By Keith Idec
Sergey Kovalev gave Andre Ward deserved credit for his improved performance, yet faulted referee Tony Weeks for the unusual conclusion to their fight Saturday night.
Kovalev posted the same message to his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts late Monday night in which the former light heavyweight champion acknowledged Ward was a better fighter in their rematch than he was when they fought the first time seven months ago.
Ward won their first bout by a 12-round unanimous decision, which was widely viewed as controversial, on November 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion won their rematch by eighth-round technical knockout, though that victory has caused controversy as well.
“I admit that Ward was better in the rematch,” Kovalev wrote in a message translated from his native Russian. “I give him credit. He did his homework with ‘A,’ and showed his professionalism and discipline. But he didn’t put an end to our clash. I fought with two people in the ring … I will be back!”
Their scheduled 12-round rematch was very competitive for seven rounds, before Ward drilled Kovalev with a jarring right hand to the jaw that buckled Kovalev’s knees and left him holding. Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) later landed three consecutive body blows below Kovalev’s belt line and Weeks stepped in to stop the fight 2:29 into the eighth round.
Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) was bent over and using the ropes to hold himself up when Weeks waved an end to the bout at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Main Events, Kovalev’s promoter, has filed a protest with the Nevada State Athletic Commission on his behalf because Kovalev and his handlers believe Ward’s low blows went unpunished by Weeks and directly led to the technical knockout.
The 33-year-old Ward was ahead, 67-66, on the scorecards of judges Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti when the fight was stopped. Judge Steve Weisfeld had Kovalev in front, 68-65, through seven rounds.
Kovalev, 34, is expected to return to the ring sometime in November, but against someone other than Ward.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.