Andre Ward vowed he would leave no doubt this time around. He didn't, turning the tables on a big puncher and stopping Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round Saturday night to win their light heavyweight title rematch.
The undefeated Ward turned the fight around with a big right hand that wobbled Kovalev, then swarmed all over him. Kovalev was in the neutral corner and Ward was landing shots to the body when the Russian sat on the ring rope and referee Tony Weeks signaled an end to the bout at 2:29 of the eighth.
In a lot of ways it was the same, until Ward - who was knocked down in the first fight - showed he was a big puncher, too, with a right hand that made Kovalev's right leg wobble and signaled the beginning of the end to the bout.
The fight had been close, with Kovalev (30-2-1) winning the early rounds before Ward (32-0) began making adjustments and Kovalev began tiring. Both fighters complained of dirty tactics and Weeks spent a lot of his time breaking up clinches.
Ward won the first fight in November, coming back from a second round knockdown to get a controversial decision. The rematch seemed just as close until Ward landed the right hand that caused Kovalev's legs to wobble.
Kovalev complained that Ward hit him with two low blows in the final exchange, forcing him to sit on the first rope.
“He hit with four low blows. The ref didn't call them. I felt I could have continued. This is bullsh*t,” Kovalev said.
Kovalev, a Russian who lives in Los Angeles, had complained bitterly about the scoring in the first fight, though he appeared to run out of gas as the fight went on.
Ward was paid $6.5 million for the rematch, while Kovalev got a percentage of the gate and the pay-per-view.