merit. In the end we'll probably get an immediate rematch, which is also not a bad thing; so what's all the fuss about?
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