There was something off about three scoring judges giving Andre Ward the unanimous victory over Sergey Kovalev in a fight for three light heavyweight belts. Some called it the biggest robbery in boxing since a weird scoring decision handed Timothy Bradley the win over Manny Pacquiao.
This fight wasn’t as one sided as that one, which was later turned into a rematch, and another one, both easily won by Pacquiao, who was the superior fighter in the first bout. And now there’s talk of an immediate rematch between Ward and Kovalev. It was probably the most entertaining fight Ward has been involved in ever, or at least since the Super Six tournament which helped him get his claim to fame. Finishing his busiest year since 2009, Ward won 114-113 on all three scorecards.
A split decision going in Ward’s favor would have made more sense, although most people would have still been angry with the result. Not because they don’t like Ward. This isn’t an automatic hate thing like we see involved when Floyd Mayweather fights. It’s not even that Ward is one of the more boring champions to watch. It was simply a fight in which he got knocked down and shook hard a few times by Kovalev. Ward did regroup and win a lot of the later rounds, but it never felt like he did enough to make it seems like he outboxed Kovalev in enough rounds, especially with the Russian lineal champion (until now) ending his rough stretch of the fight and waking up in the final two or three rounds.
Kovalev, obviously, was unhappy with the fight. Most unofficial scorers gave the fight to Kovalev, with a range of 114-113 to 115-112. Kovalev thought Ward won maybe three or four rounds, nothing more. He was probably right. But the fight was on US soil. With three American judges. You could hear the crowd feel like this was the wrong decision when it was announced. The gasps, the silence. Ward tried to make it seem like he got some special standing ovation from becoming a five-belt champion across two divisions, but it just felt off, felt wrong.
Maybe it was the closing impression. Through the first six rounds, Kovalev landed 16 more punches than Ward, and the first three rounds were his by landslide. But Ward got in more punches in the final six rounds, 80 to 74. Not enough to claim a victory in the opinion of most, and certainly Kovalev’s, but the judges inside the T-Mobile Arena fought the undefeated Olympic gold medalist did enough to secure the victory, handing the 33-year old Kovalev his first career defeat.
A rematch seems like the sensible thing, but Ward never rushes into things. After winning the Super Six tournament in 2011, he fought only three times in a span of over four years. A lot of it had to do with business disputes and not actually boxing stuff, but don’t be surprised if Kovalev doesn’t get the rematch he wants so badly as soon as possible. Ward likes being the Light Heavyweight champion, even if he knows he didn’t deserve to win the fight.