It started with a weird dream I had.
In it, a beyond 50 year-old Bernard Hopkins was being chased around a dark apartment by an extremely aggressive and boogeyman-like Adonis “Superman” Stevenson. Hopkins hid around corners, threw salt shakers and cell phones, put banana peels on the floor, hid under mattresses and damn near anything he could to deter his rampaging enemy.
He did this – while remaining as calm as he could and conserving as much energy as possible – to level the playing field as best as he could, before slipping a piece of kryptonite in his Kool-Aid to flavor him with doubt.
In essence, he became Batman vs. Superman in an awful movie that felt like a nightmare.
We can’t control our dreams, but for whatever reason, a hypothetical Hopkins vs. Stevenson situation was floating through my spiritual realm after absorbing the news that the all-world Andre Ward and Jay-Z had finally pulled the trigger on a deal to face unified WBO, IBF, WBA and WBC Diamond light heavyweight world champion and pound-for-pound menace Sergey Kovalev on November 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Major props need to also be given to Kathy Duva from Main Events for patiently hanging in there to put this together.
Tomorrow at Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Golden State Warriors will most likely rule the NBA galaxy again behind the brilliance of the 2-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, it would be a good idea to see the ‘S.O.G’ at Game 7 and totally involved in the festivities. But Ward, the closest thing the fight game has ever seen to Tim Duncan in how he goes about his business, has no desire for the spotlight at all.
We saw him go “Big Fundamental” (as he always does) while San Antonio spurring a pedestrian Sullivan Barrera of Cuban descent in his last outing. A fan asked me how I thought that fight would play out a few months ago, and I responded that it would be a very tactical fight fought on Ward’s terms. A very difficult fight against a bigger man, but none-the-less, a clear (and boring) points win for Ward.
That won’t be the case with Ward vs. Kovalev.
Make no mistake about it– it will be a physically difficult night for Ward, who will be forced to deliver a few special effects (or at least something in 3D) if he is to defeat “The Krusher” on your flatscreen in HD this fall.
Despite Ward failing to deliver anything dramatic, the PPV superfight with Kovalev was put together for that very reason, as it takes greatness to truly bring out greatness. There is no more need for a Paul Smith, Edwin Rodriguez or a Sullivan Barrera. Rated as high as #4 pound-for-pound by RING magazine (and higher by many die-hard fans), Ward should feel pretty good about that after only beating the aforementioned names above since 2012.
Now, comes an opportunity for Ward to show us just how good he is, since beating Carl Froch almost five years ago (yea, it was that long ago).
SERGEY KOVALEV VS. ANDRE WARD: A DIFFICULT GAME OF CHECKERS
The great Hopkins suggested earlier this year that Ward (29-0, 15 KO’s) would need another fight beyond Barrera before facing Kovalev (29-0-1, 26KO’s), and that’s what he’ll get on July 30 at Oracle Arena against an opponent yet to be named. It is only for the exposure and marketing of the Kovalev fight that this happens, because he really doesn’t need a tune-up.
He needs popularity – which had to be a major reason why signed on to Jigga’s ROC Nation more than a year ago. But his is a burning desire to be considered the best without any fan fare under the lime light. On hand for the Canelo/Khan fight last month, I asked Ward about this contradiction.
“I’m just out to get the job done, the public knows who I am and what I’m about,” dead-panned Ward, as he and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin exchanged revealing looks of contempt a few feet away from each other. I then asked if we’ll see him in there with Kovalev in Vegas (where he’s never fought) this year, and Ward submitted a knowing “wink” and a slight grin before bolting for the exit. He still looked like a super middleweight, though he insisted he’s fully acclimated to 175. But is he really ready for a big fight environment of this magnitude in a new weight class?
Say what you will about Mayweather, but when Floyd had gaps of inactivity he came back against top tier competition, and sometimes went up in weight to do so. Not only that, but “Money” would go to a guy’s hometown and get him in his backyard. How will Ward fair under the bright lights of Las Vegas outside of Oracle Arena against Kovalev?
If all goes according to plan and they do indeed meet in the fall, we’ll get the same Ward we’re likely to see this summer: A calculating fighter of technique and precision who capitalizes on any mistake an opponent makes. As Kovalev advances Ward with a nuclear arsenal that would probably make Russian president Vladimir Putin jealous, Ward will smother most attacks with his octopus-like defense.
Andre likes to play chess, while Sergey favors a demanding game of checkers, and I believe Kovalev will get rid of the chess pieces. Ward will not be able to reduce Kovalev’s punch count as he does to most opponents, as the mighty Russian will take far more chances against Ward; willingly eating check hooks, uppercuts and right hands from Ward. He will make Andre fire more power shots than he has in his life, which is exhausting over 12 rounds against a long and aggressive fighter like Kovalev.
Kovalev’s less bulky frame and build will allow him to get off looser shots with sudden pop at the end of them. He’s also likely to put Ward in dark places by getting him to punch with him, for on those occasions where this inevitably happened against Kovalev, Andre will take a beating. But because he’s great and has so much spirited Irish in him, I can’t see Ward getting stopped, but he’ll get out-worked and spanked by Kovalev on the way to losing a clear unanimous decision.
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