Andre Ward didn’t necessarily suspect Sergey Kovalev was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Kovalev’s rival wasn’t exactly taken aback, either, when it was revealed recently that Kovalev tested positive for synthetic testosterone. The three-time light heavyweight champion’s use of a banned substance caused the cancelation of his fight against Bektemir Melikuziev, which was scheduled for January 30 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Ward, who twice defeated Kovalev in 175-pound championship matches, noted Kovalev’s age (37) and slippage in recent years as factors for his PED use making sense to the ESPN analyst.
“I can’t say that I was surprised,” Ward stated during an appearance Thursday on “The Ak & Barak Show,” which streams daily on DAZN and SiriusXM. “And that’s no indictment on Kovalev. You know, I’m not saying that I felt he was using something. But I’ve been in the game a long time, and it’s way bigger names than Kovalev that’s tested positive. So, I just know that that’s an option for guys.
“Then you do the math really quick, and you realize he’s getting older, he’s slipping and, you know, guys tend to do things like that when they’re trying to hold on to a career. They know that, physically, they can’t match up with the young guys that they’re facing. So, I wasn’t surprised. It’s unfortunate.”
Russia’s Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) hasn’t fought since Canelo Alvarez knocked him unconscious in the 11th round of their fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 24-year-old Melikuziev is just 6-0 (5 KOs) and hasn’t fought a top opponent, but the 2016 Olympic silver medalist was considered a tough test for Kovalev.
Uzbekistan’s Melikuziev publicly expressed that he would fight Kovalev despite his positive PED test, but the California State Athletic Commission canceled their fight once the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association alerted the parties involved.
Ward and Kovalev expressed disdain for each other both before and after their two bouts. The retired Ward was more philosophical than critical, though, following yet another Kovalev controversy.
“You know, a lot of people on social [media] wanted me to kinda pile on,” Ward said. “I’m not that kinda guy. I’m not gonna kick a guy while he’s down. I just really hope Kovalev assesses his career and his life, man, and just gets everything together, because this thing is gonna end. And I’m talking about the sport. He’s gonna walk away one day. And you just hope that, you know, he’s built something that he can be happy with, but he’s a whole enough man, where he can go and live a productive life, because the man has a family.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.