A big thing I’m into but never have really gotten around to blogging about is boxing. I was raised in a family that was all about the heavyweights of the 70s through 90s but all I did was keep track of the big names until the last few years.
For casual fans who might have felt ripped off from the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the news about the potential November superfight between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Andre “S.O.G.” Ward probably slipped by.
Kovalev, a Russian with crushing power is widely considered the best light heavyweight (175 pounds) on the planet. His destruction of the old but savvy Bernard Hopkins propelled him to a national audience and his prolonged torture he gave to Jean Pascal only furthered his dominance. A fight with lineal champion Adonis Stevenson fell through (however, it didn’t really seem close to coming to fruition) and Kovalev has been patiently waiting for a big match. With an attitude that seems equally sarcastic or villainous depending on perspective, Kovalev can be a polarizing figure as allegations of racism has dogged him in the past.
Ward on the other hand blew apart the super middleweight division (168) through the “Super Six” tournament in which he outclassed Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Artur Abraham and Carl Froch. The display that Ward put on in the tournament gives him one of the better resumes in boxing and if it weren’t for a couple years of promotional disputes and injuries that led to basically three years of inactivity, he’d be the number one pound for pound fighter on the planet.
Ward’s slow comeback has led to a dismantling of journeyman Paul Smith in 2015 and the outclassing of Cuban Sullivan Barrera earlier this March. Ward also has a tuneup fight scheduled against veteran Alexander Brand (not expected to be a challenge) in preparation for the possible November showdown against Kovalev.
Today, Kovalev had to take care of his own business against Isaac Chilemba. In his native Russia, for the first time since a fight in 2010 that led to the tragic passing of Roman Simakov, the fight was widely considered a tune-up for Ward. Chilemba is a gritty fighter, with subpar power and a good chin but also has solid counter-punching skills. Now, no one is on the same planet as Ward when it comes to fighting in a phone booth but Chilemba offers a sort-of RC Cola version of it.
The fight itself wasn’t the most thrilling minus a very big 7th round knockdown of Chilemba. Kovalev was able to make good usage of his powerful jab but often was knocked off balance by Chilemba’s slippery approach. Kovalev won by unanimous decision however, again it wasn’t the most impressive performance by him and in fact might lead some to think Ward could have an easier time than anticipated.
I don’t really like recapping something you already saw or something you just know the results of so instead I’ll kind of provide the most telling thoughts and what it means for the future.
First things first, Isaac Chilemba is not some chump. Some analysis leading up to the fight made him seem like he was fucking going to play with his dick until Kovalev delivered the first 1-2.
Instead Chilemba showed a solid chin, very strong endurance, and some decent counter punching skills including a nice hook that rocked Kovalev’s head back in round 6. Chilemba is not gifted with power and that showed as Kovalev was able to walk through his biggest shots. This is perhaps a boxer that can be ranked in the bottom quarter of the top-10 in his division. The big Kovalev shots did hurt him in Rounds 7, 8 and 12 but otherwise he made a very good account of himself and chose his shots effectively enough to win a few rounds.
One thing in boxing I have learned is that there’s more than just pound-for-pound greats and tomato cans. There’s plenty of fighters that may not be Hall of Famers or icons who still can do some great things. Chilemba’s stock might have even slightly risen after tonight.
I’m no boxer. I just watch this shit on TV so to pretend I know what’s fucking best is a laughingstock. However, as a coach potato and a cross country runner (clearly someone who knows combat sports, that combo), I do see a benefit of Kovalev going through all twelve rounds. Both Pascal fights didn’t make it out of the eighth and a mandatory fight with fringe contender Nadjib Mohammedi ended in three. Really minus the Hopkins fight, that Kovalev thoroughly dominated, Kovalev hasn’t seen the distance since a six round match in 2010.
HBO’s Howard Lederman stated that Kovalev looked lazy at times. I’ve seen the word lethargic too. I can see both being pretty adept but I don’t think boxers the caliber of Kovalev and Ward dismiss fighters. If anything I think Kovalev was either confused at times or just waiting for an opening that seldom came. Chilemba was able to just slip in a jab to break up a combo or evade Kovalev enough to have nothing land.
However, Chilemba is a good boxer but again he’s no Andre Ward. Ward has this almost supernatural ability to detect a punch coming and immediately counter. He’s not as powerful as Kovalev (few are) but he certainly has quite a bit of pop in his glove and can fight on the inside better than nearly anyone.
Ward does have to take care of business with Brand, but as a relatively impartial observer (though admittedly a big fan of S.O.G. and Kovalev’s fighting); he can certainly do some damage against Kovalev and if I had a gun to my head, I’d probably imagine a fight being similar to a tactical affair that greatly benefits the American.
Things To Watch
- First, Andre Ward will have fought three times in basically four years against fairly middling competition. His talent and resume are great but Kovalev is definitely a big step up from Sullivan Barrera. I would’ve been okay with a fight against someone like Yunieski Gonzalez (who I believe beat Pascal in July 2015) and having that set up a Kovalev fight in January but I get that he was on short notice. Ward is going up in weight and has only fought at LHW twice which does open up some thoughts.
- Second, Kovalev certainly has to adapt but he has equalizing power. Very few hit harder than Kovalev and he has a warrior-like mean streak in the ring. Kovalev is talented and powerful but certainly not some careless brawler and his jab can hurt. He has 12 rounds in the backpocket against an ultra-lite version of Ward which definitely can help him.
- I fucking can’t wait for November.
- I also am fully aware I don’t know shit about boxing.