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Boxing Breakdown: Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev

This Saturday night, HBO takes center stage with Andre Ward (30-1; 15 KO) challenging Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1; 26 KO) in a 12 round WBA, WBO, and IBF Light Heavyweight (175 pound) title fight. Ring Magazine lists Kovalev as #1 in the division, Ward at #4, with both men in the pound for pound top 5 (Kovalev at #2, Ward again at #4). HBO Boxing Ward vs. Kovalev airs live this Saturday, November 12 on PPV with a fight time of 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT.

At long last, we’re here. Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev has been talked about for some time, and it’s finally happening. There are a lot of reasons to be excited here, as this is the kind of fight we all want to see out of combat sports. Both of these men are at the top of their game, both are among the true elites fighting today. Hardcore fans are incredibly excited for this one - you should be too.

How do these two stack up?

Ward: 32 years old | 6’0" | 71" reach | orthodox stance
Kovalev: 33 years old | 6’0" | 73" reach | orthodox stance

What have these two done recently?

Ward: W - Alexander Brand (UD) | W - Sullivan Barrera (UD) | W - Paul Smith (KO)
Kovalev: W - Isaac Chilemba (UD) | W - Jean Pascal (KO) | W - Nadjib Mohammedi (KO)

How did these two get here?

Andre Ward could very well be the best purely technical boxer in the sport today. A 2004 Olympic Gold medalist, Ward has been flawless as a pro, rising to prominence in the Showtime Super Six tournament back in 2009-2011. His time since has been marked by large stretches of inactivity due to injuries and contract disputes, but he now seems to be settled back as an active, regular competitor, going 2-0 so far in 2016, both at Light Heavyweight. Ward has always been trained by Virgil Hunter - one of the absolute best in the business today. He’s fought an incredible array of talented fighters, and he’s beaten them all. Ward is a careful fighter, which means his KO ratio has been lower in recent years, but his skill level is at the absolute pinnacle.

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev is one of the most feared power punchers in boxing today. He broke into the US market on HBO in 2013 and has been rising up the pound for pound ranks ever since. Trained by the excellent John David Jackson, Kovalev has developed into a more technical fighter, not simply the KO machine he is often thought of as. In 2014 he scored the biggest win of his career when he dominated, but did not stop, veteran Bernard Hopkins. Kovalev is 4-0 since. His 2016 started with a brutal beatdown of Jean Pascal where Kovalev willfully let Pascal stay in the fight simply so he could inflict more damage. He followed that up with a rare decision win over Isaac Chilemba in a tune-up fight where Kovalev did not look his best.

What can fans expect?

This is a classic battle of power vs. technique, and the gameplan for each man is crystal clear. Look for Ward to try to slow things down, picking his shots carefully, using ring generalship and speed to get in, land his shots, and get out. He’ll try to befuddle Kovalev with his skills. On the flipside, look for Kovalev to try and overwhelm Ward with power shots. He’ll likely try to cut the ring off, trap Ward in the corner, and unleash bombs. It’s in some ways an easier path for Kovalev - if he can land a few big shots he can turn the tide, whereas Ward needs to stay on his game for a full 12 rounds. Despite that, and despite Kovalev being underrated as a technician, I don’t see him being able to catch Ward here. Look for the technique to carry the day this time.

Prediction: Ward, UD

Who should watch?

EVERYONE. Boxing fans complain all the time about the terrible fights we are served. Here we have two top 5 pound for pound fighters in a fight where the outcome is incredibly tough to predict. You’ve got to watch.

Source: BloodyElbow.com via Fraser Coffeen