LAS VEGAS — After leaving no doubt who was the best light heavyweight around, Andre Ward talked about securing his place as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and perhaps even one day moving up to heavyweight.
The talk in Sergey Kovalev’s camp, meanwhile, was about protesting the outcome of Saturday night’s fight because the referee did nothing about borderline low blows that helped bring the fight to an end in the eighth round.
Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, said she would protest to the Nevada Athletic Commission on Monday to try and erase the second straight loss Kovalev suffered at the hands of Ward. Duva admitted, though, she has little hopes a protest would succeed.
“We have to try,” Duva said. “He was hitting him low the whole fight.”
Two blows near or below the belt line in the final seconds helped finish off Kovalev, who sat on the bottom ring rope as referee Tony Weeks called an end to the fight at 2:29 of the eighth round. Ward, who caused a brief pause in the fight in the second round when he hit Kovalev below the belt, was never warned after that by Weeks for low blows.
Still, it was a big right hand that started Kovalev’s downfall in the final round, and he didn’t protest much when the fight was ended.
“I could have continued,” the Russian said. “I didn’t feel he could throw the punch that would end the fight. This is fighting, we are boxers and he did punch me but he didn’t hurt me. The fight should have continued.”
Ward and his camp dismissed any idea that low blows were a factor, preferring instead to celebrate a win that put to rest any controversy over the judging in their first fight last November. In that fight Ward came back from a second round knockdown to win a decision by one point on all three ringside scorecards.
“Whatever the excuses were this time, I just don’t have the energy,” Ward said.
Ward remained unbeaten by turning the tables on the big punching Kovalev, who seemed to tire as the fight went on. Ward was ahead on two judges’ scorecards and behind on a third when he landed a right hand midway through the eighth round that caused Kovalev’s legs to wobble.
He went after Kovalev, finally finishing him off in a neutral corner with the disputed body shots.
“I knew this time it was going to be different,” Ward said. “He’s a great fighter,” Ward said. “You’ve got to raise your game to the next level and thankfully that’s what we did tonight.”
Kovalev was credited by Compubox with throwing 407 punches to 238 for Ward, and out landing him 95-80. It was anyone’s fight going into the eighth round, with the AP having Kovalev ahead by a point, until Ward landed the right hand that proved the difference.
“I don’t know, I can’t explain it,” Kovalev said. “I thought I was doing very good. I was better and he was better this fight. I didn’t feel like I was getting knocked down by the power of his punches.”
Ward, who won an Olympic gold in 2004 and hasn’t lost a fight since he was 12, jokingly talked about moving up to heavyweight and taking on Britain’s Anthony Joshua. He also suggested he could become a cruiserweight.
Whatever his future, he did what he vowed to do in the rematch with Kovalev—take away any suggestion that his win last November was tainted. He got $6.5 million to do so, and a hug in the ring afterward from Kevin Durant, one of several Golden State Warriors who came to the fight to see the fighter from Oakland who has taped inspirational messages for the team.
He may also finally get his place atop the unofficial pound-for-pound ratings that boxing fans like to debate. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist is now undefeated in 32 fights as a pro and has won titles at both 168 and 175 pounds.