Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will meet for the second time Saturday in a fight between arguably the two best light heavyweights, but there's a prospect on the undercard who could soon join the picture.
Again the Russian started stronger, with Ward firing off enough counter-shots to keep himself in the fight but looking tired between rounds.
In the eighth round, Ward started to target the body more and more and with each punch landed to Kovalev's midsection he seemed to wince while going into survival mode.
"We're going to shut the door on this", Ward, 33, said, "and take all doubt and all questions off the table". And ahead of the rematch, the former light-heavyweight ruler is not only predicting a victory, but also stunningly vowing to finish Ward'sboxing career. It was a crashing right hand to the head that badly hurt Kovalev and started the assault the that finished the fight. I didn't feel it. "It takes something to do something".
An impressive performance from Ward was marred by the ending to the fight, with a succession of borderline low blows securing the stoppage after he had initially rocked the Russian with a powerful straight right to the head. But a wicked right hook to the stomach hurt Kovalev, who unsuccessfully protested to referee Tony Weeks that it was low. He was trying to cover up his body. I went back to the body. "Then the referee stopped the fight". "It's a shame", said Kovalev's promoter Kathy Duva. "I hope the whole world sees what it's like to get in the ring with me".
"It was a low blow".
"On Monday we will file a protest and ask the Commission to reconsider the replay Kovalev punches below the belt. We'll file a protest on Monday".
Ward's trainer Virgil Hunter says that Ward would "outbox Anthony Joshua" and how AJ's size wouldn't be a factor. "The first was Chad Dawson [in 2012], and the second was tonight".
"I wasn't healthy during the last camp", he said. "Now we have quieted all those who were whining and thought we didn't get it the first time". Kovalev appeared on his way to beating Ward in November before Ward gained control midway through the fight and eked out a one-point win on all three scorecards.
Ward (31-0, 15 knockouts) isnt about to invite Kovalev over for dinner, either.
Andre Ward has an Olympic gold medal, and the Oakland, Calif., fighter showed the type of world-class professional mettle Saturday night that he believes should entrench his status as the world's top pound-for-pound fighter. "Am I No. 1 [in pound-for-pound rankings] now?" But as the time went by, Ward was adapting more and more, eventually turning this fight into his advantage. "A lot of people talk about his jab and the right hand", Ward said. He will pay for everything; I promise you. "I always prepare to go 12 rounds and make sure I put on a lovely fight".
They weren't low blows.
"I've been through adversity in and out of the ring", Ward said. Ward throws a big right hand, and looks to fight on the inside. Yes, he did punch me, but he didn't hurt me.
Vegas's selection was 35-year-old Deryk Engelland, one of two pending unrestricted free agents the Golden Knights drafted. Griffin Reinhart joins the Golden Knights as a former Edmonton Oil King who won the WHL title twice and a Memorial Cup.
It was not enough to turn the tide for the Lions but it will give Gatland plenty of food for thought. Their pressure was overwhelming and it seemed in the first half hour that the Lions were collapsing.
Kovalev kept complaining to the referee he was being hit low and the referee, at least once, replied, "On the belt, on the belt ". Ward's style requires him to be lighter on his feet, swaying out of danger and lowering his head as he moves in and out of range.
Waisake Naholo hopes he has done enough to make the All Blacks starting line-up for the British and Irish Lions' Test matches. Tuesday's game was like a Test match, the speed, intensity and collisions.
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Gatland believes the Lions can now push their tour onto new levels after securing a hugely-important and morale-boosting victory. The tourists will be captained by Sam Warburton who has been nursing an ankle injury.
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