Ward vs. Kovalev II: The Rigged Rematch

Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II: June 17th, 2017 Mandalay Bay Las Vegas, NV


I’ll be honest…

I was biased going into Saturday’s fight.

In a highly anticipated rematch, Sergey Kovalev looked to avenge his controversial decision loss to Andre Ward in their light heavyweight title fight last November. Nothing gets me going more than a declaration of destruction and vengeance, and back in November I agreed: Kovalev was robbed by the judges and Ward acted as if it was a clear-consensus-conclusion (try saying that 3x fast…if you’re bored).

I will not go into detail on its predecessor, but the first fight was as close as it gets. Different fighting styles collided leading to knockdowns, round-at-a-time comebacks, and corner speeches (courtesy of Virgil Hunter) so cheesy/inspiring that I considered going dairy free and cried simultaneously. The first fight went the distance and went to the judges, awarding Andre Ward a decision win over Sergey Kovalev.

Entertainment in its purest form: real-life, suspenseful, and controversial.

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The second fight maintained the three entertainment elements, with an extra serving of controversial.

Andre Ward was once again crowned the victor, this time via TKO in the 8th round. Taking a look at the finish, the word “disputable” doesn’t even begin to describe the finished result. The main contention was that Ward delivered a set of low blows, declaring war on Kovalev’s family jewels and incapacitating him simultaneously. Keeling over, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. A bit too early perhaps…


This fight was RIGGED.


Don’t kill me yet. I don’t mean “rigged” in the typical fashion. Nobody purposely toyed with this fight for personal gain, nobody paid off the fighters for a scripted effort, the reality of the sport was at its best. No, this fight was rigged in a way that’s hard to describe, hard to identify with.

This rematch was rigged in conjunction with expectationreaction and identity.

Sequels are strapped to benchmarks set by the original. Rematches are inherently more intriguing and popular than original fights because we’ve seen what has happened and our minds begin to paint what “could’ happen. [Sports journalism and culture in a nutshell] Expectation from fans, experts, and even the fighters themselves build into the escalation towards round two. This fundamental aspect causes the reaction of the fight to compare to preconceived possibilities of how it could play out.

Regarding or Living in the Past?

Losses can yield one of two results: destruction of confidence or creation of motivation. The latter should be used in all walks of life, learning from mistakes and failures, adjusting to avoid such pitfalls, and getting right back to it. The one self-owned excuse Kovalev gave after the first fight was that he gassed out. So, he adjusted and got a new conditioning coach to avoid gassing out. He attacked the fight with a more calculated approach, despite the beauty of the buildup. The escalation to the rematch was primarily centered on Kovalev’s revenge, and it didn’t disappoint. There was the abusive trash-talking, the “Son of Judges” moniker, the threats of ending Ward’s career, and of course the storming out of a press conference to truly prove Kovalev’s intent:

In my opinion, this was proven significantly by the purse split. This was a very simple rematch to set up, with no word of negotiation issues. Kovalev accepting the deal for PPV percentage proves that he is motivated by earning back his loss, his belt, and his pride…ironically, all that were lost during the rematch.

Multiple times throughout the fight, Ward had landed questionably low shots to Kovalev. He immediately looked to the ref in attempts to confirm Ward’s shots as dirty and illegal. Despite the obvious prerogative to keep fights clean and reputable, the idea for a fighter to focus on the ref to punish his opponent is completely contrary to the ideology and fundamentals of boxing or fighting in any manner. I have no doubt that a shot like that is utterly painful, but regardless if it was actually below the belt or not, Kovalev can’t count on that to win him the fight. After all, 2/3 of the judges’ scorecards did have Ward winning…

What’s that old saying…if you want something done? 

Anyway, the ref did not halt the fight or punish Ward. The fight continued and ended. That’s life and you have to roll with the punches whether they come from a fighter or the officiating. Sergey learned this the first time around with the fight going to the scorecards. However, rather than regarding what came and went, it seems as if Sergey decided to take a trip down memory lane. The immediate excuses coming out of Kovalev’s camp resonate almost identical to the first meeting. It’s very easy to look through their perspective: unfair shots and a misjudged decision to stop the fight caused Sergey to lose. I get it. But what does complaining and contesting the result achieve? He goes out questioning and comparing, rather than accepting and being present. The chance to show the ultimate form of respect was squandered through excuses and anger. Regarding the past and living in it are not the same thing.

These things, paired with the public’s subjective focus create the fight’s identity.

The action’s and statements of the fighters will live as the story. Not many people mention Ward’s improbable and legitimate comeback the first fight. The talk of Ward’s improvement and tactical breakdown of Kovalev this time around is minimal. The discussion of Ward’s P4P legitimacy is not even close to what it deserves. But then again, what is ever really “deserved” rather than earned in life? It’s this rigged nature of reality that carries on with fighter’s, their legacy, and the fight’s resonance for the years to come.

Uncertainty is inevitable and unavoidable. The rigged nature of this infested itself within the fight as a reminder. So once again, Andre Ward walks away the victor, still undefeated. Sergey Kovalev claims loss via bias instead of fact. Whether it was illegal, whether it was premature, whether the protest of the loss is successful, the fight is over. The result is engraved and ingrained by the viewers. The sport of boxing is rigged by reminding us that fighters must do what they can to win the fights with the possibility of bias and lack of fairness, giving and taking control from the fighter’s hands.

Ward v. Kovalev 2 was rigged by the conventions of the fight game as a sequel: to entertain, disappoint, and divide.

Such is life.

About the author: JackCrowe

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