Remember when the boxing heavyweight champion was arguably the biggest athletic star in the world? That’s simply not the case now as boxing has been splintered into several confusing organizations and has been surpassed in the United States in fan interest and betting handle by the UFC.
However, one of the best boxing summers in recent memory could be on tap. On September 16, Gennady Golovkin faces Canelo Alvarez in perhaps the most-anticipated bout in the sport since Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao. Speaking of Mayweather, he will face UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in a boxing match August 26 that could set pay-per-view records.
The summer fireworks kick off this Saturday from Las Vegas when Andre Ward faces Sergey Kovalev in a rematch billed “No Excuses” for Ward’s WBO, IBF & WBA light heavyweight titles, with it shown on HBO pay-per-view. The champion is a -160 betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with the challenger at +130.
Ward and Kovalev had a terrific back-and-forth battle in Las Vegas last November. Ward was knocked down in Round 2 and lost the early rounds of the bout but battled back and clearly won the final round to eke out a unanimous decision by 114-113 scores on all three judges’ cards to claim those three 175-pound world title belts.
Some ringside observers completely disagreed with the judges. HBO’s Harold Lederman, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, scored the bout 116-111 for Kovalev. The Russian complained afterward of hometown favoritism by the American judges.
The 33-year-old Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) is ranked as Ring Magazine’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He stands 6-feet tall and has a reach of 71 inches. Ward’s past three fights have gone to the judges, and it will be three Americans again Saturday. Ward won gold in the light heavyweight division at the 2004 Olympics and turned pro later that year. He’s the last American male to win gold in boxing.
Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) is 34 and ranked No. 2 on the Ring Magazine pound-for-pound chart (Golovkin is No. 3). He now lives in Florida. “Krusher” had held the WBO, IBF and WBA light heavyweight belts since beating the legendary Bernard Hopkins in 2014.
Kovalev believes he over-trained for the Ward fight and ran out of gas. Contractually he had the right to an immediate rematch and he invoked that clause. Kovalev did land more punches than Ward (126-116) but at a lower percentage (26.6). The 126 punches were the most landed on Ward since 2010. Kovalev is also 6-feet tall but has a reach advantage of 1.5 inches on Ward.
Due to heavy late action on him Ward closed as a -180 betting favorite on the boxing odds for the first fight – it was a near pick’em for a while – and has been as low as -170 for the rematch.