The Big Question: Ward vs Kovalev 2 - who wins?
Andre 'S.O.G.' Ward faces Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev on Saturday night in a rematch of their controversial light heavyweight showdown of last November. We canvassed opinion among the Boxing Monthly online team about which of these pound for pound contenders will prevail in Las Vegas ...
I couldn't understand the furore after the first fight. It was a close encounter - a 115-113 swing either way - and hardly merited the overused and tiresome 'robbery' tag. Ward adapted after the knockdown and I felt his decision win was merited. Like Floyd Mayweather before him, Ward knows exactly what the judges are looking for; boxing scoring is not a case of 'what you like' - it has rigid criteria. Kovalev is the more fan-friendly fighter, but Ward is too slick. He wins again by decision. - Mark Butcher
This fight seems to have a lot of bad blood about it; whether it's Ward missing agreed promotional shoots or the dissemination of rumours about Kovalev's trainer trying to switch sides. It seems to be a bout that has become personal for both and I think it'll carry over into the fight. I expect Kovalev in particular to be more aggressive and to have his successes but, like the first fight, I think Ward will nullify that aggression and outwork Kovalev for a more comfortable unanimous decision win, something around 116-112. - Callum Rudge
I never understood the controversy surrounding the first fight, but I admit I'm glad we've got a rematch. Whilst Ward started very badly in the first fight, he took over in the middle and later sections. I can't see anything aside from Ward picking up from where he left off last time and boxing and moving to a points win. Kovalev is a great boxer. Ward is a special boxer. - James Oddy
I think the rematch will go the same way as the first fight: Ward on a close, unanimous, possibly with some controversy thrown-in... I think last time was Kovalev's best chance to win, in what was a genuine 50-50 fight. But I think Ward is the one who will have learned more and will adapt as needed. Kovalev will look slightly more crude this time and will try harder, but will ultimately end up frustrated and nullified. - Colin Harris
I believe we're in for another close, tactical fight that goes the distance and results in a controversial verdict. This time it will be a split decision win for Ward - I predict judges Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman will favour Ward, while Steve Weisfeld will favor Kovalev (or possibly a draw). Not quite sure where either man will go from there; a Ward victory might lock the op of the LHW division into a standstill. - Michael Montero
First of all, as the lead promoter it needs to be said what a poor job Roc Nation have done with the promotion of this rematch - the buzz for the bout is almost completely nonexistent. We've heard the reasons - or some might say excuses - from the Kovalev camp concerning him tiring in the second half of the fight and the pathetic attempt at some sort of soap opera plot apparently emanating from the Ward camp regarding John David Jackson ... after all this, let's hope the fight delivers!
I scored the first encounter six rounds each, giving Kovalev the win due to the knockdown and I wasn't as mad as some others were with the verdict. I expect a similar contest to the first time around and I don't have a strong view either way ... but I'll go with Kovalev to take a disputed decision victory. - Marcus Bellinger
I thought Kovalev was a clear winner first time around in a fight where Ward's performance has been somewhat overstated in the aftermath and the furore that followed.
It seems pretty logical to surmise that if Ward – who surely can't perform as poorly again - shows even a modicum of improvement, it will be enough to convince the judges that the pre-fight narrative pervading the build-up is valid. That line of thinking points to Ward, who is often hailed as a genius rather than the spoiler he more resembles, mastering the Russian bully in the rematch. I bought into that initially. And then I re-watched the fight.
The Russian needs to be in peak condition (he claims he over-trained first time around, which may, or may not, hold water). If he can sustain the work rate he managed in the first six rounds of the first contest while cutting off the ring more effectively, Kovalev should run out a handy winner. Ward is tenacious and so it's a good bet he'll hang tough until the final bell (though I wouldn't be surprised to see 'Krusher' live up to his nickname), but I doubt the American will have grounds for argument over the decision this time. - Andrew Harrison
Final count: Ward 5 Kovalev 2