Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward was much hyped by hardcore fans, and for good reason. And in the end, it lived up to the hype - delivering a tremendous fight that showed both men’s championship level heart, skill, and determination. Kovalev showed his tremendous power, knocking Ward down in round 2, but Ward showed his incredible technique, managing to outbox Kovalev down the stretch. It was a razor close fight, and in the end Ward took the unanimous decision win.
Unfortunately, the story of the fight is likely to be people’s disagreement with that result. While I myself don’t agree with it (I had Kovalev up 7 rounds to 5), there were a lot of close, tough rounds to score, and I can’t call this a robbery. What I can call it as one of the best fights of the year, and one whose ending virtually demands a rematch. Word is Kovalev has that rematch clause in the contract - let’s hope he exercises it, and let’s all hope for Kovalev vs. Ward II in 2017.
Here are results and highlights from the entirely uninspired PPV undercard:
- Maurice Hooker was given the featured spot on the undercard with the intention of winning a showcase fight and coming out as a big star to be. That did not happen, at all. Instead, Darleys Perez straight out out-boxed him, showing better work throughout. He SHOULD have picked up the clear win, but instead, it goes to a completely ridiculous split draw, because boxing. Generous judging or no generous judging, this is a massive setback for Hooker - one hopes he won’t get this kind of high-profile fight again soon, but he probably will.
- The big story of Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs. Isaac Chilemba is that Gvozdyk did what Sergey Kovalev could not - stop Isaac Chilemba. It appears to be an elbow injury that got the stoppage, but regardless, it’s clear that Gvozdyk was putting a real hurting on the cagey veteran here. Gvozdyk remains a Light Heavyweight to watch - would love to see him against Smith depending on how Smith vs. Hopkins plays out. Of course, none of this actually means this was an entertaining fight - it wasn’t.
- For the first three rounds of his fight with James de la Rosa, Curtis Stevens looked terrific. He appears to be reborn under trainer John David Jackson, and come out firing hard for this fight, dropping de la Rosa in round 1, and looking like he was going to make it a quick night. But in round 4, Stevens injured his hand, and his punch output completely fell off a cliff, making the back half of the fight much more of a back and forth, slow-paced affair. Decision could have ultimately have gone a few different ways, but Stevens took it. Not his best showing in the end, but I remain interested in seeing more from this version of Stevens.
- On the prelim stream, two time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields made her pro debut and won via decision. Good performance, and a good win, but can Shields actually create any interest in women’s boxing? I am doubtful, but would love to see it.
Join us next week for more boxing with Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters on HBO in what could be a terrific fight.