“A Fight For the People”: The Canelo-GGG Press Train Rolls into New York

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Bradford William Davis

“We’re respecting the fans’ wishes,” Oscar De La Hoya told the appreciative crowd on hand for the latest stop on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin press tour. Fans in attendance at The Theater at Madison Square Garden interrupted the Golden Boy promoter’s words with enthusiastic cheers for both fighters, proving his point.

The red carpet event was driven by the passion fans have for Canelo and GGG, and their relief that the fight they longed to see is finally happening. The atmosphere had the feel of a generational rivalry, a “Yankees vs. Red Sox” or “Celtics vs. Lakers” of boxing, with supporters of each elite fighter trying their best to outdo the other.

De La Hoya announced that the September 16th mega-fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will have a fan friendly start time of 8 PM ET/5PM PT.  

In his remarks, De La Hoya was careful to note that Canelo and Golovkin were “two real boxers,” eliciting another roar from the crowd, as he not-so-subtly hinted that this is the biggest fight that boxing has to offer.

After the fighters and their array of handlers and promoters answered questions, De La Hoya tapped the audience once again, selecting four spirited fans to come on stage and give their predictions for the fight. Two fans draped in Mexican-flag ponchos and sombreros seized the opportunity to lead the crowd in a “Canelo” chant. In response, the GGG fans touted their fighter’s technical skill.

After leaving the stage, one of the Golovkin fans, Carlos, told Inside HBO Boxing that he found this fight particularly meaningful because “it’s the fight that fans want.” He added, “When fans want a certain fight, and they get made, it becomes a special occasion.”



Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Postfight Essay: The Puncher and the Thinker


Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Gordon Marino

Before last Saturday’s fight, Sergey Kovalev was a volcano of vitriol, promising that he was going to destroy light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and end his career. But after suffering an eighth-round stoppage on Saturday night, it may be Kovalev’s career prospects that are in the very position in which he ended this fight, sitting on the ropes.

With lessons to be drawn about pacing, technique and controlling emotions, Saturday night at Mandalay Bay offers an education in the fight game. (The bout will replay on Saturday, June 24 on HBO World Championship Boxing at 10 p.m. ET/PT.)

From the opening bell, it was an intensely physical fray. With the adrenaline surging, the action and movement was more frenzied than in their initial encounter. Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) came out more aggressively than he did in November. Both combatants were pitching fastballs and even though Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) was planning to avoid the grappling of their first scrap, there was an enough wrestling to satisfy an MMA fan.

Going into the eighth round, two judges had Ward up by a point and the third had Kovalev with a three-point edge. I had Sergey up by two points, but even though his punishing jab was finding its mark, Kovalev was melting down and having his spirits broken.

On the inside, Ward was able to get lower than his lanky rival and rip powerful body shots. Throughout, Kovalev, who has the air of a bully, was moaning to the referee Tony Weeks that Ward’s artillery was landed south of the border. Some of it was, but when blasted on the beltline or below, the tough guy who vowed to destroy Ward would bend over in a fetal position as if to plead for help from the third man in the ring.

There is a reason that boxing is called “the sweet science,” even though few practitioners of the bruising art have the calm self-possession to think of themselves along those lines. Ward has certainly earned that right. Like Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Ray Leonard, the Bay Area fighter has the attention for detail of a lab-coated investigator and the pugilistic acumen to do something destructive with the knowledge that he is absorbing.

Even in the white heat of battle, Ward is constantly taking reads on the fighter who is doing everything in his considerable power to separate him from his senses. In the post-fight press conference, Ward recalled, “I was breathing, he was breathing, but I’m used to working tired. I’m comfortable being uncomfortable; that’s how we work, that’s how we train. When I saw him put his arms on the ropes in between the rounds – I watch all that stuff – that’s trouble for him.”

That was trouble for Kovalev. After 21 minutes of action, the Russian fighter was sucking wind. As he tired, he began pushing and telegraphing his punches. In the days before the bout, Hopkins warned that neither fighter could afford to be predictable. True to Hopkins’ prescription, Ward was mixing it up, moving in and out, and bringing his punches up and down and up. On the other hand, exhaustion and bad muscle memory had rendered Kovalev slower and easy to calculate. Over and over, it was jab right hand. Half of the time, when Kovalev pawed with his left, Ward instinctively leaned over to avoid the missile of a right that inevitably followed and then Ward would let fly with a flurry of potent body shots.

Kovalev’s head might as well have been a statue. Worse yet, after a few rounds, he was bringing his jab back low. Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch used to sneer that anyone who gets nailed with a right-hand lead is a sucker. Now and again, even early on, Ward was able to sucker Kovalev with a quick snapping right. But by the eighth stanza, Ward’s computer had the coup de grace set up.

