November 23, 2016

KO's Kovalev-Ward Round-By-Round Scoring & Analysis: Who Really Won?

Another boxing robbery
(KO DIGEST) On November 19 in Las Vegas, Boxing 2016 offered paying fans its biggest and best fight of the year, Andre Ward challenging Sergey Kovalev for the Russian's unified world light heavyweight championships. Experts and pundits agreed only that Ward versus Kovalev was a 50/50 fight between two of the very pound for pound fighters on the planet. After twelve rounds of sometimes thrilling action, three American judges returned a very controversial unanimous decision in favor of new champion Ward, 114-113 on all three scorecards. Immediately there were cries of "robbery" from fans stupefied with the verdict. It looked like Kovalev had done more than enough to retain his titles based on having scored an early knockdown en route to controlling the fight with his jab and superior firepower. KO Digest takes a close look at the fight round by round to offer you, the boxing fan, an unbiased look into what really happened when Ward collided with Kovalev.

Round One: Feeling out process early as both paw with probing punches. Ward taps left jabs to Kovalev's body. A left jab buckles Ward's knees and he reels away to the ropes, hurt from the power early and holding on. When Krusher's hands are moving towards Ward, SOG is moving back away from them and he complains to the African American referee who warns Kovalev for pushing down. A stiff left jab from the defending light heavyweight champion punctuates the opening round and wins it for him, 10-9.

Early knockdown predicted by KO Digest on RingTV
Round Two: Ward starts the round looking to box from an outside range. Kovalev presses the action and when it gets rough, Ward grabs. Meaningful left hooks fail to materialize for SOG and he is jabbed back again and put into a state of retreat. With 42 seconds left in the frame, a smashing right to the face from Kovalev puts Ward on all fours, victim of a clean knockdown. He is up immediately and smiling through the mandatory 8 count. Kovalev's killer instinct is nullified by Ward's survivalist holding tactics. Kovalev wins the round 10-8.

Things look grim for Ward.

Round Three: Ward leads with a left jab, clinch combo to open the third. An SOG lead right misses and Ward follows through with an attempted tackle. The referee warms them both for some reason. Kovalev offered a sportsmanlike glove and SOG let it hang. Ward struggles to avoid the left jab of Kovalev. Ward is clearly uncomfortable under such attack. When Ward stops moving, he ends up in a clinch of his own creation. Another stiff left jab from Kovalev has Ward holding on again with no warning. In a round of jabs, Kovalev's clearly had more of an effect on Ward than vice-versa.

Round to Kovalev, 10-9. He's now up 30-26 after three.

Ward struggled with Kovalev
Round Four: Ward clinches and punches with the left hand. It's becoming clear that Robert Byrd will do nothing to control Ward's repeated fouls. They wrestle in the corner and maul each other equally. Another big left hook from Ward misses. This is usually SOG's best punch. Kovalev is walking Ward back all over the ring. Were Krusher to stop moving forward, there'd be no fight whatsoever. As the round times out, Kovalev lands a left jab and causes Ward to flinch from a right hand feint. It's a tell-tale moment about who is controlling the round when actual contact is limited. Kovalev wins another round 10-9.

Round Five: Typical pattern of the fight continues with Ward either backing up or dirty clinching in some form or fashion. Kovalev's left jab lands and Ward is disrupted again by it. Ward somehow ends up behind Kovalev and as Krusher spins out to right himself from the awkward position initiated by Ward, SOG punches at Krusher from behind, another foul. At the mid-way point of the round, Ward spears Kovalev with a left jab. They trade hard left jabs with 30 seconds left in the round. Kovalev lands another hard jab just before the bell. If you're an Andre Ward fanclub member, you give him this round.

If you're trying to be as fair as possible, it's another close round for Kovalev, 10-9.

Round Six: Things get ugly quick after Ward places a few soft body punches. Clinching and mauling persist. Ward cannot fight on even terms with Kovalev in a stand up fight or in heavy punching exchanges. Everyone including Kovalev and the referee seems frustrated with Ward's tendencies. A long right hand bounces off the head of Ward at the half way point in the round. Kovalev seems to have the answer for Ward while SOG looks lost in there at times. A sweeping left hook and right hand to the face from Kovalev keeps Ward moving away from the action. Ward digs a left to the gut at the ten second warning. They fight in a clinch at the bell. Kovalev round 10-9.

Round Seven: Hardly a single punch of consequence lands in the first 60 seconds. Ward lands a left jab and the crowd reacts like he just dropped Kovalev, a feat Blake Caparello (but not SOG) was once able to pull off. They again fight in the clinches and Ward lands a right to the body on the way out of one of them. Ward's jab is more accurate in this round. A straight left hand from Kovalev forces Ward to hold on and deny the power of the punch with exaggerated head movements. Ward steals his first round, 10-9.

