According to IBF, WBA, WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), the verbal attacks from challenger Sergey Kovalev (30-1, 26 KOs) are a non-factor when they step in the ring.
He says regardless of the words that are being thrown in his direction, Ward is clamoring to get his hands on Kovalev when they collide on June 17th at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Last November at T-Mobile Arena, Ward won their first contest by unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring it 114-113. But Kovalev, who knocked down Ward in the second round with a straight right hand to the face, claimed he won the fight and complained about the scoring.
Because of the controversy with respect to the scorecards and which fighter actually deserved the victory - there is a lot more tension as both combatants prepare for the second fight.
Kovalev has stated in recent interviews that he intends to end Ward's career and plans to "destroy him" in the rematch.
"I think there's definitely more tension. There's definitely more dislike. You can't fabricate that. That just naturally happened throughout the course of the first fight. All the things that he said post fight, him and his team, and me and my team standing our ground and not buying it. That's part of it," Ward said to Vice Sports.
"I don't know [if he hates me]. I definitely think it's some of that involved. But I got to take the man at his word. I'm gonna take him at his word. What I love the most about this sport is that he's got to see me June 17. We got to see each other face to face. There won't be no reporters, there will be no promoters, there will be no trainers. They're getting out of the ring. Then it's me and you. It's my favorite time."
Ward has made some adjustments from his first training camp and he expects Kovalev to make adjustments as well. The Olympic gold medal winner is gunning for a clear-cut victory to eliminate any shred of post-fight controversy.
"There's going to be adjustments made on both sides. And he knows he has to be better. And I have to be better. I take full responsibility for my start the last time around. I'm just looking to put on a tremendous performance. I'm not pointing any fingers. I put the onus on myself to go out there and perform the way I'm supposed to perform and take away all doubt and remove all questions," Ward said.