Midway in the final frame, Kovalev briefly and ineffectively switched to southpaw then back to orthodox. Leaning in, Kovalev tossed a lazy jab, dragged his left back low and Ward, with his legs under him, thundered a right hand on the bull’s eye of Kovalev’s jaw. The man of iron fist and chin wobbled.

Ward, the man known as “S.O.G.,” has always been known as a shark when he has someone hurt and he immediately slipped into finisher mode against Kovalev. Keeping his hands in position, he chased the wounded Krusher around the ring, blasting away with body and head shots while always being careful to keep enough of a cushion to avoid smothering his power.

In the final seconds of the fight, Ward landed low blows that went undetected by the referee. If Kovalev had been a thinker, he would have simply taken a knee and collected himself. But Kovalev is not a thinker and instead just took a seat on the ropes and covered up. Weeks then waved the fight over.  

In the post-fight press conference, Ward made a telling observation. The champ praised his opponent but then said of him, “I felt his biggest mistake was going to be his arrogance. He just couldn’t fathom me hurting him. When they asked him about me having the power to stop him, he laughed at me. He just wasn’t ready for it. Anybody can be hurt, anybody can be stopped. You always gotta have a sober mind when you enter a fight like that.”

Evander Holyfield’s former mentor, Don Turner, was trying to help Kovalev with the X’s and O’s for this fight. After the bout, Turner acknowledged “Ward is good.” As for his charge, he all but sighed, “Kovalev is just a puncher.” In other words, with a few Rocky Marciano-type exceptions, a one-dimensional boxer who banks only on his sleep-inducing capacity will eventually be undone by a martial artist who, like Ward, has the aplomb and physical gifts to make his opponent pay for his boxing sins.

After the fight, Ward was wisely careful not to begin measuring himself against other immortal light heavies, such as that other Bay Area product, Archie Moore. Ward was not, however, demure about comparing himself to contemporaries. Since the proliferation of weight divisions, acknowledgement as the pound-for-pound best has usurped the significance of the heavyweight title. Asked if being the best of the best is important to him, Ward gleefully replied, “Of course it is but I don’t have a vote. When I beat a great fighter like Kovalev hopefully I will get the vote now.”

Though he sometimes keeps it under wraps, “S.O.G.” has an ego, and he has made it plain that more than defend his crown, he wants to do something special – “something that will raise eyebrows” like nabbing a cruiserweight or even heavyweight title belt.

Nevertheless, in this confusing era of 17 weight divisions and the alphabet soup of four sanctioning bodies, it would be refreshing and a boon to boxing to have one undisputed, unified title holder in a traditional weight division. I, for one, fervently hope that before he starts packing on the pounds, Ward sets a showdown date with WBC light heavyweight champion, Adonis Stevenson, and settles the score as to who is the legitimate 175-pound king.

Watch: Berchelt vs. Miura Preview

Watch the preview video for the Miguel Berchelt vs. Takashi Miura super featherweight title showdown. 

Berchelt vs. Miura happens Saturday, July 15 at The Forum in L.A. and airs live at 9:50 p.m. ET/PT on HBO Boxing After Dark.

Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito Rematch to Headline HBO Boxing After Dark Tripleheader

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

LOS ANGELES – WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KO’s) of Si Sa Ket, Thailand, will defend his title against former champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, (46-1-0 38 KO’s) of Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, September 9 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Coming off of their epic battle this past march, Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito headlines a tripleheader that will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.

Co-featured on the outstanding “Superfly” card is the highly anticipated United States debut of Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (13-0-0, 11 KO’s) of Yokohama, Japan defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against top contender Antonio “Carita” Nieves (17-1-2, 9 KO’s) of Cleveland, Ohio. 

Opening the telecast, former WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Carlos “Principe” Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KO’s) of Mexico City will battle rival countryman and former flyweight world champion Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada (35-2-0, 25 KO’s) of Sonora, Mexico.

Podcast: Ward vs. Kovalev Post-Fight Analysis

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down Andre Ward's eighth-round TKO win over Sergey Kovalev, analyzing the timing of referee Tony Weeks' stoppage, Ward's pound-for-pound status and where both boxers go from here. Plus, they dissect the madness of Guillermo Rigondeaux's highly controversial undercard victory.

Watch the replay of Ward vs. Kovalev 2 on Saturday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing.


Ward Body Blows Leave Kovalev Defeated and Dejected

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

LAS VEGAS – When Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward first met in the ring last November, it was in a battle for pound-for-pound supremacy that ended inconclusively and controversially. Neither man was able to stake a clear claim to be the very best boxer in the world, and Kovalev and his promoters spent the subsequent six months vehemently disputing Ward’s close decision win.

