The dust may have settled over Saturday night’s Las Vegas main event between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, but that doesn’t mean people are satisfied with the outcome and the so-called ‘controversy’ it has stirred up, specifically the defeated former champion.
In what was more of a chess match than we perhaps expected, Ward managed to climb off the canvas and fight his was back to a unanimous, albeit close, victory on the judges scorecards, securing the unified light-heavyweight crown and the biggest win of his career in the process.
However, despite the fact the result was so close, the majority of the viewing public at this point seem to believe the Ward Kovalev decision should have gone the other way.
Some 48 hours later the general consensus on the Ward Kovalev fight seems to be this: Those who saw Ward taking home the gold had him winning a very close contest.
Those who saw Kovalev holding onto his belts had him winning by a considerably wider margin.
I myself shared the view of Paulie Malignaggi – who was working with Sky Sports here in the UK – and scored the fight in favour of the more accurate Ward.
Whatever you think of the overall Ward Kovalev result, you can’t deny it made for enthralling viewing. Enthralling viewing which may have been marred by some of the comments made during the post-fight interviews.
Ward remained as gracious as ever and was full of praise for his trainer and mentor Virgil Hunter, as well as his Russian opponent, for whom the same can not be said.
When it was Kovalev’s turn to speak he wisely resisted speaking his mind for the most part, but succumbed to his bitterness at end of the segment.
When HBO analyst and commentator Max Kellerman asked Kovalev how he would alter his performance in a potential Ward Kovalev rematch to make himself appear more favourable, his response was anything but a critique on his own style and more of a lashing against the three scoring judges in somewhat broken English:
“I am a guest here in USA. He is a local and all judges was from USA. In understand they support his (their) boxer. But honestly, this is sport. Don’t make it politics.”
In a rant which caused many of those still in attendance to convert their cheers for the former champ into boos, Kovalev made his true feelings clear – that he believes the judges were more favourable to Ward due to his American status rather than his performance in the ring.
While Kovalev’s dismay at losing all his titles is perfectly understandable, to boil the loss down to bias based on nationality is the oldest trick in the book for any foreign champion losing away from home and could lose the heavy-handed Russian a lot of respect in the international boxing community, amongst other things, if he’s not careful.
In an article published on this site several days ago I highlighted my pride in the fact the media and advertisers had managed to leave the fighters’ respective countries of origin out of the spotlight, instead of cashing in on a predictably spun, offensive ‘Team USA vs Team USSR’ type of campaign.
Sadly, I did not anticipate Sergey Kovalev would be the one to dig up that old dog’s bone. Even on the off-chance there is any validity to his statement, that kind of sore-loser schoolboy talk is not the talk of a true champion.
If Ward, his team or the promoters really are concerned about any ‘controversy’ to be found at the result this past Saturday night, maybe travelling to Russia for the rematch would quieten down any slanderous whispers and would certainly leave Kovalev with nowhere to hide and nowhere to point the blame should he lose on points again – which I imagine would be the case.
In the meantime the best thing Kovalev can do is to keep his head down, get back to training and let his actions speak louder than his words next time round.
No matter how sore he feels at the moment, the very worst thing he can do is to begin alienating an American audience which has taken him and his brand into their fight-fan hearts so gladly.
Is it already too late? Time will tell. Stay tuned.