By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Andre Ward wasn’t about to apologize for stopping the knockout artist who had promised to end his career.
The IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight champion wasn’t about to accept any blame for referee Tony Weeks’ decision to stop his rematch against Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round, either.
Ward won their rematch by eighth-round technical knockout Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center, but he appeared to hit Kovalev low more than once in the moments before the fight was stopped. Russia’s Kovalev claimed after the fight that he could’ve continued.
Even Ward acknowledged that Weeks could’ve allowed the fight to continue slightly longer than the 2:29 mark of the eighth round. Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) is sure, though, that he only would’ve beaten up Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) worse in the ninth round if the fight were allowed to continue.
“The right hand is really what got it started,” Ward said. “You can’t dispute that. He was out on his feet. I showed that I can hurt a bigger man.
“And somebody also brought to me the stoppage and said, ‘But it was too soon. Does that take away?’ That’s not my fault. I did what I had to do. But when you’re in a feeble position like he’s in a feeble position, the ref maybe could’ve let it go a little bit longer. But that’s not my fault. That’s not my problem. I did my job. I did my job.”
Ward drilled Kovalev with a right hand that hurt the former champion in the eighth round. He later landed several borderline body blows, which Kovalev contends were low and should’ve created a break in the action for him to recover.
Weeks didn’t warn Ward, who capitalized on the situation by attacking a vulnerable Kovalev. Weeks stopped the fight because Kovalev was bent over, with his back against the ropes, and wasn’t throwing punches back at Ward.
Weeks’ questionable stoppage Saturday night created the second controversial conclusion to a Ward-Kovalev clash in as many fights. Ward’s win over Kovalev on November 19 was widely considered debatable, despite that Ward won that 12-rounder by the same score, 114-113, on all three scorecards.
Kathy Duva – whose company, Main Events, promotes Kovalev – said at the post-fight press conference that she would file a protest on Kovalev’s behalf Monday with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.