In one of the most highly anticipated rematches of this decade, WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion Andre “S.O.G” Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) will defend his titles against the man he won them from Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs).
The fight will take place on Saturday June 17th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, and the fight will be broadcast on HBO pay per view 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT.
Ever since their first fight in November in which Ward won on all three judges’ score cards 114-113, the bad blood between these two men has been mounting.
On the first episode of HBO’s 24/7 Ward Kovalev 2, Kovalev said that he’s going to end Ward career. Ward flat out said that he has a healthy respect for all of his opponents, but that he does not like Kovalev and wants to remove any doubt on who people thought won the first fight.
— Sergey Kovalev (@KrusherKovalev) June 2, 2017
These two men have contrasting styles and the outcome of this fight will come down to who can execute their game plan the best. Will Ward and his trainer Virgil Hunter to come up with the winning game plan, or will it be Kovalev and his trainer John David Jackson.
Here are the keys to victory for both men.
Keys for Ward:
- Box cautious early– Ward knows from being knocked down in round 2 of their first fight that Kovalev is very strong early in fights. Ward must be cautious of Kovalev power’s early and not get hit with anything big, because if Kovalev hurts Ward this time, he’ll try to finish him off. If Ward can keep the fight in the center of the ring for the first half of the fight and not get hit with anything big, he stands a good chance of defeating Kovalev for the second time.
- Get inside and attack Kovalev’s body– One of the reasons Ward was able to defeat Kovalev in their first fight was because he was able to get inside and land clean shots to Kovalev’s body. This slowed Kovalev down in the last half of the first fight. Ward needs to use this tactic even more in the rematch.
- Win the battle of the jabs– In the first fight, Ward was more effective with his jab landing 55 out of 168 (32.7%) compared to Kovalev who landed 48 out of 242 jabs (19.8%). Ward will once again need to be more effective with his jab, and this time he will need to jab more often to setup his offense, and keep Kovalev on the defensive.
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) June 3, 2017
Keys for Kovalev
- Attack Ward’s body– One of the knocks on Kovalev is that sometimes he can be a head hunter and not attack his opponent’s body enough. This was evident in the first fight as Kovalev continued to jut attack Ward’s head, which allowed Ward to make defensive adjustments, and Kovalev’s connect percentage went down as the fight wore on. Kovalev must attack Ward’s body to try to slow him down, and to prevent his own attack from being predictable.
- Be more effective with the jab– As we mentioned above Kovalev only connected on 19.8% of his jabs in the first fight. He’ll need to be more effective in the rematch if he’s going to win. An effective jab will allow him to setup his straight right hand.
- Cut the ring off and force Ward to the ropes– Kovalev’s footwork is very underrated. He’ll need to cutoff the ring against the quicker Ward and force him to the ropes. If he’s able to force Ward to the ropes he can then throw hard combinations which will help him win close rounds.
Prediction: Ward by split decision– Ward showed in the first fight that he can take Kovalev’s punch and make adjustments down the stretch. Look for another highly contested fight, but Ward will win once again.