Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV, June 17
TV: HBO PPV
By Peter Lim
The first fight unfolded exactly as I predicted, except that the wrong fighter won the decision. Since both fighters truly believe they decisively won the fight, they will fine-tune rather than overhaul their respective game plans in the rematch. The course of the rematch though, will for the most part, repeat itself.
In the first encounter Kovalev inflicted more damage from mid-to-long range but Ward was more effective when he took the fight into chest-to-chest territory. Ward will try and capitalize on his success of smothering Kovalev and killing his momentum with his signature jab-and-grab and hold-and-hammer tactics, while being infuriatingly elusive on the outside.
But Kovalev will have also made adjustments in training camp in both his offense and defense. The Russian intensifies his pressure by doubling up on his jab and increasing his punch output. At the same time, he knows he cannot win the hold-and-hit exchanges that Ward will instigate so, rather than trying to outpunch Ward in the entanglements, he strategically clamps down with the bearhug and headlock to force a break.
The heavier handed Russian might score a flash knockdown or two en route to winning eight of the 12 rounds, just as he did in the first fight. Hopefully, the judges will get it right this time around.