By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Andre Ward is sure he hurt Sergey Kovalev several times November 19.
Ward was knocked down during the second round of their light heavyweight title fight, but got up and won a widely debated unanimous decision. Kovalev’s shaky moments weren’t as obvious, according to Ward, who told a small group of reporters Thursday that those instances give him confidence that he can knock out Kovalev in their rematch Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
“He was definitely hurt several times to the head and the body,” Ward said. “And hurt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wobbling, where everybody can see it. But it’s intimate combat, especially when you’re fighting in close, and he’s not gonna concede anything. Athletes, especially fighters, we’re not gonna tell you we’re hurt, especially when we’re getting ready to fight again.
“But you hit a person in the body and you hear him grunt and give up wind, he was hurt. When you hit him with a shot and you stop him in his tracks, and he doesn’t throw a punch for 20, 30 seconds, you know you buzzed him. He definitely felt me. He can say whatever he wants to say. It don’t matter. He knows the truth.”
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) regrets that he didn’t capitalize on the moments when he believes Kovalev was hurt. Virgil Hunter, Ward’s trainer, said Wednesday that he has trained Ward to knock out Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) in their rematch.
“It’s just a mindset,” Ward said. “It’s no major overhaul [in training]. It’s just mindset. The type of power that I have, it’s draining power. It’s the type that you look up in the fourth, fifth round, and you’re tired. You know, the type of punches that are landed, the accuracy. And I know watching the first fight, I let him off the hook in several situations, offensively, where I had him and I didn’t get off. And I can’t tell you why I didn’t get off. But watching it, I’m like, ‘Ah! You had him.’ And in this fight, I can’t let him off the hook in those situations.”
Kovalev hasn’t been knocked out since he turned pro in July 2009, but Ward is confident he can become the first fighter to do that.
“Obviously a stoppage, a knockout, him quitting, however it even comes, there are a lot of ways to stop a guy,” Ward said. “But it’s a process. He can definitely run into something. If he runs into the wrong shot, he can go. Nobody talks about that because I’m not known as a one-punch knockout artist. But if gets hit right with 10-ounce gloves, he can go for sure. But I think with him, it’s a process. It’s a two-, three-step process, and the first [step of the] process is taking his mind.”
The 33-year-old Ward, of Hayward, California, and the 34-year-old Kovalev, of Kopesyk, Russia, will headline HBO Pay-Per-View’s four-fight telecast Saturday night (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; $64.99 in HD).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.