By Keith Idec
Andre Ward has heard it all during the buildup toward his rematch against Sergey Kovalev.
His ruthless Russian opponent promised to “beat his ass,” to “punish him” and to “end his career.” Kovalev also has taunted Ward on Twitter, relentlessly questioned the judges’ decision in their first fight, blamed his close loss on over-training and dismissed Ward as an arrogant, delusional, undeserving champion who doesn’t realize just how lucky he was to leave the ring November 19 with three light heavyweight titles.
Ward wouldn’t say during a conference call Wednesday whether he considers all of Kovalev’s trash talk proof that his first defeat has damaged Kovalev’s psyche.
The defending champion just knows that none of the trash talk and mind games have adversely affected him during his preparation for their light heavyweight championship rematch June 17 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas (HBO Pay-Per-View).
“I really don’t know, to be honest with you,” Ward said. “I don’t know if the man is putting on a game. I think he and his side, they out-think themselves. They’re trying to get in our heads and trying to do so much that they’re confusing themselves. A lot of what they say and do don’t make a lot of sense. To be honest with you, it’s a non-factor and a non-issue in our camp. It’s not something that we talk about. Here and there it’s something that’ll get brought up.
“But it’s not – it’s like we’ve been doing this so long where the threats and putting out stories that aren’t true, it just doesn’t move you. You’ve gotta learn to fight to stay in the middle, stay locked in and not get too caught up in the highs and lows. And like I’ve always said, whether he’s ruffled or not, we have a date. And that date is about 10 days away and it’ll all get settled June 17th. And that’s what matters the most.”
Ward, 33, won a 12-round unanimous decision against Kovalev, 34, on November 19 at T-Mobile Arena. Though Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) won by the same score on each of the three judges’ cards, his victory was widely viewed as controversial.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Hayward, California, still is a slight favorite over Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) with barely more than a week to go before their rematch.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.