The only non-controversial result of Ward-Kovalev is the need for an immediate rematch
Even Andre Ward couldn't believe he won.
That wasn't glee on his face when it was announced that he had beaten Sergey Kovalev 114-113 on all three of the judges' cards, making him the WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight champion of the world — it was shock.
He wasn't alone in that having reaction.
Saturday's fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was an instant classic — an incredible battle between champions that could fairly be considered a close fight, but Ward should consider himself lucky for having been given the win.
Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 knockouts) knocked down Ward (31-0-0, 15 knockouts) in the second round and led by as much as five points on the scorecard after six rounds, but the Russian faded in the second half of the fight, and Ward, showing heart and intelligence, worked his way back into contention for a decision.
Kovalev still landed punches and perhaps won a few rounds in the second half of the fight, and Ward never fully corrected the early tone of the bout, where he was consistently either on his heels and retreating or grappling with Kovalev, who early in the fight had so much weight behind his punches, you had to wonder if the two boxers were in the same weight class.
One could say it was a close fight, but everything had to break Ward's way on the judges' cards for the Oakland fighter to unify the light heavyweight titles and retain his undefeated record.
And surely it was a coincidence that all three judges for the fight were American.
Had Ward won in a split-decision, it would have been controversial, but ultimately an accepted determination. Kovalev, who won on my card 115-111, had more than a fair claim to win the fight himself.
But the decision handed in was unanimous, and the outrage should be as well.
Yes, Ward fought his way back into contention, bringing a surefire Kovalev win into question, but there were few moments where Ward was in control. His late-rounds performance was engrossing, but Kovalev, despite being tired and having lost plenty of steam behind his punches, held strong through 12 rounds — arguably winning two of the final three rounds.
The judges didn't see it that way. Two — Glenn Trowbridge and John McKaie — scored Ward the winner of the final six rounds. The other judge, Burt Clements, differed in his judgment of the 6th round — a 50-50 round, to be fair –giving Ward rounds 5 through 11.
Judges have wide-ranging discretion in determining the methodology (if there is any set of guidelines or rules) for their determinations, which is what makes the unanimous decision so fascinating and aggravating.
Kovalev landed more punches, was a more frequent aggressor on the aggregate, and landed the fight's only knockdown, yet every close round (and there were more than half a dozen) went to Ward.
That shouldn't sit well with anyone who watched. It shouldn't sit well with anyone who cares about the sport of boxing.
Ward is notoriously difficult to get into the ring in circumstances outside of his hometown of Oakland, so it was impressive to see this fight between undefeated champions go off, but after a controversial decision marred an amazing fight, there can be no delay and no controversy — these fighters need to get back into the ring for a rematch as soon as possible.
Dieter Kurtenbach is a Senior Writer for Fox Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook.com/DieterKurtenbach, and @dkurtenbach.
— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) November 20, 2016