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Ward won the first fight between the two by a 114-113 margin on all three judges' scorecards, earning the USA boxer the IBF, WBA, and WBO championships.
The California-native landed a massive right hand that stunned the Russian, and followed it up with a barrage to the body that forced Kovalev to his knees and referee Tony Weeks to stop the contest. Kovalev had success with his jab and the occasional right hand, while Ward looked to slip underneath his lead and attack the body at every opportunity.
"He was reacting to my body shots, and I knew I had him and I knew he was hurt", Ward said.
The eighth-round knockout cemented Ward as one of boxing's pound-for-pound best and defended his WBO, IBF and WBA belts.
"It was a low blow, again another one", said Kovalev. But as the time went by, Ward was adapting more and more, eventually turning this fight into his advantage.
Kovalev was known as the big puncher of the pair, so it was a satisfying conclusion for Ward, who unleashed some firepower on the "Krusher" in the final moments of the fight against an opponent who had promised to knock him out and end his career.
Ward enters the fight with an unblemished 31-0-0 record (15 knockouts), while Kovalev carries a 30-1-1 mark (26 knockouts) into the bout.
"I was empty one month before the November fight", he said.
When asked, in the aftermath of his victory over Kovalev, whether a bout with Joshua could be arranged, Ward replied: 'Anything is possible. "I'm the pro. World champion should fight everywhere". He didn't let me continue to fight. After 12 rounds of fighting, Ward earned a narrow decision victory but it was immediately clear that these two would be going at it again in the near future. That's the kind of stuff that I've been dealing with since I've been a kid.
Whatever his future, he did what he vowed to do in the rematch with Kovalev - take away any suggestion that his win last November was tainted. Are they trying to get better, or are they laying all their eggs in the basket that says they won the first fight, so they don't have to? For the most part, he was a one punch wonder - step, step, punch. The fight seemed to be going the way of Ward, the superior athlete, the better conditioned athlete, the unflappable presence.
"Low blow - and I felt this". Weeks ignored motioned him back to fight and then with the Russian's back against the ropes, here came Ward to unleash three thunderous left uppercuts that motivated Weeks to end it before the fourth could be on its way.
Could be Ward's craftiness played a role, as well as all the holding, about which Kovalev's promoter Kathy Duva afterward said, "The ref (Robert Byrd) wasn't doing his job". I don't know if he had the right answers tonight. And it's over. Tony Weeks stops the action as Ward is pummeling Kovalev. There a lot of people who are convinced I won it.. Close round I give it to Kovalev.
In his post-fight interview, Kovalev questioned the intervention of Weeks and suggested that he had received an illegal punch. They will never go to my country, because Andre Ward is a hometown champion. Who he fights next?