Get to Know Boxing’s Best, Andre “SOG” Ward and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev
By: Danny Serratelli
Tonight, Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and live on pay per view the best and most intriguing fight that can be made in boxing will be taking place. It is very unfortunate that there are people, especially “boxing fans” that seem to be unaware of how great of a matchup this is or the situation and implications of this fight. This is the type of fight would seem to spark the interest of anyone with even a passing interest in boxing or anything competitive. A closer look at the matchup and both combatants reveals a story that is more interesting than fiction, for those interested in learning why…read on. This is a fight that should transcend boxing for a multitude of reasons.
Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev will take on Andre “SOG” Ward for 3 light heavyweight belts, but more importantly, the winner will not only be recognized as THE light heavy weight champion, but also the #1 pound for pound fighter in boxing and that will remain the case even if Floyd Mayweather decides to come back. Right now, most pound for pound lists rank Ward as #1 and Kovalev just behind him. Ward hasn’t lost a professional or amateur fight since he was about 12 or 13 years old, an unreal feat in the toughest sport where you always must enter the ring alone and perform regardless of what else is going on in your life.
The timing, matchup and backstories of the fighters are at least as good or better than in the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight which was by far the biggest money fight of all time. That fight was unique in recent history in that everyone, not just hardcore boxing fans were interested. Kovalev is promoted by New Jersey’s Main Events who has had a lot of great fighters over the years, but are known for their loyalty and fighters who aim to please like the late great Arturo Gatti. Ward is promoted by Roc Nation, JZ’s promotional company who has an impressive roster in sports and music.
Kovalev is 33 and Ward 32, just over 10 months apart, and both are in their prime and operating at their best. Both fighters are undefeated in 30 professional fights, Andre Ward is a perfect 30-0 with 15 KO’s.
Kovalev is 30-0-1 with 26 KO’s and the draw on Kovalev’s record is deceptive because it came after his opponent, Grover Young was unable to continue. The fight was ruled a technical draw after the referee determined that the blow that stopped Young was an accidental foul, allegedly landing behind the head. It was a judgement call by the ref which easily could have been called a TKO in a fight where Kovalev appeared to be on his was on his way to a knockout victory. In many states, even if ruled an accidental foul, it would have been ruled a no-contest, but under the rules in the state of California it was ruled a technical draw resulting in the questionable minor blemish on Kovalev’s record.
To people familiar with both, it may seem odd that Kovalev is older because Ward has been in the public eye longer. Ward was the last American to win a gold medal back in the 2004 Olympics. He turned pro soon after winning his gold medal in 2004 at the age of 20, while Kovalev did not turn pro until 2009 at age 26. Both men have had to deal with and overcome all kinds of adversity in their lives and both men have proved to always be up to the task.
Ward grew up in Northern California and is the son of a white father and a black mother. Andre, who is always an honest guy with integrity has explained, “Growing up as a biracial kid in the Bay area is probably like growing up as a biracial kid anywhere, you have struggles and the white side would consider you black, so you’re not accepted on that side and a lot of times on the African American side, you’re not black enough.” His father Frank who Andre idolized as a child brought Andre to a boxing gym in Hayward California when he was 9 years old and he instantly fell in love with boxing and was hooked.
Unfortunately for young Andre, he eventually figured out that that both of his parents at times were hooked on other things. “For many years of my life, I’m sandwiched in between a heroin addict and a crack addict and by the grace of God I came out of that. I shouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing right now. Like everything that’s happening is a bonus for me because God was merciful God showed me grace, you know, when I was going left and almost blew it he had the right people in place at the right time. “
Andre had learned that his mother who is now clean sober, and with him, suffered from crack addiction when he was younger. While his dad, was battling an addiction to heroin. Despite that fight, Ward makes it clear that his father always instilled the importance of honor and respect in him. Despite problems, Ward always respected that his father was always honest and a fighter in dealing with the situation.
