WBA, IBF, WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and former champ Sergey Kovalev spoke about their rematch Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. However, rather than calling a halt to the action, referee Tony Weeks saw that Kovalev's body language was that of a fighter who may have wanted out and called a surprising halt to the bout.
An impressive performance from Ward was marred by the ending to the fight, with a succession of borderline low blows securing the stoppage after he had initially rocked the Russian with a powerful straight right to the head.
Ward, sensing the end was near, got Kovalev against the ropes, throwing left hands to the body with everything he had.
"Low blow - and I felt this". The match-up is fascinating; Ward exploited his speed advantage vs Kovalev, but Stevenson's quicker than Sergey.
"It was a low blow, again another one", said Kovalev. According to CompuBox punch statistics, Ward landed only 80 of 238 punches (34 percent); Kovalev landed 95 of 407 (23 percent). He said Ward has improved and that the two of them have worked to avoid another slow start for the counter-puncher. Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) was badly hurt, and Ward went to him and began firing away.
"I'm ecstatic, I'm happy".
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It was thought by many that the stoppage by the referee was a bit premature but most likely Ward was well on the way to stopping Kovalev anyway.
"I could have continued", Kovalev said.
"He is a world champion". Their records are nearly identical and both fight with a great deal of intelligence. Now he's a good kid, he's swell but I'm telling you.
"This is fighting. We are boxers". I don't want to call him a frontrunner, but if he's not having his way, he's got to dig deep. I sparred 123 this time, against four different guys.
He insisted across several press conferences and media sessions ahead of Saturday night's rematch with Sergey Kovalev that it would be he, and not the burly Russian, who'd end the fight via knockout. "I'm comfortable being uncomfortable; that's how we work, that's how we train". I went right back there again, and he wasn't reacting. "I keep my head down and keep working".
"He's culturally sound enough to know some of the things he's been doing are racially motivated". Cruiserweight, heavyweight, that's always been a dream of mine. You don't have to respect me and I don't demand anything, but at a certain point and time, you got to give a person their just do.
I got off to a better start. "I'm going to enjoy my family, kiss my wife and we're out". Ward, who caused a brief pause in the fight in the second round when he hit Kovalev below the belt, was never warned after that by Weeks for low blows. Drakulich ruled it a knockout, and state commission officials huddled before they supported the ref's decision, instead of giving Rigondeaux a no contest or even disqualifying him.
"Once I compute a fighter in my brain, I know what to do the next time around", he told Kellerman. "I don't feel like it affects me". We take it all the way to the top, whoever we're fighting.