The second time Kovalev and Ward met in the ring, in the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday, the result was more conclusive, and the case of one man to be pound-for-pound number one was, in the immediate aftermath, seemingly greatly strengthened. But it was ultimately no less controversial, at least in the eyes of Team Kovalev, who left the arena dejected and protesting the circumstances surrounding the Russian’s eighth-round stoppage loss. 

Ward’s razor-thin victory the first time around came on the back of a strong showing in the second half of the bout; but he admitted in the build-up to the rematch that he had “dug a hole” for himself with a slow start that included a second-round knockdown. He was determined, he said, to start faster this time, and he came flying out of his corner at the first bell on Saturday, as if determined to make a statement and leave an impression. Even so, the fight soon settled into a pattern of Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) stalking and attempting to cut off the ring, while Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) circled and sought to land strong counters. The fight was fast-paced and tense from the get-go, with each man feinting and slipping to avoid incoming artillery as well as trying to land definitive blows of his own. And although Ward may have shaded the opening frame, it was Kovalev who settled into his rhythm more rapidly, landing stiff jabs and coming ever closer to dialing in his patented straight right behind it. 

The most significant harbinger, as it turned out, came in the second, when, in the midst of an exchange in close, Kovalev doubled over from a low blow, prompting referee Tony Weeks to give Ward a warning. After a brief pause the two boxers resumed battle, and Kovalev probably won that round and the subsequent one; but, through three, the contest was shaping up to be as close as it had been the first time around.

The first easy-to-score round of the fight was the fourth; after opening with Ward walking into a sharp Kovalev counter, it came alive as Ward torqued a booming lead right that just missed and followed up with a stinging straight left that snapped back Kovalev’s head. As the two men worked in close, Ward launched a hook and an uppercut to the Kovalev torso; and in the fifth, he stepped up his aggression, stepping to the side and ripping lefts and rights from angles. Kovalev’s offense, in contrast, suddenly looked plodding, as he stalked forward in straight lines behind his jab.

But if the Russian’s punches were predictable, they remained highly powerful, which was underlined when a sharp counter left from Kovalev hurt Ward and rendered him hesitant in the sixth. The fight was evenly poised on the cards at the halfway point, but at the start of the seventh, Kovalev suddenly appeared spent. The two men leaned on each other, Ward ripping more uppercuts to the body as they worked in close and Kovalev again sagging from an apparent low blow. Kovalev returned to action almost immediately, but received a stinging left hook for his efforts. 

The end came in the eighth. An exhausted-looking Kovalev doubled over again, once more complaining of a low blow, and this time Ward spread his arms out wide in disbelief, confident that the body blows he was landing were both legal and sapping the strength from his foe. Ward was now not only clinching with Kovalev, he was pushing him back across the ring. Then, suddenly, Ward had the space he was looking for, and he launched a massive right hand that twisted Kovalev’s head to one side and caused his leg to dance. For a second or so, Ward seemed not to fully comprehend the damage he had caused, but then he pounced, ripping punches to Kovalev’s body and assaulting his head. A left to the ribcage sent Kovalev sideways and Ward followed him to the ropes, violently launching uppercuts to the body; again, Kovalev sagged and bent forward, this time slumping so that he was sitting on the ropes, which prompted Weeks to intervene and call a halt to the contest. The official time was 2:25 of round 8.

Kovalev afterward seemed stunned and confused by what had happened. 

“I cannot explain what happened,” he said in the ring afterward. “Yes, sure I could have continued. This is a fight. I could continue the fight. He didn’t hurt me, except with the low blows.” By the time he showed up for the postfight press conference, he was stronger in his exhortation. “He’s really lucky,” he said. “He’s not the best opponent I ever faced. He’s the best of the dirty fighters.”

Kovalev’s manager Egis Klimas was even more forthright.

“What happened today, as many of you saw, was Ward got away with what he’s good at. He’s a lucky fucking champion.” Kovalev’s promoter Kathy Duva was reportedly considering filing a protest over the low blows – but, while replays showed that some of the punches that landed in the conclusive barrage were indeed borderline at best, others were clearly above the belt.

For his part, Ward argued that “we can’t talk about the low blows without talking about the rabbit punches [that Kovalev landed].” Besides, he said, “if the fight had gone one more round, it would have been ugly. He was hurt to the body and the head. We earned this victory tonight, we earned it.”

In the glowing aftermath of victory, Ward had one simple question.

“Can I get the top of the pound-for-pound list now?”

Seven months after the question was first meant to be answered, he now has a compelling case. 

Undercard Roundup: Rigondeaux Prevails Controversially, Bivol Decisively

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Eric Raskin

One thing you can say about this Guillermo Rigondeaux fight: It wasn’t boring.

