Ward brushes off Kovalev's criticism that he's fake champ

Ward brushes off Kovalev's criticism that he's fake champ

Published Jun. 2, 2017 9:43 p.m. ET

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) Light heavyweight champion Andre Ward brushed off comments made by Sergey Kovalev this week and said the Russian challenger is in for a big surprise in their rematch.

During a 25-minute meeting with members of the media before holding a public workout not far from his hometown of Oakland, Ward flashed his familiar grin and laughed at times but turned quite serious when the topic turned to Kovalev and their June 17 bout in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, Kovalev (30-1-1) let loose with a series of stinging remarks and called Ward (31-0) a fake champion. The 34-year-old Russian also claimed he had been hit harder by a young woman than he was at any point when he lost his three title belts to Ward last November.

The normally low-key Ward responded Friday, saying he was mostly amused by Kovalev's comments.


''It's funny because they're not even good at it,'' Ward said. ''If you're going to talk smack just come with it, enough where I can at least respect it, like `OK, that's a good one.' If he wants to post Twitter messages and Instagram messages until his fingers fall off, go for it.

''At the end of the day it really doesn't matter, bro, you have to see me in a couple of weeks. It's time to show up. You have to see me.''

The fight at Mandalay Bay is one of the most anticipated of the year. Not only is it a rematch of the top two light heavyweights in the world - and arguably two of the best in any division - but many see it as a chance for clarity after the first fight ended in controversy.

Ward won by unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring it 114-113. But Kovalev, who knocked down Wardin the second round with a straight right hand to the face, claimed he won the fight and complained that all three judges were American.

Ward, an Olympic gold medalist in 2004, credited Kovalev for being a game opponent but said the fight changed after the knock down.

''Past that, I think if you look at the scorecards it's pretty dominant after that,'' Ward said. ''He won some rounds for sure. It's a 12-round fight, he's going to get his. But I think it was pretty consistent and pretty dominant. That doesn't mean that it's a given going into this fight. He's going to make adjustments and I assume he's going to be better and I definitely have to be better and will be better.''

Ward called his performance in the first fight ''workman-like'' but expects things to be different the second time around, both from Kovalev and from himself.

''It's going to be a lot more flair, it's going to be a lot more fun,'' Ward said. ''I'm fixing to put on a show and it's as simple as that. I've gotten back to just enjoying what I do. Just having fun and doing what I want to do.''

Ward said he's drawing added inspiration from the Golden State Warriors' unbeaten run through the postseason. The Bay Area native has attended numerous games over the years and routinely exchanges text messages with Warriors star Kevin Durant.

His primary motivation, though, is to quiet the critics. And Kovalev.

''Really it's about answering any questions that are out there, removing all doubt, and putting a muzzle on him and his team because they've been doing way too much talking lately,'' Ward said.