Andre Ward Stops Sergey Kovalev, Win Somewhat Tainted by Fouls
The first seven rounds of the rematch between light heavyweights Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev seemed to bring more of the same as the 12 rounds that preceded them. The action was close, skillfully contested and leaving observers in disagreement about just who deserved to win each round. They seemed as if they could be on course to another hotly debated decision.
But something else was going on at the same time. Ward was in the process of breaking Kovalev down, both physically and mentally, and taking it out of the judges’ hands.
Ward was wearing Kovalev down with body blows — legal ones above and on the beltline, plus fouls that went below. Then he rocked him with a big right hand to the chin with 75 seconds to go in the eighth. Kovalev tried to hold on but couldn’t. Ward went back downstairs with a left hand that may have been low (the camera angle didn’t make it clear), followed with a right hand upstairs, and soon drove a devastating left hook into Kovalev’s ribcage.
Soon Kovalev was backing away, his arms down at his sides. Ward followed. Kovalev tried to fight him off. Ward wound up with three big lefts to the body, or so it appeared. Referee Tony Weeks was blocking the camera view on one replay. At least two seemed as if they could be low, and another angle confirmed that the final shot was exceptionally so, hitting Kovalev between the “B” and the L” on his trunks, well below his beltline. It didn’t matter that Kovalev was hunched over; a low blow is a low blow.
Weeks didn’t see the low blow, though, but only noticed Kovalev’s reaction, which was to hunch over even further in pain and step back to sit on the ropes. Weeks waved the fight off.
Boxing can have partisan perspectives as biased as those in politics. Those who favor Ward seemed to dispute that low blows even occurred, or that they didn’t matter. Those who favor Kovalev seemed to argue that the low blows meant Ward should’ve been disqualified. The truth is somewhere in-between.
What should’ve happened is the referee noticing the low blows, giving Kovalev time to recover, and allowing the action to continue. The fight very well seemed en route to ending with Ward’s hands in the air, but that doesn’t mean we should just think it’s fine that fouls were what got us there sooner.
Boxing observer James Harrison described it better than anyone else: “The stoppage was bad,” he wrote. “It robbed Kovalev of the little chance he had to win. It robbed Ward of the clear-cut victory he’d likely get.”
Kovalev’s team will protest. Unless that protest somehow leads to a disqualification, Ward will move on toward someone else. There’s not likely to be another fight between them any time soon — their promotional teams were barely able to work together for a second time, so forget a third.
Ward is now 32-0 with 16 knockouts. The former super middleweight champion is one of the two best 175-pounders in the world. It’s too soon to know whether he’ll go on to face the other, Adonis Stevenson. There also are a handful of other talented light heavyweights to choose from. Ward also floated the possibility of moving up to cruiserweight, or perhaps even heavyweight. That seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Kovalev is now 30-2-1 with 26 KOs. He’ll have to rebuild. There are enough good opponents in this weight class for that to be possible. Maybe a fight with Stevenson can finally be made. Or maybe Kovalev will also go up to 200, which he’d mentioned as a possibility in the past.
Guillermo Rigondeaux KOs Moises Flores, Result Likely to be Overturned
This fight didn’t last anywhere near as long as the discussion afterward about what the official result should be — a knockout win for Guillermo Rigondeaux, a disqualification win for Moises Flores, or a no contest.
Referee Vic Drakulich and Nevada Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett didn’t exactly inspire confidence in their ability to perform up to the standards that should be expected in a state that hosts many of the biggest fights in the United States. They spent minutes trying to figure out how to rule, and then Bennett was left to struggle live on television as he was interviewed by HBO’s announcing team, who seemed to know far more about what had actually happened than him.
What had actually happened was that Rigondeaux, the longtime best fighter at 122 pounds, was outboxing his undefeated challenger in the first round. As usual, he had little trouble making Flores miss thanks to clear advantages in speed and technique. And as usual, Rigondeaux was spare in what he threw but won the round nonetheless, landing nine punches to Flores’ four.
Just before the bell came an exchange in which Rigondeaux held Flores behind the head with his right arm and landed three left uppercuts to the body. Rigondeaux let go. The bell rang. Drakulich went to jump in-between the fighters due, he said later, to the holding and hitting. Flores tried to throw a right hand. Rigondeaux’s left hand upstairs got there first.
Flores took a step back, then went down and appeared to be out of it — though many watching believed, with good reason, that Flores was playing up the foul and perhaps trying to get a disqualification win.
Drakulich stopped the fight. He at first wanted to disqualify Rigondeaux for holding and hitting, not realizing that the knockout blow didn’t come from that. Then he mentioned to Bennett that he was considering a no contest. Then they said they would watch a replay — but instead only called HBO’s production team, listening to a recounting of what had happened. Even that is under dispute. Bennett claims HBO’s crew said the knockout blow came before the bell, while HBO said they absolutely told Bennett otherwise.
Rigondeaux was nonetheless awarded the KO. But by Monday morning, there were reports that the commission would overturn the result and make it a no contest. That’s the right call; hitting after the bell is illegal, but the end came in an exchange, meaning that the foul wasn’t so much intentional as it was heat of the moment.
For now, Rigondeaux’s record reads 18-0 with 12 KOs, while Flores’ is 25-1 with 17 KOs. It’s highly likely that the WBA will order a rematch.
Luis Arias Outclasses Arif Magomedov, TKOs Him in Five
A prospect will go only as far as his talents — and his promoter’s matchmaking skills — will take him.
Arif Magomedov had already been defeated once, shockingly falling short a year ago against a fighter named Andrew Hernandez, someone who tended to lose to prospects on their way up, not beat them.
It was a surprise, but it wasn’t a fluke. Magomedov is just nowhere near as good as other rising middleweights. That quickly became apparent when he met undefeated Luis Arias this past Saturday in the opening bout of the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev rematch pay-per-view.
Arias landed harder punches from the outset, scoring with leads and counters, his shots coming out sharper and straighter, while Magomedov’s were slower and wider. That meant Arias could beat Magomedov to the punch both from the outside and on the inside, scoring with uppercuts, body shots and right crosses.
The punches began to take their toll on Magomedov as early as the third; they seemed to be hurting him more than before. Arias also landed a right hand as the referee was breaking them from a clinch in the fourth. But the real telling blows came in the fifth.
Arias landed a right to the body, then one to the head, and then another, and Magomedov was hurt. Arias followed with a third right upstairs; it missed because Magomedov was already on his way down. Magomedov got up, but there were two minutes left in the round and he had too little to fend Arias off — not enough when he was 100 percent, and even less of a chance now that he’d been buzzed. Arias followed with more right hands, and the referee jumped in shortly thereafter.
Arias is now 18-0 (9 KOs) and continues his development in a division full of rising prospects. We’ll need to see how he fares when his opponents are much better than Magomedov.
Magomedov is now 18-2 with 11 KOs.