“When I see his face, I want to punch it. I will get this opportunity on June 17th and I’m very happy for this opportunity to smash his face”, said a pumped Sergei Kovalev during an interview earlier this week.
Built as the fight of the year last year, Kovalev went into this fight as a slight favorite, naturally heavier fighter and a promising star ready to break into the top three pound for pound rankings. It even all started well, Kovalev showing his strength and power punching capability, scoring an early knockdown and controlling the early rounds. But then Andre Ward got a second wind, and fought his way back, winning rounds and beating Kovalev to the punch and winning the decision on the scorecards.
Most likely one of the most controversial decisions of last year – many had Kovalev winning, others a draw given the late comeback of Ward and but not as many had Ward winning it.
This is more than a rematch for Kovalev, its redemption and payback, and based on his comments this week during all his fight week interviews, he means business. He has grown this hatred for Andre Ward and everything around him – his team, management and even trainer. Kovalev has a point to prove and recognizes that he cannot let this fight go to the scorecards again.
So what are the keys for Kovalev winning this fight:
- Timing & Conserving Energy
Kovalev is naturally the heavier and stronger fighter – he needs to time his power punching and conserve his energy – during the last fight, observers noted tiredness for his deterioration and that resulted from exerting too much energy during the early rounds. Being naturally flat footed, he should adjust his game plan to be passive aggressive as opposing to taking the fight to Ward
- Being Smart
Andre Ward will be expecting Kovalev to be at his best and constantly come at him and chase him, like he did in the first fight. Kovalev is one hell of a puncher but he at times is also one dimensional as well, just like we saw against Bernard Hopkins. Ward used this to his advantage and ultimately won the fight by being the smarter fighter in the second half of the fight. Kovalev needs to do the same, show aggression in pockets, let Ward come to him and ensure he’s winning rounds
Given all that happened during the last fight and his new grown animosity to Ward, he needs to control his emotions and not let them get the better of him to disrupt his game plan. Keep focused, stick to the game plan and be smart in there.
- Size + Power Punches
Given his size and power, he needs to use this in his advantage. Having knocked down Ward in the opening exchanges during the last fight, he must draw confidence in his punching ability and power and use this with great timing and accuracy.
With all this said, does Kovalev have what it takes to be victorious tonight, or will his emotions get the better off him – tune in tonight on HBO PPV at 9pm.