The Big Question: Kovalev vs Ward - who wins the biggest fight of the year?
Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev faces Andre 'S.O.G.' Ward on Saturday night in the most eagerly awaited pugilistic match-up of the year. We canvassed opinion among the Boxing Monthly online team about which of these unbeaten pound for pound contenders will prevail in Las Vegas ...
I'm edging towards Ward. As opposed to many observers out there who believe Ward will put on a defensive masterclass, I think he will surprise Kovalev with his strength. If you look back at the Froch and Kessler fights, Ward did a fair bit of bullying on the inside. I think the key to Ward's success, though, will be through his constant adapting. Kovalev is a very tricky customer who has an incredible ability to cut the ring down, shoot from tricky angles and has a great engine. Let's also not forget his destructive power, which would floor many cruisers and heavyweights. However, I believe Ward will adapt to and have the answers to what Kovalev brings to the table. Either way - the fight has the potential to be a cracker. Let's hope it lives up to its potential. - Paul Zanon
I keep changing my mind. I won't be surprised with either winning ... although I will be surprised if the fight doesn't go the distance (I'll be open-mouthed if Ward wins by KO). Do 'skills pay the bills' or will Kovalev 'expose' Ward and cruise through like he did against B-Hop? I think it'll be a close, unanimous decision: 115-113. My heart keeps saying Kovalev, my head keeps saying Ward. Sod it: it'll be a controversial draw! - Colin Harris
My pick is Ward on points but, having said that, if Kovalev catches him clean and rocks him then Sergey could take over. I lean towards Ward overall because I think that if Kovalev struggled with Isaac Chilemba, as he did, then he will struggle much more with Ward. - James Oddy
This really is a fabulous match-up and far more complex than the mere 'boxer versus a puncher' label that some have attached to it. For Kovalev, utilising the jab and maintaining distance will be key, as well as not allowing Ward to get inside and grapple and smother. Ward slipping the jab and getting inside to use his strength will be his best bet for victory, I think. Targeting the body would also be a smart move as Kovalev has shown some discomfort to blows around the mid-section in previous bouts. I really don't have a firm pick but I'll go with Kovalev to win a narrow points decision somewhere in the region of 115-112 with the Russian scoring a knockdown in the process. - Marcus Bellinger
When I first heard about this fight, I feared for Andre Ward. It has been a long time since he fought an opponent of Kovalev's quality, probably since he soundly beat Carl Froch in the final of the Super Six. That win was 5 years ago though and since then his career has been a quagmire of injury, promotional issues and tunes-up. Ward has looked good in the aforementioned tune-ups, but he didn't look stellar and the combination of Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand wouldn't last 12 rounds with Kovalev - even if if they teamed up! I'm a big fan of Ward and would be hugely impressed if he won, in fact I think it would make him an all-time great, but my gut has always felt that Kovalev will score one or two knockdowns en route to a competitive but decisive points win. Kovalev by UD. - Callum Rudge
Kovalev has underrated boxing craft but Ward has underrated strength; this will be a contest of adjustments and readjustments. I expect things to start with a lot of feinting and pot-shoting, then it will turn ugly, with mauling, grappling and possible fouling. Here's hoping that the ref keeps the bout under control and doesn't become a part of the story. 'Krusher' fights best at mid-range while 'S.O.G.' can get it done inside as well as outside. In the end, Ward has more levels and his style tends to get the benefit of the doubt from Vegas judges in close rounds. I predict that the former super middleweight champ will take the light heavyweight crown via close, possibly controversial, decision. - Michael Montero (click on the video link at the top of this page for Michael's full breakdown of the fight)
This is, without doubt, the fight of the year. I doubt it will be a thriller, but I do think it will be an intriguing and fascinating chess match. I believe Ward is a great talent and his career so far suggests that he rises, or falls, to the level of his opposition. Kovalev is undoubtedly the biggest threat he has ever faced - the Russian possesses awesome fight-ending power and deceptively good boxing skills. However, S.O.G. is, I believe, a once or twice in every ten years talent. I think Ward realises the vital importance of this fight for his fistic legacy and will raise his game and outbox, outfox and out-hustle the Russian via a wider than most expect points decision. He may have to overcome a few awkward moments to do so, though, and take more punishment than he has in most of his previous contests. - Luke G. Williams
Final count: Ward 4, Kovalev 2, draw 1
For Boxing Monthly magazine editor Graham Houston's Kovalev vs Ward preview and prediction, check out the current issue of Boxing Monthly, in shops and Appstore now. Click here for more details.