|Photo by: David Spagnolo/Main Events|
In front of a packed house at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) won a narrow, but unanimous decision victory over Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) to earn the WBO, WBA, and IBF Light Heavyweight World Titles in a decision that some ringside media thought went the wrong way.
All three judges scored the bout 114-113 in favor of Ward.
The fight between these two top five pound-for-pound boxers certainly was close, and more importantly, highly entertaining, with high drama and ebbs and flows throughout. As such, the fight naturally warrants a rematch in the coming months.
Kovalev certainly would want one.
"It's the wrong decision," said a disappointed Kovalev. "I don't want to say my opinion. The witnesses are here; they saw it. It's my job. It was a fight of my life. I am disappointed in the judges' decision. He got maybe a few rounds; I agree with that. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds the whole fight. Of course I want a rematch and I will kick his ass. I want to show good boxing. I am against here, it is the USA, and all the judges were from the USA. He is a boxer. It's a sport. Don't make it politics; it is a sport and I won the fight."
The fight was one of those few mega-bouts that lived up to the hype.
Kovalev quickly seized the advantage in the early rounds, as his power and length had Ward in uncharted waters, struggling to survive.
In the first round, he knocked Ward backward with a powerful jab. In the second, he dropped Ward with a powerful counter right hand. Ward managed to get up quickly, but took several more hard shots from Kovalev, as he desperately held the powerful Russian fighter.
|Photo by: David Spagnolo/Main Events|
Now in an early hole on the scorecards, Ward started to slowly climb back into the fight.
In the middle rounds, Ward seemed to weather the Kovalev onslaught, adapting on the fly. He began to close the distance on his larger opponent, wrestling for position on the inside and consistently attacking Kovalev's body. That body punching seemed to take a toll, as Kovalev's work rate and energy began to slow.
"I know it was a close fight," said Ward. "The crowd you can hear they thought I won. I have been a champ before. I knew it was going to be a tough fight. It was the first time in my career I was dropped. He did everything I expected him to do. He started to show up as I expected. My coach did a great job. It's hard for me to call myself great. At the end of the day I am a two-weight division champion. Of course I would do a rematch."
Ward then began to unleash a quick jab that repeatedly scored and allowed Ward to tighten up the scorecards that much more. Those jabs set up left hooks and overhand rights that caused Kovalev even more trouble.
Still, a tiring Kovalev showed tremendous grit himself down the stretch, as both men exhibited great heart in the championship rounds.
Let's bring on the rematch.
The second fight of the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast was a battle for the NABF Light Heavyweight Title between undefeated prospect Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0, 10 KOs) and Isaac Chilemba (24-5-2, 10 KOs).
Gvozdyk and Chilemba traded some heavy shots for eight full rounds. After the eighth round Chilemba's trainer, Roy Jones, Jr. stopped the fight because Chilemba had suffered a broken right hand. Gvozdyk retained his title and remains undefeated.
After the fight Gvozdyk said, "I'm very excited and happy. What more can I say? This is the best feeling!"
Chilemba had little to say after the fight because he was in tremendous pain and could barely speak. However, he did manager to add, "I am devastated. If I hadn't hurt my right arm in the third round it would have been a completely different outcome. I was in an incredible amount of pain from the third round through the rest of the fight."
Fan favorite Curtis "Cerebral Assassin" Stevens (29-5, 21 KOs) opened the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast against James de la Rosa (23-5, 13 KOs). Curtis knocked down de la Rosa in the first and immediately attacked again as soon as The King returned to his feet but the bell rang soon after to end the round. Stevens managed a cut over de la Rosa's left eye that began to impede his vision in the third. However, Stevens hurt his left hand in the fourth round and the momentum of the fight slowed as a result.
Stevens continued to dominate the remainder of the fight despite the injury. A point was taken away from Stevens in the eighth for a low blow but in the end it did not matter as Stevens retained his WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title with a unanimous decision victory. Two judges scored the contest 96-92 and one judge had the score 98-90.
After the fight Stevens gave an honest review of his performance when he said, "I give myself a C minus. Could have thrown my jab a little more. I am glad I got the W but I am a little disappointed in myself. The jab was good but I could have popped that shit a little more. Hurt my left hand in the fourth round. He's got a hard-ass head. But I am glad I got the win."
When asked about the fight de la Rosa simply said, "I don't have any comments. People saw what it was."
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa "T-Rex" Shields (1-0) made her professional debut against her long-time amateur rival Franchon "The Heavy Hitting Diva" Crews (0-1) who also made her professional debut in a four-round action-packed super middleweight bout. All three judges scored the bout 40-36 in favor of Shields.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services