On June 17, two of boxing’s prominent pound-for-pound fighters will meet again at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas in a rematch titled 'No Excuses' after their first fight elevated such contrasting opinions. Will Ward be victorious again? Or can Kovalev gain revenge? Read on to find out.
In the first match back in November, Andre "S.O.G" Ward was crowned light-heavyweight champion as he defeated Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev via a 12-round unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 114-113 in favour of Ward, but many thought Kovalev was on the wrong end of the decision.
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II live odds
Why did Andre Ward win the first fight?
The first fight was Kovalev, the puncher, against Ward, the tactician in a fight of two halves with the American being victorious in the end due to ring generalship, experience, and know-how at the highest level. When Ward found himself in trouble, Kovalev struggled to stay in close.
The Oakland, California fighter would hit, hold and uses his head, eventually nullifying the Russian’s work, frustrating him and eventually edging rounds on the judge’s scorecards - even those with expert knowledge of how to bet on boxing would have been unsure as to how the fight would pan out.
Ward knows he can survive Kovalev’s power (something he was weary of in the first fight) and make the suitable adjustments that puzzle the Russian.
Kovalev had success early, taking centre of the ring, even dropping the former Olympic gold medallist in round 2. But it was Ward who knew enough to squeak home by working Kovalev’s body, slowing his powerful opponent down in the latter rounds to be crowned WBA, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight champion.
Whilst the decision was met with conflicting opinions, the stats revealed that Ward did connect on 34% (116 of 338) of his punches. Whilst Kovalev threw more but connected on a reduced percentage (126 of 474, 27%).
The general consensus is that Ward is now considerably better prepared to deal with Kovalev. The champion knows psychologically he can survive Kovalev’s power (something he was weary of in the first fight) and make the suitable adjustments that puzzle the Russian, and out-last the challenger in stamina.
Kovalev seems to function best whenever he thinks his opponents are frightened and intimidated. The former champion’s overly emotive outpourings are usually for his benefits, subsequently giving himself a psychological edge; something he is unlikely to have in the rematch.
Ward connected on 34% (116 of 338) of his punches in the first fight. Kovalev threw more but connected on a reduced percentage (126 of 474, 27%).
The two fighters do hold genuine hatred towards each other; none more so than Kovalev, who openly expresses the resentment he has towards Ward. Bettors should note that becoming too emotionally attached can, and likely will be detrimental to Kovalev’s performance when facing a fighter of Ward’s calibre and experience.
Understanding how rematch psychology and how each fighter will prepare for this fight is key to implementing a successful boxing betting strategy.
Is a knockout Sergey Kovalev's best route to victory?
The Russian can certainly take a decision if he applies pressure for every minute of every round. But unlike the first fight, Kovalev will need to work harder than before, where he penultimately faded in the championship rounds.
Ward is a world-class 12-round fighter who knows enough to survive even the heaviest of onslaughts, so to beat the American you need to make him uncomfortable and not allow any rhythm to his work. The main problem Kovalev will encounter is his ability to adapt to a boxing style that can be triumphant over the champion.
A fighter cannot learn inside fighting in 8 weeks, it takes years of training and drills and tackling a fighter like Ward (who can adapt to almost any style) will be an uphill task for the challenger.
So, it is very likely that Kovalev will go looking for the knockout from the opening bell - Under 10.5 rounds is available at 4.200* for bettors who favour Kovalev’s destructive, aggressive style.
What can we expect in the rematch?
When looking at the Kovalev vs. Ward odds, bettors will have to contemplate whether the last fight will have a bearing on the rematch. Will the smart, clever defensive specialist again prevail over a persistent powerful fighter? The first fight demonstrated enough to know that the rematch will likely follow a similar scenario over the 12-round distance, with the victor only attaining a small edge.
As long as Ward boxes smart in the early rounds and can quash Kovalev’s strength and power, the American will have enough in his locker to control Kovalev’s persistent attack.
The rematch is a classic case of a raging emotional bull against a calm skilful matador. As long as Ward boxes smart in the early rounds and can quash Kovalev’s strength and power, the American will have enough in his locker to control Kovalev’s persistent attack.
The American is more than just a robust technical boxer. He’s a courageous, rough fighter who will torment opponents in the ring when the chance is offered, and although not a huge puncher (certainly not on Kovalev’s level) he carries enough spite and venom to keep opponents honest; even at the highest level.
Sharp bettors will undoubtedly reflect the fact that slick, unpredictable boxers almost always have the advantage over a power puncher at this level, but it’s a pick-em fight based on whoever’s style you have faith in to prevail - this is reflected in the closeness of Pinnacle’s Ward vs. Kovalev odds.