By Keith Idec
Sergey Kovalev isn’t convinced Andre Ward will remain retired.
The WBO light heavyweight champion thinks Ward is taking an understandable break because he made plenty of money for their two fights and wants to afford his body time to rest. Kovalev expects Ward to fight again at some point, however, and hopes to eventually secure a third bout against him.
“I think he will be back,” Kovalev told BoxingScene.com. “He just made this decision to get a rest and because he has got enough money to be outside of boxing. From the last two fights, he has enough to money to be outside from boxing. So right now, he’s watching what’s happening in the light heavyweight division. He will wait until there’s a unified champion and he will make a call and make a fight, again for the big purse.”
The undefeated Ward, who will turn 34 next month, beat Kovalev in back-to-back light heavyweight championship matches. Both results caused controversy, though.
Their first fight was very closely contested, but Ward recovered from a second-round knockdown, was more effective throughout the second half of their 12-rounder and won a widely debated unanimous decision in November 2016. They returned to Las Vegas for a June 17 rematch that mostly was another highly competitive clash, until Ward hurt Kovalev badly with a right hand to the Russian’s chin in the eighth round.
The stoppage later in the eighth round was questionable because Ward landed several body blows that appeared to connect below Kovalev’s belt line before referee Tony Weeks stepped in to halt the action.
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) announced his retirement three months later.
When asked if he was surprised Ward walked away from the sport when he did, Kovalev said, “Yes and no. I understand that he could do this, but I didn’t know he would do it at that time, how he did it.
“He’s one year younger than me. But for him, it’s a business, like a game. He understands what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy. He has a great team who give him the right advice. He made very, very good money for the last two fights. Believe me, I never did this for all of my career.”
The 34-year-old Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) came back from his second defeat to Ward by knocking out Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) in the second round November 25 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. His victory over Shabranskyy enabled Kovalev to win back the WBO 175-pound title, one of three belts he lost to Ward.
He’ll return to Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 3 to defend his title against IBO champion Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs), a southpaw from Russia. Kovalev could fight WBA champ Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) or IBF champ Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) in a title unification fight later this year.
Those matches seem more realistic at the moment than boxing Ward a third time, but Kovalev would welcome that opportunity, too.
“If he comes back, I’m ready to fight him a third time, definitely,” Kovalev said. “It’s on my wish list to have this fight in my boxing career. You should ask him. I don’t know if he will give me the fight again or not. I’m not gonna ask him. When he’s ready, I will call on him to fight me again. Let’s see what will happen. I cannot decide for him. I can say only for me. I’m ready to fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.