His dad died tragically of heart disease at age 46 when Andre was only 18, but you can see Ward is proud that he feels that his dad has been a part of his journey and is with him. Andre knows his father would be proud of the man he has become even more so outside of boxing. He is married to his high school sweet heart, they have 4 children and Andre is clearly an intelligent man with integrity who is a devout Christian who is active in his community with church, schools, prisons etc.…
It is very unfortunate that it often appears that Ward lacks some fan base that more tabloid worthy, athletes getting into trouble often have. Andre recently appeared in his first film with a good role in the most recent Rocky instalment, Creed. He is a role model who has earned anything he has and the type of guy that organizations like the NFL and NBA wish they had playing in their leagues.
Andre has remained loyal to his coach Virgil Hunter from soon after his dad took him to the boxing gym. Andre spent many of his teenage years living with Hunter and their loyalty and dedication paid great dividends as he went on to win the gold medal in Athens and Hunter is his trainer to this day. “He had a wisdom that most kids his age didn’t have. He was a winner plain and simple, there’s really no other way to define it. “Hunter has said of Ward.
Sergey Kovalev who says he was born to fight has also come a long way to get to this big crossroads fight. He came to the USA an unknown Russian who couldn’t speak English and over the last few years not only has he cleaned out the light heavy weight division, but he has also become fluent in English. Quickly becoming fluent in English often seems to be overlooked, but impressive especially considering that even in his new language he is an interesting guy with charisma and a strong presence.
Kovalev hasn’t fought as many fighters at as high of a level as Ward, Kovalev is the natural 175-pound fighter, while Ward fought most of his career at 168. Ward has also had to deal with some long layoffs due to promotional issues in the past and injuries, primarily a knee injury, while Kovalev has been active and healthy
It is impressive to hear the level of respect earned from someone who is difficult to earn respect from, a great fighter, and freak of nature who fought Kovalev at 49 years of age. Being 49 at the time wasn’t seen as so much of a bad thing because Bernard Hopkins had just captured the IBF light heavyweight world championship about 7 months earlier. Hopkins on Kovalev, “He’s got the power and he can box and he got speed and he’s rangy and he uses height……Who knocked Bernard out in his career, nobody, who came close, well maybe he did!”
The great Harold Lederman, HBO’s long time judge who is always one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining people at ringside calls Kovalev a Mike Tyson like puncher; “He can get you out with one shot, vicious right hand banger.”
Kovalev also overcame a lot and struggled growing up on the streets in a rough neighborhood in Russia. His step father died when he was a child and his mom told him he had to grow up and be the man of the house as a boy and she said she saw him grow up fast.
Long time boxing Coach Don Turner, who knows Sergey well and knew Sonny Liston has told people that Sergey is as mean as anyone he knew in boxing and he was including Sonny Liston. For boxing fans that is pretty impressive.
It is also a sad but tragic fact that in 2011 after scoring a 7th round TKO over Roman Simankov, who was a very tough fighter and entered the fight with a record of 19-1-1. After the fight, Simakov was taken to the hospital where he lapsed into a coma and died three days later. Kovalev, thought about it and decided to continue fighting for himself, his family and to honor Simakov, and unlike some others involved in such a tragic situation in the past, it hasn’t affected his performances in the ring.
While Andre Ward will not be intimidated, will Kovalev’s size and power get to Ward? While he is, versatile and can fight in many styles, Ward is sometimes an economical puncher, usually Kovalev is busy and punches with bad intentions, which style will the judges favor in Vegas?
This is a fight that is rarely made with the perfect timing while both fighters are at their best between fighters with the toughness and character these two have displayed. A lot will be learned over the course of the first few rounds. At some point, it is very likely we will see one fighter or both need to make adjustments, which fighter will do a better job and will it come to that?
The fight should be intriguing no matter how it plays out because Kovalev remains dangerous throughout while Ward’s boxing ability and being a master at making adjustments throughout should keep it interesting until the final bell. People have been questioning Andre Ward for years because it blows their minds that he doesn’t always fight often, has been through very long layoffs and dealt with serious injuries but he continues to fight on boxing’s highest level. Tune in tonight for a great fight between two of boxing’s best that you can’t afford to miss!