Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Writer Predictions: No Clear Favorite in a 50-50 Fight

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Eric Raskin: Ward W 12

Despite the passage of seven months, Ward carries serious momentum into this fight. He had figured out how to neutralize Kovalev's fearsome offense and get work done by the second half of the fight last November, and I expect him to build on that. But even when Ward is at his best, there isn't much separating these two elite talents, so I expect another extremely close fight, with Ward winning a far less controversial decision than last time.

Nat Gottlieb: Kovalev KO 6

Sergey is out to prove that Ward did not win their first fight. It's hard to pick against somebody with that motivation.

Carlos Acevedo: Ward W 12

Although Sergey Kovalev appeared to have done enough against Andre Ward to earn a decision last November, he looked ordinary enough in the late rounds to make the rematch anything but a sure thing. A master at spoiling, Ward opened slowly against Kovalev in the first bout and his marring tactics, a large part of his success over the years, did not fully materialize until midway through the fight. Despite landing several eye-catching shots throughout, Kovalev was unable to string together combinations and, at times, he appeared lost stalking Ward. For Kovalev to win decisively, he will have to cut off the ring, throw more left hooks, work the body consistently and set a brisk tempo. But Kovalev has never been a high-octane fighter. His measured pace can sometimes slip into ponderousness, and giving a tactician such as Ward time to maneuver at will is a fatal mistake. If Kovalev fails to rev it up this time, Ward will likely frustrate him over and over again en route to another hairpin decision.

Gordon Marino: Kovalev W 12

I felt Kovalev won the first fight and I think he will get the nod with a unanimous decision in this one. His motivation is through the roof. This time around, he will throw more combinations and avoid getting tied up in so many clinches.

Oliver Goldstein: Kovalev MD 12

Sergey Kovalev had Andre Ward beat up and shook through the first few rounds back in November. Not only that, but Kovalev was outboxing him, too. Then Ward managed to do just enough to persuade the judges they were seeing something other than a mangling. This time around, given the dominance he managed through six rounds -- and the subsequent slimness of Ward's control down the back end -- Kovalev should know he's got Ward's number. Oddly enough, given he came out the winner, it's the American who will have to do more and look better if he's to claim another victory. I expect we'll be seeing a trilogy.

Matt Draper: Kovalev W 12

There’s a lot of chatter about Ward successfully continuing the game plan he deployed in the second half of the first fight -- not letting Kovalev land from outside by keeping close and firing off shots by any means necessary -- but it’s hard to imagine the Russian not landing his share of big blows. In addition, there seems to be merit in the Kovalev camp strategy of dialing back the intense conditioning “Krusher” undertook before the first go-round in the hopes of saving some gas for the later rounds on Saturday. It wouldn’t be surprising to see lots of clinching and scraping from Ward to methodically outpoint Kovalev, but it also wouldn’t be a shock to again see “S.O.G.” hit the canvas again. We are likely to see another tough, gritty battle that goes the distance, with the result this time around going to the Russian by a narrow margin.

Kieran Mulvaney: Ward W 12  

The key, for me, is Kovalev's jab. If Kovalev is able to keep Ward at bay, at the perfect range for him to land his vaunted right hand -- as he did in the first third of their initial encounter -- then Andre is going to have a rough night. It was shocking, in fact, to see how much Ward struggled in the opening stages in November. But then, of course, it all changed; if, as Kovalev claims, that was largely the result of his having overtrained, and if he has corrected those mistakes this time, then he could have a chance of revenge. But even though I scored the first contest for the Russian, there was no missing the way in which Ward came on strong over the second half of the bout, and it would be churlish to deny completely that Ward himself played a large role in that, through intelligence and adaptation. The onus is really on Kovalev to adapt back, but the feeling here is that he missed his best shot and that the advantage is now with Ward, who will frustrate and outbox him over 12 rounds to emerge with a decision win that is again close but this time clear. 

Michael Gluckstadt: Kovalev W 12

The conventional wisdom in a rematch, as Raskin pointed out earlier this week, is that they tend to have the same results as their forebears, only faster. But when the result is as disputed as Ward-Kovalev I, it does challenge the maxim. I think it will be another close fight, with Kovalev doing just enough -- with the possibility of another knockdown in the offing -- to shade the judges' cards in his favor. If there's any subconscious bias on their part, it might be towards not screwing over the same fighter twice.

Hamilton Nolan: Kovalev W 12

I'm picking Kovalev. He won the first fight and I think he'll be even more aggressive this time. He's much more dangerous than Ward is. Ward is a great boxer but at 175 pounds he can't hurt Kovalev, and Kovalev can hurt him with any punch. I'd pick Ward in his prime, but I think he's a litttttttllllllle past his prime and Kovalev will just overwhelm him.