By Rick Reeno
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas - Longtime boxing analyst Larry Merchant was watching closely from ringside when Andre Ward (31-0, 15KOs) won a very close twelve round unanimous decision over Sergey Kovalev (30-1, 26KOs) to capture the WBO, IBF, WBA light heavyweight world titles.
All three of the official judges had identical scores of 114-113. Ward had been down in the second round.
"At some point, late in the fight, I said 'Ward can't win this fight unless he does some serious damage' and he never did. I don't know if I had it by three points or four points, but I had Kovalev clearly winning," Merchant told BoxingScene.com.
In the opinion of Merchant, Ward got a 'hometown' decision - because he was the Olympic gold medal winner from America who was going up against a boxer from Russia - and all three of the judges were American. He saw nothing in Ward's body of work that would justify a points victory over Kovalev.
"I thought it was a hometown decision. It was Ocean's Eleven. If the fight had taken place in Russia, Kovalev would have won nine rounds. Ward is an excellent boxer, but for the entire fight he threw one punch at a time and he would either clinch or back away. I thought Kovalev put more hurt on him than he did on Kovalev. I thought Kovalev threw combinations way more often than he did. And there were close rounds, but I thought Kovalev won most of them," Merchant said.
"It takes two to make a great fight and Ward was not interested in making a great fight out of it, and he figured [Kovalev] out a little bit, to his credit, but at the end of the day, at the end of the night - Kovalev clearly won the fight."
Kovalev plans to exercise an immediate rematch clause. Merchant believes a rematch would be a very tough sell for pay-per-view.
"No [I don't think it was a good enough fight for a pay-per-view rematch]. There may be a rematch clause, but it's not the kind of fight that you would want to see again. Why would it be any different?," Merchant said.