BOXING

Andre Ward Edges Sergey Kovalev

Andre Ward Gets Nod in Controversial Decision Over Sergey Kovalev

This much is true: Andre Ward was announced the winner of a unanimous decision over Sergey Kovalev this past Saturday, picking up three light heavyweight titles in the process.

     Kovalev 2Photo Cred // The Telegraph

The victory itself is still being argued over by fans and boxing writers.

There are many who feel Kovalev deserved the win. There were others who believe Ward truly did eke out a very close victory on the scorecards. Those of you reading this will be on one side of the debate or the other.

It seemed early on that Kovalev’s power was going to be the story. Halfway through the first round, both men sent out jabs at the same time, but Kovalev’s had Ward wobbling backward. One round later, Kovalev put Ward on the canvas. The knockdown came after Kovalev sent out a jab, and Ward ducked down below it and began to rise up with a right hand. Kovalev, however, beat him to the punch with a shorter right. Ward smiled, got up, and went back to work.

There weren’t really any other moments like that. Kovalev and Ward fought a high-level tactical fight, finding few opportunities to score with clean punches and trying to land on the rare occasions when doing so was possible. It was a very, very close fight. Kovalev was ahead on the scorecards after the first half of the fight. The judges favored Ward in the second half of the bout.

The final round was decisive. Two judges had it even after 11 rounds, 104-104, while the third had Ward ahead 105-103. The judge who had Ward ahead after 11 gave the final round to Kovalev. The two judges who had even after 11 gave the final round to Ward.

The final scores: 114-113, or seven rounds to Ward with a point deducted for the knockdown, and five rounds for Kovalev.

The debate will continue on for some time. The debate can’t be settled by a rematch, but the rivalry can. Fortunately, Kovalev’s team plans to exercise their contractual rematch clause.

Ward moved to 31-0 with 15 knockouts, adding world titles in a second weight class. He was previously the undisputed super middleweight champion.

Kovalev is now 30-1-1 with 26 KOs. This disputed decision ends a title reign that began in August 2013 and included eight successful defenses. Kovalev will now look to make sure that the rematch will be Ward’s first and only defense.

 

Gvozdyk Becomes Contender With TKO of Injured Chilemba

This has been the year that Oleksandr Gvozdyk transition from a light heavyweight prospect into a contender. The biggest step yet came this past Saturday, when he defeated former title challenger Isaac Chilemba by technical knockout.

Oleksandr Gvozdyk, left, of Ukraine, tries to hit Isaac Chilemba, of Malawi, during a light heavyweight boxing match, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) ORG XMIT: NVJL118

Photo Cred // Boxing Junkie

Chilemba called it a night after the eighth round due to a hurt elbow, an injury that had bothered him before, according to his trainer, famed fighter Roy Jones Jr.

Gvozdyk was facing a good test. Chilemba had been in with (and come up short against) some notable names before, fighting to a draw with Tony Bellew and losing their rematch in 2013, dropping a majority decision to contender Eleider Alvarez a year ago, and losing a unanimous decision to Sergey Kovalev while giving him some difficulty this past July.

Chilemba is awkward and can be tough to hit. Gvozdyk missed more often than he was probably accustomed to in the opening rounds. He found far more success in the fourth, driving Chilemba to the ropes and opening up with an extended flurry of punches. Chilemba handled the barrage, then had a better fifth for himself. And then the sixth swung the fight back into Gvozdyk’s control.

Jones exhorted Chilemba to do better. Chilemba couldn’t. He was sending out fewer and fewer right hands. Jones told Chilemba after the seventh that he was considering stopping the fight soon. Chilemba came out with more effort in the eighth, fighting through the pain to send out more rights. That was all he had left. Gvozdyk was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards, 79-73, though Chilemba couldn’t have known that at the time. He knew he was in too much pain, however.

Chilemba is now 24-5-2 with 10 KOs. He’s always the bridesmaid, never the bride, unable to win against the upper level of opposition at 175 pounds.

Gvozdyk, who won bronze in the 2012 Olympics, entered the semipro World Series of Boxing afterward and turned pro in earnest in 2014. If you include those World Series of Boxing fights, he’s now 21-0. Otherwise, his record now reads 12-0 with 10 KOs.

He’s fought four times in 2016, including victories over Nadjib Mohammedi, Tommy Karpency and now Chilemba. He still has plenty of room to grow; Karpency dropped him in the first round of their fight. Fortunately for Gvozdyk, he has time. The other top light heavyweights are tied up, and there’s no rush for the 29-year-old to face them until he’s ready.

 

Curtis Stevens Fights Through Pain, Defeats James De La Rosa

Curtis Stevens looked as if he was easily on his way to a victory over James De La Rosa. And then he hurt his left hand. Stevens was able to tough it out for the unanimous decision win in a fight with unexpected twists and turns.

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 19:   (R-L) Curtis Stevens lands a right to the head of James De La Rosa of Mexico during their middleweight bout at T-Mobile Arena on November 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 665620823 ORIG FILE ID: 624468050

Photo Cred // Boxing Junkie 

Stevens got De La Rosa’s attention with a hard left hook early in the first. He scored a knockdown later on in the round, landing a right hand that De La Rosa ducked into. By the third round, De La Rosa had a cut over his left eye. De La Rosa dug down and fought back with some good exchanges, doing his best to make a stand.

Stevens soon told his trainer about the hand injury. De La Rosa took advantage of the circumstances and began to mount a comeback. But then De La Rosa appeared to hurt his right hand in the sixth. The momentum shifted back to Stevens. He picked up the clear victory, with two judges seeing it 96-92 — seven rounds to three, with one point taken from Stevens for low blows, and one point taken from De La Rosa for the knockdown — and the other judge seeing it 98-90, or nine rounds to one.

Stevens is now 29-5 with 21 KOs. He’s won twice since his decision loss to Hassan N’Dam back in 2014. Once he heals up, it would be great to see him in with David Lemieux in what would be a middleweight slugfest.

De La Rosa is now 23-5 with 13 KOs. He’s dropped three in a row and five of his past eight.

 

Claressa Shields Makes Pro Debut With Decision Win

The only American boxer ever to win two Olympic gold medals now wants to see what she — that’s right, she — can do as a pro. Claressa Shields started this phase of her career off right, winning a unanimous decision over Franchon Crews.

Franchon Crews, left, and Claressa Shields fight during a women's super middleweight bout, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) ORG XMIT: NVJL103

Photo Cred // Boxing Junkie 

Most top prospects take a step backward in opposition after entering the paid ranks. Crews wasn’t there to fall down, however. She came out firing in the first round. Shields withstood the assault, then used her superior hand speed and combination punching to take all four rounds on the scorecards.

Shields competed as a middleweight in the Olympics. In the amateurs, that’s the 165-pound weight class. As a pro, Shields is a super middleweight, who has a limit of 168.

The 21-year-old is now 1-0. Crews, who was also debuting, is now 0-1.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman.

David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and “Fighting Words” columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing.”
Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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