The much-maligned but magnificently talented Cuban fighter only spent three minutes in the ring with opponent Moises “Chucky” Flores in the co-feature to Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, and it took about twice that long for the officials to reach a verdict. When they did, it seemed they got it wildly wrong, awarding Rigondeaux a first-round knockout win that could easily have been a no-contest or a disqualification loss instead.

The slick southpaw Rigondeaux (18-0, 12 KOs) spent the first two minutes and 50 seconds or so of the fight making the gangly Flores (25-1, 17 KOs) miss without producing much offense of his own. But Rigondeaux finally scored with a big counter left hand late in the round, followed by an exchange that saw the Cuban hold Chucky with his right hand while striking him repeatedly with his left. Referee Vic Drakulich moved in to stop the illegal punching, and the bell sounded, ending the round. A moment later, Rigondeaux landed a left hand that was undoubtedly after the bell, and Flores went to the mat, seemingly with a dose of thespianism. Drakulich sent Rigondeaux to a neutral corner and appeared utterly puzzled about what to do. Whereas the reasonable options would have been to count a knockdown if he thought the punch came before the bell, or to give the Mexican five minutes to recover if he thought it came after, Drakulich instead stared blankly at Flores, didn’t count, tried to ask him if he was okay, didn’t get the desired response, and waved off the fight.

And then things really got weird.

While Rigondeaux, 36, celebrated what he thought was a KO win, Drakulich, Nevada commissioner Bob Bennett, and alternate ref Robert Byrd deliberated, watched replays, and even made a phone call. On and on it dragged, until finally they came to the conclusion, somehow, that the punch was thrown before the bell sounded.

On the one hand, if Flores, 30, was faking, maybe he got what he deserved. But either way, the punch clearly came after the bell. If Drakulich was reluctant—understandably—to take away Rigondeaux’s undefeated record that way, he could have called it a no-contest. Instead, he went with the one outcome that simply didn’t make any sense.

“It was only a matter of time,” Rigondeaux told HBO’s Max Kellerman afterward, suggesting that a knockout was coming against the apparently overmatched Flores sooner or later. Maybe so. But it hadn’t come in the three minutes that the fight lasted, even if the official record will suggest otherwise.


It may be the case that Cedric Agnew is a lesser fighter than he was three years ago when he was stopped in seven rounds by Sergey Kovalev, but even if that’s the case, light heavyweight prospect Dmitry Bivol looked every bit a future champion blowing through Agnew in half that time. The Russian advanced to 11-0 with 9 KOs by knocking the 31-year-old Chicago southpaw down in round one and patiently pummeling him until the end came one minute and 27 seconds into the fourth.

It was a potent left hook-straight right combination that hurt Agnew in the opening round, setting up another straight right that sent him pitching forward to the canvas. Three rounds later, a left hook ended matters when it caused Agnew (29-3, 15 KOs) to wince, indicate some sort of injury to his right eye, and turn away from Bivol. Referee Russell Mora, either taking that as a sign that Agnew wanted out or simply seizing an opportunity to stop a one-sided beatdown, waved it off immediately. But we got a good look at the 26-year-old Bivol before it was over, getting a sense of his excellent footwork and balance, stellar ability to cut off the ring, and piercing straight right hand. And his defense isn’t bad either; according to CompuBox, Agnew landed just 13 punches in 3½ rounds.


In the opening bout of the broadcast, undefeated middleweight Luis “Cuba” Arias extended his record to 18-0 with 9 KOs by hammering out a fifth-round stoppage of game but limited Arif Magomedov (18-2, 11 KOs) of Russia. The fighters seemed evenly matched for the first three minutes, but Arias began to separate himself in the second, landing hard bodyshots and looking for every opportunity to thread his right uppercut in between the Russian’s guard. Early in round five, the 27-year-old from Milwaukee hurt Magomedov with a vicious right hand to the jaw, paused, sized up his wounded prey, and put him down with an even bigger right hand. The 24-year-old Magomedov rose on extremely unsteady legs, and after a couple of follow-up punches caused more staggering and stumbling, referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight at the 1:16 mark just as Magomedov’s corner was throwing in the towel.

Order the Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Pay-Per-View

In a rematch of one of 2016's most exciting and closely contested fights, unified light heavyweight champion Andre “SOG” Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and former titleholder Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) will square off Saturday, June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

On the undercard, WBA super bantamweight champ Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will face WBA interim titleholder Moises “Chucky” Flores (25-0, 17 KOs); WBA interim light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol (10-0, 8 KOs) will square off against Cedric Agnew (29-2, 15 KOs); and USBA middleweight champ Luis “Cuba” Arias (17-0, 8 KOs) will battle Arif “The Predator” Magomedov (18-1, 11 KOs).

Click here to order