Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev meet for a second time in the rematch billed ‘No Excuses’ after their first fight ended so contentiously.
It was Kovalev who surprised the boxing world when he started strong and landed the first fight’s most decisive punch, which sent Ward crashing to the canvas in the second round, only to see the judges unanimously favour the local fighter at the end of the 12 championship rounds.
Krusher’s perfect record was ruined but his reputation rocketed, and, seven months later, he has an opportunity to avenge his only – and controversial – loss.
Words like ‘robbery’ and the phrase ‘hometown decision’ were used by many and has since spawned a bitter feud amongst the two fighters with the Russian calling the American a fake champion.
I watched the first fight with interest and I saw Kovalev take an early and very wide lead only for Ward to come back slowly in the second half and gradually close the gap. That’s all he managed to do, however, and never actually drew level or even managed to get ahead of his opponent, in my opinion, although the scorecards said otherwise.
He got the nod from the ringside officials – 114-113 on all three scorecards – but I’m not the only one that was bewildered at the announcements because the decision didn’t sit right with many boxing fans.
Still undefeated, the 175lbs champion will defend his WBA, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles against the challenger Kovalev, who is the previous holder of those belts.
Kovalev shot off to a great start in the first encounter against an unprepared Ward, who struggled to get into the fight, but eventually the Californian settled in and slowly began to figure out his enthusiastic enemy to a point where he started to get the better of his opponent.
In the return bout, in the boxing capital of the World – Las Vegas, Ward should start stronger having had the experience of being in with his rival already and, thus, being better prepared for what will come, so I believe he will win again by unanimous decision, and by a slightly wider margin this time.
Guillermo Rigondeaux v Moises Flores
Cuba v Mexico – it doesn’t get much better than that. Well, actually, it does, when you throw into the mix that they are both undefeated and that it’s the WBA Super champ against the WBA #1 contender, and then you’ve got a fight on your hands!
The reigning WBA titleholder Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux will face the interim champion Moises “Chucky” Flores on the undercard of the aforementioned Ward v Kovalev II in a long-awaited mandatory title defense that will tarnish one fighter’s perfect record.
The Cuban was one of the most celebrated amateur boxers before making his professional debut in 2009 in Miami and he has lived up to the high expectations placed upon him.
The 36-year-old southpaw won his first title in his third pro fight, the interim World title in his seventh and became a World champion before reaching double figures.
Mexico’s Flores is an exceptional talent and is an extraordinary figure measuring in at 5ft 9”! As such, he tends to have a reach advantage over most of his opponents, although he isn’t one to merely fire from distance and box on the outside, rather he likes to mix it up, and his record reflects that, with most of his opponents going down by knockout.
An electrifying, all-action brawl against interim WBA World super-bantamweight champion Oscar Escandon in California in 2015, earned Flores a split decision to win the title. In his last two fights, Flores was able to defend the belt against Luis Emanuel Cusolito, while also adding the IBO World super-bantamweight title against Paulus Ambunda.
He’s now seeking a second World title at the Mandalay Bay Casino but I don’t think that he’ll get one when up against a master in Rigondeaux. I think the Cuban wins on points, being superior in every department, for me.
Tyron Zeuge v Paul Smith
Liverpool’s Paul Smith will challenge Berlin’s Tyron Zeuge for the WBA’s World super-middleweight title at the Rittal Arena in Hessen.
Once again, the 34-year-old will head to the Lion’s Den in Germany, which was the setting for his first couple of cracks at World crowns when he lost back-to-bouts with Arthur Abraham in 2014 and 2015.
Smith was stopped by Andre Ward in his next fight, making it a trio of consecutive defeats, but has since strung together three wins in a row.
The German champion is unbeaten in 21 contests and nine years Smith’s junior. He won the title in a rematch with Giovanni De Carolis after their first meeting ended in a stalemate.
I don’t confess to know a lot about him but I would expect Zeuge to come forward, work harder and have a more positive approach to the fight than Smith, and will likely go on to win on points.