Ve­gas ti­tle show­down

> Un­beat­ens Ko­valev, Ward face each other for the WBA, IBF and WBO crowns

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

FOR­MER world cham­pion An­dre Ward says the win­ner of next week’s show­down of un­beat­ens be­tween him­self and world light-heavy­weight cham­pion Sergey Ko­valev should be seen as box­ing’s pound-for-pound king.

“It would be re­ally hard to go against that, based on both our re­sumes and us step­ping up and be­ing will­ing to fight,” Ward said yes­ter­day on an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence call.

“The win­ner of this fight should be pound-for-pound No. 1.”

The Nov 19 matchup in Las Ve­gas will see Rus­sia’s Ko­valev, 30-0 with one drawn and 26 knock­outs, de­fend the World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion and World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion crowns for a fifth time since beat­ing Bernard Hop­kins for them all in a uni­fi­ca­tion bout.

“This fight is a great op­por­tu­nity for both of us to show the box­ing world who is the best pound-for-pound,” Ko­valev said. “It’s go­ing to be a war be­tween us.”

Ward, a 32-year-old Amer­i­can, is 30-0 with 15 knock­outs. He was the 2004 Athens Olympics light heavy­weight cham­pion, the most re­cent US fighter to claim Games gold.

“I’ve heard peo­ple say I’m not the same fighter I was in my 20s and I hope I’m not,” Ward said. “I should be get­ting bet­ter.”

Af­ter an 18-month lay­off, Ward fights for the third time in 17 months, his most re­cent tri­umph a unan­i­mous decision over Colom­bia’s Alexan­der Brand three months ago before a home­town crowd in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia. “It’s sur­real,” Ward said. “Fight­ing as a young kid we never got too caught up in our­selves. I get a lit­tle scared to look back on what we’ve ac­com­plished and rel­ish it be­cause the clock is still tick­ing. I’m still go­ing.

“I’ve got to show up and do what I’m still do­ing. When I do peek back, just for a split sec­ond, it’s over­whelm­ing.”

Ward, who held a share of the world su­per mid­dleweight crown from 2009 to 2013, says the fight will go be­yond easy la­bels of Ko­valev as a big puncher and Ward as an elu­sive tar­get try­ing to get ri­vals off their game.

“If it was just about me be­ing a neu­tral­izer some of these big punch­ers would walk right through me. There’s more to me than that,” Ward said.

“He’s not a brawler. He thinks in there. We’re ready for what­ever he brings. That’s the key. It’s about mak­ing con­stant ad­just­ments.

“There’s a lot at stake. It’s go­ing to come down to who wants it more. I’m ready, I’m ex­cited and I can’t wait to fight. I just have to make the most of this.”

Ko­valev, 33, had been in talks to fight for an undis­puted ti­tle with Haitian-born Cana­dian south­paw Ado­nis Steven­son, the World Box­ing Coun­cil cham­pion who is 28-1 with 23 knock­outs, but when no deal could be struck, Ko­valev sur­ren­dered his manda­tory chal­lenger rights to face a fighter he said he thinks will be his tough­est foe yet.

“He has never lost before. But it’s my job. Let me do it and break his zero,” Ko­valev said. “I don’t have any dif­fer­ent strat­egy. My strat­egy is just to win.

“He’s in the way of my goals and my dreams. I can’t give this to him. I want to de­stroy him.”

Ko­valev, com­ing off a vic­tory in Rus­sia last July over Malawi’s Isaac Chilemba, says he ex­pects Ward will be an elu­sive tar­get but even­tu­ally a sore one.

“He will be chang­ing po­si­tions the whole fight. He will be feel­ing un­com­fort­able af­ter feel­ing my punches,” Ko­valev said.

“If I hap­pen to knock him out, it will be a bonus for box­ing and for me as well.”

“Ward is pa­tient and crafty,” added Ko­valev trainer John David Jack­son.

“But you can’t be that pa­tient and crafty when your op­po­nent has bombs in both hands. This fight here, he has to fight.” – AFP

Sergey Ko­valev An­dre Ward

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