By Ryan Burton

World class trainer Abel Sanchez is very familiar with unbeaten former super middleweight champion Andre Ward (30-0, 15KOs).  The Oakland native faces WBA/WBO/IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26KOs) Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas strip in a fight distributed by HBO pay-per-view. 

Sanchez was in the opposite corner of Ward in March when his former pupil Sullivan Barrera lost an unanimous decision to the former Super Six super middleweight tournament winner.  The fight was Ward's first in 9 months and first at the full 175 pound light heavyweight limit.

Ward's career in recent years has been plagued by injuries and promotional issues.  In Sanchez's opinion, Ward needed another two fights against opposition like Barrera before facing the power punching Russian. 

Sanchez feels that Kovalev's high activity level will show and that he will be the much sharper fighter Saturday.

"He is not as sharp, not only technically but mentally he is not as sharp. What happens is when you fight a guy like Barrera, it takes you a little ways there and then the next guy like Barrera will take you a little further there and then a little further after that," Sanchez explained to

"In fact at the press conference in Oakland after (Ward-Barrera) I was questioned about what I thought and people laughed, saying like, 'he is ready right now' but he is not and you will see he is not.  The Brand fight showed you that he is not. He fought a guy that really didn't belong in the ring with him and went 12 rounds." 

"Things like that don't prepare you for a Kovalev. Yes he had a difficult fight against (Isaac) Chilemba but you have to look at the circumstances.  He fought in his hometown. He went back to the venue where unfortunately a tragedy happened 5 years before that so all those things combined and the friends and family being there is a distraction for a fighter."

"Chilemba is a difficult guy to fight but I still think he has done what he has done to stay consistent and stay busy to be able to deal with Andre's skills. There is a lot of skills there. They are just hidden right now."

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