Boxing fans ready for Ward-Kovalev at T-Mobile Arena

November 15, 2016 3:06 AM
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Boxing returns to Las Vegas this coming Saturday night as T Mobile Arena plays host to the long awaited light heavyweight showdown between Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KO’s) and Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KO’s). Though Kovalev enters the ring as the current WBO, IBF, & WBA title holder, it’s the challenger who is slated to walk down the aisle as the betting favorite.

Oddsmakers listed the former unified super middleweight champion and Olympic gold medal winner, Andre Ward as a -150 favorite. Since betting for the bout opened, money on the underdog has forced bookmakers to adjust and the current line has Ward as low as -130, with the take-back in Kovalev +115. It’s difficult to predict which way the odds will shift between now and fight night as opinions on who will ultimately emerge victorious appear to be split. Therefore, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the respected betting syndicates get involved and impact the betting line significantly.

These two fighters have combined to win 60 fights without experiencing a single loss, yet each has secured his 30 wins in very different ways...

For Kovalev, he’s constantly on his front foot employing a two-handed attack against opponents. He’s shown a profound ability to cut off the ring and force the action by remaining aggressive throughout his fights. The perception surrounding the champion is that he’s hard-hitting, heavy handed, and possesses one punch finishing power. And also that he’s simply a puncher, rather than a boxer.

Yet that conclusion was proven incorrect when Kovalev was able to avoid many of the traps set, and the superior boxing skills of Bernard Hopkins. Granted, “B-Hop” was up there in age but he was still one of the most accomplished defensive and cerebral fighters in the past 20 years. In fact, Kovalev has faced many different styles and fought top level competition, without ever being in any real trouble in past fights.

For Ward, the one question that needs to be answered is whether or not he is still the same fighter he was prior to the stint of inactivity. Andre has climbed into the ring only 3 times since November of 2013, against less than stellar opposition. But before that, he was near the very top of all respected “Pound for Pound” lists, having won the Super Six World Boxing Classic.

In that tournament Ward went on to beat the very best super middleweights in the world, at a time when the 168 lb weight division was at its most competitive. He did it by outboxing his opponents and as is evident by his knockout percentage, it’s been that way throughout his professional career.

Ward is amongst the most efficient and expert boxers of this generation. He’s extremely versatile in his use of this skill set, beating some by “sticking and moving” and others by getting inside and smothering them. Simply put, the former Fighter of the Year has a bottomless bag of tricks that he’s able to go into in order to win a fight.

Stylistically, this match-up does set up as a “boxer vs puncher” type of bout with Ward being the former, and Kovalev the latter. If that proves to be the case and holds true to form, then I would have to agree with the betting odds which reflect Ward to be the favorite. Throughout the history of the sport we’ve witnessed the boxer come out on top more times than not. Well before Ali beat Foreman, and for decades since, the puncher has had less success obtaining a knock-out than the boxer has had out pointing his way to victory.

Will that happen here in Las Vegas on Saturday night?

I’m not thoroughly convinced, mostly because I’m not certain Ward is the same fighter he was between 2009 and 2011, when he was able to overcome even the biggest punchers. On the flip side of that coin, I’m also not confident that he isn’t either.

Therefore, I believe the best bet to place may be on the “Total Rounds” prop. I believe this fight will make it to the championship rounds and has a high probability of the outcome being left in the hands of the judges.

I know that many believe that if it’s decided before the final bell sounds, it’s Kovalev who will be the winner. And that if the fight goes to a decision, then it’s Ward’s hand that will be raised. Personally, I wouldn’t be too sure of that because both these men have exceptional chins are highly durable. Also, they are two very experienced prize fighters who can overcome adversity, and know how to survive when in trouble.

Finally, I expect this championship bout to resemble a chess match throughout and not a brawl. It will be the type which boxing purists appreciate much more than casual fight fans who prefer an all-out scrap. That doesn’t mean it will not be fun to watch or won’t have some very exciting and tense moments for both sides. Instead, it simply means that we have two very elite fighters who will show a lot of respect for each other’s skills, resulting in a lot less risks being taken.

PICK: OVER 9.5 Rounds (-240) and OVER 10.5 Rounds (-190)

Twitter: @Greek_Gambler