November 19th sees that most rare of events. Two unbeaten, elite, pound for pound contenders in the same weight class, meeting in a squared circle.
The fighters in questions are Andre ‘Son of God’ Ward, (30-0, 15 Kos) and Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs). Kovalev currently holds the WBA, IBF light heavyweight titles, whereas Ward the WBO strap, all of which will all be on the line in the T-Mobile arena on the Las Vegas strip.
The fight is a mouth-watering clash of styles. Kovalev is a brutal boxer puncher, who throws concussive straights, hooks and uppercuts. Despite carrying legitimate knock out power in both mits, he is also an accomplished boxer, although not a stylist by any means. Instead, he uses his power, basic yet effective footwork and high guard to work his opponent into corners, where he unleashes huge shots. The ‘Krusher’ also has a definite mean streak, seemingly prolonging the beating he handed out to rival Jean Pascal (36-4-1) in there 2016 rematch. Even when he can’t land those big shots, he can still win wide on the cards, as seen by his complete domination of living legend Bernard Hopkins (66-7-2) in late 2014.
Ward is more of a boxer than a pure puncher, but what a boxer he is. He is wonderfully athletic; a defensive wizard who can also rough house with the best if the fight goes to the trenches. His defence is similar to Floyd Mayweather’s ‘shoulder roll’, and from that he spears out jabs and back hands. Although plagued with inactivity due to promotional issues, Ward still has a superb resume, especially at previous weight of super middleweight. He won the innovative super six tournament in 2010/11, beating the likes of Mikael Kessler, Carl Froch, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham, all of whom offered different stylistic challenges. His win over Kessler, the pre-tournament favourite, was particularly impressive, and he completely nullified Froch in the final. Ward then added light heavy weight king Chad Dawson to his list of wins, although it’s worth noting he made Dawson come down in weight for the meeting. Since making the move the light-heavy after a two year layoff, he has beaten an overweight Paul Smith, an undefeated Sullivan Barrera and a solid Alexander Brand.
This is a true super fight, and unlike many we have seen lately, both are more or less at the peak of their powers. Both have some of the game’s best strategists in their corner, ex world champ John David Jackson for Kovalev and the enigmatic Virgil Hunter for Ward. It’s a very tough fight to predict. If Ward restricts Kovalev and prevents him from landing those crunching hooks, I can see him winning a fairly uneventful unanimous decision. If Kovalev lands at any point, but particularly in the early rounds, it could upset Ward’s rhythm and equilibrium and I could see the fight becoming much more open.
Ultimately, if I were forced to make a prediction, and I am, I’ll pick Ward. He is slick, still fresh and his partnership with Hunter is one of modern boxing’s best.