Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) and Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) are among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, despite being nowhere close to being household names. The two light heavyweights will battle for Kovalev’s WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in perhaps the most anticipated boxing event of 2016.
Boxing purists are likely drooling over this fight because of the obvious similarities between the two superstars. They are the same height, have almost the same reach, have the same number of wins, fight from an orthodox stance, are fearless in the ring, and both fly under the radar despite their immense talent. Indeed, it’s been a long time since there was a championship fight that pitted such evenly matched fighters.
Kovalev, 33, clearly has more knockout power, and will almost certainly look to catch Ward with a hard right hand as he usually does with his opponents. The Russian often has the ability land precise punches by going to the body and timing his jabs. Kovalev also has deceptive mobility, which could be an important asset in the most important fight of his career.
Ward, 32, is climbing from super middleweight to fight Kovalev, but he will likely handle the weight gain without much trouble. The San Francisco native is one of the best technically efficient boxers in the world, and has exceptional defensive skills. Ward seems certain to bounce around the ring, while selectively picking his punches to keep Kovalev guessing.
Stamina might be the determining factor of the bout. Kovalev went 12 rounds against Isaac Chilemba, a marginal figure in the division, when they fought in July near Kovalev’s hometown. Ward, on the other hand, seems to thrive when the fight progresses into the late rounds.
According to betting site Bovada, Ward is the favorite at -145, compared to Kovalev at +115.
Coverage of the boxing event begins at 9 p.m. ET., with three undercard fights. The main event is expected to start at about 11:45 p.m. ET. The fight will be broadcasted on HBOPPV, and comes a price of $59.99.
Prediction: This one should be close. Because of his familiarity at this weight division, Kovalev certainly has a good chance of winning if Ward has no choice but to go toe-to-toe. But Ward should effectively jab enough to frustrate Kovalev, and intermittently land his big left hook, to earn the win on a unanimous decision.