Ward eats a left on the ropes
Round Eight: When the "action" consists of so much backing up and holding, it gets hard to stay focused on who is really winning. The first two minutes of this round were squandered by more sloppy boxing than most people can stand to look at. Ward lands a right hand to the body that scores points but certainly doesn't hurt or otherwise deter Kovalev. The champion's reaction is not to clinch or avoid follow-up but to punch and miss for his efforts. Ward makes him pay with another pair of slapping rights to the body. Lefts from Ward stray borderline low and his elbow is in Kovalev's face as the round ends. Ward wins his second stanza, 10-9.

Round Nine: When Ward sets and attacks Kovalev, I am reminded of a prime Buddy McGirt but in this case, a less effective version. Buddy never had to deal with a Russian as good as Kovalev. Suddenly a snappy little boxing match breaks out and both are jabbing and moving. Ward lashes out with another good right to the body. Kovalev seems to be giving him the punch though. A hard right Krusher cross has Ward holding on with a minute to go.

Ward eats a left along the ropes and a right at the bell. Kovalev wins the round 10-9.

Round Ten: Another round for Kovalev. His jab is landing well. Ward responds with a pair of lefts, the hook and the jab. Krusher's jab breaks through Ward's timing, stymies his bolo punch attempt, something I wish Hagler could have done better and more marvelously against that dastardly Ray Leonard. With a minute to go, Kovalev lands a strong right like the one that decked Ward earlier. Ward takes the blow well but finds the jab hard to avoid. It would be impossible to score this round for anyone but Kovalev unless you were a Vegas boxing judge on the take. Kovalev 10-9. All three judges steal this round from Kovalev, proof they were in the tank for Ward.

Round Eleven: They wrestle to commence the championship rounds. Ward lands a pair of jabs, up and down. His left hook misses, something few fighters other than Kovalev have been able to consistently make happen in a boxing ring. Kovalev appears tight and disciplined as they trade jabs into jarring right hands that jolt Ward upon impact. By this point, Ward appears unusually battered and bloody. Kovalev looks slightly fatigued with a touch of blood from the left nostril. Ward lands a wide left hook but Kovalev makes him pay by chasing him around the ring with straight punches. A nice jab from Ward snaps Kovalev's head back as the round ends.

Krusher round 10-9. It looks to me like Ward needs a knockout to win.

Round Twelve: Ward lands a few left hooks early in the last round. Kovalev answers with a left hook of his own before clean punching devolves again into sloppy infighting and clinching. Both go well to the body during this period. Kovalev appears to go low on purpose and gets a warning for it as the fighters exchange more baleful stares than hard legal punches.

Round goes to Ward 10-9 for that early success and dedicated body attack late.

KO Digest scores the fight 117-110 for Kovalev.

Ward looks very surprised that he won
All three American ringside judges manufactured identical scores of 114-113 for Ward. Was it a robbery? Yes. One of the worst I have ever seen in my 30 plus years of observing this sport from various vantage points. What is the strongest evidence and the biggest red flag? Only one (1) judge gave one (1) round to Kovalev in the second half of the fight, from rounds 7 through 12. That is a crime hiding in plain site. Reddest flag? Ward was battered around badly in the tenth yet won the round on all three judge's score cards, revealing obvious bias in an effort to salvage the fight for the American. An easy way to see the obvious fix is as follows:

Crooked American Judges
Break the fight into two halves. It's generally understood by those living in reality that Kovalev dominated the first half. Ward was hurt in the first, decked in the second, and struggling to the half way point. How did the judges rack all that up? Three judges. Six rounds. No one judge gave Krusher the clean sweep he earned.

McKaie gave the 5th to Ward
Clements gave the 5th and 6th to Ward
Trowbridge gave the 3rd to Ward

So we see the judges are like Ward and his body punches. Placing them early so they will pay off later. On to the second half of the fight. Ward battled back. Sometimes surviving, rarely thriving, and by no means dominating. 

In fact, if Ward was doing anything well, it was dirty boxing and fouling.

The judges, able to track their own individual running tallies like a card counter in Vegas, realize what must be done. 

Or perhaps somebody in a panic tells them. Whatever. Regardless, it is done. Only one judge gives Kovalev one round in the second half of the fight he's the world champ in. That's a tragedy. It's Clements. He gave Kovalev the 12th because he has room on his card for that. Obvious fix is obvious. Kovalev was failed and robbed by four biased American officials, including the referee.

Written by Jeffrey Freeman, exclusively for KO Digest