The fight was billed as “No Excuses.”
But after Andre Ward scored an eighth-round TKO over Sergey Kovalev, there were nothing but excuses coming from Team Kovalev. Maybe there were a few punches that drifted below the belt during that final onslaught that caused referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight. But it’s not Ward’s job to stop the action. And, to be completely honest, those questionable punches aren’t what began the demise of Kovalev. It was a right hand that landed clean that put the Russian on shaky legs and began his search for the exit row.
Watch the ending sequence again.
A right hand from Ward damaged Kovalev and put him in deep trouble. If nothing else, Kovalev’s body language was of a fighter who didn’t want to be there. S.O.G. sought the knockout and hunted his staggered prey. One can argue that the fight could have went longer and Weeks could have halted the action due to what appeared to be a few punches that went astray. But it may have only delayed the inevitable. Furthermore, it’s not Ward’s job to stop the action.
Unfortunately, between Kathy Duva and Team Kovalev’s post-fight rant and the somewhat controversial finish, some will still not give Ward his due. There will be those who are critical of Ward’s performance and won’t give him his due because of what can be deemed as a controversial stoppage.
But THE RING magazine’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world scored a knockout over the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter. There are no questions. Ward is the best fighter alive at this very moment. Whether you like it or not.
No, he hasn’t endeared himself to boxing fans nor has he with the media. He’s not selling out arenas or doing massive pay-per-view numbers. But what he does consistently is win. He took a questionable decision in the first fight against Kovalev and took it out of the hands of the judges in the rematch.
What more can you ask of him?
Do you want him to be more exciting in the ring? More brash outside of it? Maybe he should stop talking about God so much or throw his money at the camera to prove that he has it. Roc Nation should do a better job promoting him, you say? He shouldn’t have engaged in a lawsuit with his promoter nor should he have been injured, which kept him out of the ring for some of his prime years? He shouldn’t be so arrogant?
Ultimately, none of these things are necessarily his fault. His job is to win in the squared circle. His promoter’s job is to promote. Ward stepped up in weight and challenged one of the best fighters in the world in a higher weight class and beat him twice. Roc Nation pays him handsomely for his work ($6.5 million against Kovalev) while not requiring him to step out of character to sell a fight. We want him to be something that he’s not for our entertainment. But that’s not how this works.
During the post-fight press conference, Ward said that he can no longer concern himself with “they.” Whatever “they” say has no bearing on Ward’s paycheck and hasn’t prevented him from winning fights. So why change now?
What’s equally interesting is that Ward is essentially everything that Floyd Mayweather Jr. isn’t outside of the ring. And people despise Mayweather for his personality. But inside the ring they are similar. Both make incremental adjustments throughout the fight and take away their opponent’s best weapon. Neither is known as a knockout puncher but have the ability to put their opponents away when the window opens.
But just like Mayweather, Ward is going to be criticized despite being unbeaten for his entire professional career and bringing home a gold medal for the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics. If he hasn’t now, he’ll never get his due. And, apparently, he’s done trying to appease the masses who question his greatness.
We don’t know what the future holds for Ward. Maybe he squares off with Adonis Stevenson or bumps up another weight class. But, even then, it’s never going to be good enough for a few.
However, on June 17, 2017, Andre Ward stopped one of the most feared fighters in the world. He got the job done, again.
What’s our excuse for not appreciating his greatness now?