A criticism regularly made of promoters, boxers, managers and trainers by fans is that the super fights rarely get made, or get made when it is of some advantage to one fighter. There are many reasons & excuses as to why. There have been a contractual dispute. Someone’s decided to move up in weight. The fight HAS to be in New York/Las Vegas/London/wherever. TV rights couldn’t be agreed, purse splits couldn’t be agreed, a catch-weight couldn’t be agreed, and on and on.
When they do get confirmed, however, the news is met with relief and huge anticipation. Well, lucky us, because we have another big one to look forward to. Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev were destined to fight for what seemed like an age, while their fans threw internet rocks at one another and howled excitedly. The din intensified when Ward made tentative steps towards light heavyweight, with a return fight against Britain’s Paul Smith at 172lbs (a TKO9 victory for Ward), before marking his full 175lbs with a conclusive win over Sullivan Barrera in March.
Kovalev, meanwhile, kept his part of the deal by coldly picking apart former victim Jean Pascal in 7 rounds, retaining his 3-way world titles (The IBF, the WBA, and the WBO). Assuming that the same fate will meet Issac Chilemba in July, the stage looks finally ready for a thunderous showdown between Kovalev and Ward set for November 19th.
Make no mistake, this is huge news. The fight itself presents an interesting clash of styles, but it’s not the typical “defensive genius vs big hitting brawler” that some observers have labelled this.
Ward has a brilliant boxing brain and controls distance superbly, but Kovalev is capable too, choosing to beat legend Bernard Hopkins at his own game and sharp-shoot from a distance to take a decision win. Although not as skilled as Ward, he’s certainly more powerful. Opponents have wilted against Kovalev’s right hand, with only three of his 29 beaten adversaries hearing the final bell.
But it’s what the fight actually means for the sport that is capturing the imagination. It’s hard to eulogize about what happens after it’s done with. What could you possibly do with the victor? Well, for a start, you can put him in your pound-for-pound rankings, that’s for certain. Barring a clear robbery, the winner will rightly be crowned as (probably) the best fighter on the planet.
Ward, having won the famed Super 6 tournament down at super-middleweight (thus beating the best the division had to offer), would leave little doubt over the matter should he defeat one of the most dominant knockout artists at light-heavyweight. Some are frustrated with his hiatus, but there aren’t many who would deny his near flawless boxing ability, which would be seen as limitless if he can outfox the powerful Russian.
Kovalev, who has knocked out all but two of his last 18 opponents, could be boxing’s complete package with a win, but he could also be without an opponent for the foreseeable future. He’s proven that he can turn the lights out on pretty much anyone: if Ward isn’t able to box his way out of trouble, then it’s unlikely anyone else will be able to either, and few will want to test that theory.
It’s fascinating, it’s exciting, and it’s in the making right now. Enjoy it, because as we know, they’re becoming rarer.