Tensions Rise at Ward-Kovalev Presser

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

LAS VEGAS – The tensions that have simmered just below the surface for months erupted into full view on Thursday at the final press conference for Saturday’s light heavyweight championship rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. 

The lack of comity between the two camps was established from the very beginning, as Michael Yormark, president of Ward’s promoters Roc Nation, accused Kovalev of inappropriate behavior in the build-up and described him as a bully who would get his comeuppance against his American rival. Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson accused the Ward camp of telling lies about his alleged outreach to join Team Ward; they countered that he was lying about their alleged lying. Ward manager James Prince all but said that Kovalev’s promoters, Main Events, would be finished as a going concern should he lose.

Kovalev walked to the podium and asked rhetorically, “What else do you want me to say?” I want to do all my talking in the ring, he said, before pointing at Ward and telling him to “Be ready.”

“Don’t point at me,” snapped Ward, but by then Kovalev was leaving, walking off the dais and away, followed by Jackson and manager Egis Klimas.

Yormark took advantage of that abrupt departure to wonder theatrically whether Kovalev was going to keep on walking and whether he would even turn up for the fight. Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, who bravely remained behind to fight her team’s corner alone, saw a white towel emblazoned with Ward’s logo and asked whether the Ward camp would be throwing it into the ring during the fight. Yormark grabbed it and tossed it toward the media.
“Looks like Kovalev already threw in the towel,” he cracked.

The tension, and the hostility, is real. Friday’s weigh-in, when the two fighters will be face-to-face for the last time before the fight, should be interesting. The fight itself should be electric.

Ward vs. Kovalev 2 happens Saturday, June 17 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Order the fight here.