By Ryan Burton
Mandalay Bay, LAS VEGAS, NV - Former pound-for-pound king and two-division champion Andre Ward (32-0) was in Las Vegas Saturday night to provide expert analysis for the HBO tripleheader headlined by Mickey Roman's knockout victory over Orlando Salido.
The Northern California native recently retired from the sport with his undefeated record intact after defeating Sergey Kovalev in back to back fights. He won a narrow unanimous decision in the first fight and stopped Kovalev in June in their rematch in a fight that was also highly competitive before the stoppage.
Kovalev had a lot of turmoil in the lead up to the rematch as he and his trainer John David Jackson didn't seem to ever be on the same page. Kovalev also spent a lot of time complaining about the result of their first encounter that he called a robbery.
On November 25th Kovalev returned to the ring for the first time and with a new trainer since the knockout loss to Ward and blasted out Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in 2 rounds. Shabranskyy was clearly in over his head in the contest and Ward doesn't believe it was a good barometer to gauge whether Kovalev has returned to his 2016 form.
"I think he had the right guy in front of him. It is easy to say he is back and all that kind of stuff. I wish him nothing but the best. That chapter of my life is and my career is over but you never say never. You never know," Ward stated.
Ward said that he we need to see how Kovalev performs under duress to truly know if he is back to the feared fighter that lived up to his "Krusher" nickname and steamrolled most of his opponents.
"The issue with Kovalev wasn't technical or physical. It was psychological and mental. You won't know if that's been changed or been dealt with unless he is put in the same situation and frankly I don't think it has been changed because out of the abundance of a man's heart his mouth speaks and you hear the type of things he is saying. He is not taking personal ownership of nothing. He is still marginalizing the victory. He is still minimizing it. That let's me know that nothing has changed and I realized that after we fought the first time," Ward told BoxingScene.com.
"Now if he would have went and said, 'look it was a close fight. I thought I won but I am in the lab working,' and he went away and became quiet - I would of been concerned but the fact that he chirped the way that he did, he revealed too much to me. He is the same guy. He doesn't know how to take personal responsibility for adversity. It is the blame game and when you do that you don't really improve."
Send questions or comments to [email protected] You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ringsidewriter