Ward vs Kovalev Could Be 2016's Greatest Superfight

When Andre Ward announced last week that he was concentrating his future career amongst the light heavyweights after dominating the super middleweight division, it opened up the prospect of a potentially brilliant match up with a world champion with the best scowl and arguably the biggest punch in boxing.
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When Andre Ward announced last week that he was concentrating his future career amongst the light heavyweights after dominating the super middleweight division, it opened up the prospect of a potentially brilliant match up with a world champion with the best scowl and arguably the biggest punch in boxing.

Sergey Kovalev has steadily and brutally stamped his authority on the consciousness of boxing fans worldwide with a series of bone crunching displays. The American based Russian has never really looked back since thumping Nathan Cleverly in 2013 to win the light heavyweight world title. Since then, his base punching power has seen off all comers. From Hopkins to Pascal and beyond, Kovalev has used a mixture of explosive punching and ring guile to prove himself no one trick pony. Deceivingly quick and solid tactically, he has a cleverness in both his inside and outside game that gives him more subtlety between the ropes than he gets kudos for. A lot of credit for that has to go to Kovalev's trainer John David Jackson. A decent fighter himself he's refined the 'Krusher Kovalev' mentality into something more than just a wrecking ball. Kovalev has destructive power sure, but there's no doubt he now knows his way around the ring too.

That same sentence would be a massive understatement in the career of Andre Ward. In the modern game he's the one fighter who could seriously be mentioned in the same breath as Floyd Mayweather when it comes to exponents of the 'sweet science'. As a super middleweight Ward was imperious due to the fact that he had so many facets to his game. Quick handed and beautifully balanced he had the brilliant ability to change tactics in the ring. On the rare occasions he was dominated in certain fights, he always had the talent to shift tactics chameleon like to his own advantage. Without heavy reliance on the power game or a quick finish - he still has fair punching power too.

The question is however just how Ward's singular skill sets would transport to the light heavyweights and particularly to a face off with Kovalev. To break that down you have to come at the argument at a different angle and ask whether he could live with Kovalev's power. A lot of Ward's best work is done on the inside. If Kovalev was just a huge puncher alone who felt his way through fights, then it might be a decent tactic but due to his fair speed it would be suicide for Ward to get into this sort of battle. Kovalev is a sickening short puncher who literally turns opponents sideways with his power. Even with Ward's experience and durability, there would only be one outcome there.

Alternatively however, what makes it such a fascinating contest is that there's nothing really superhuman about Kovalev's style or work. He does the basics well and mixes them with admittedly outlandish power. It's fair to say too that most of his opponents have stood straight in front of him. If Ward could beat him to the punch often enough and score regularly with single shots or simple combinations without being counter punched too heavily, there's even the idea that he might become frustrated. There's no doubt that Ward has the ability to do that either. He isn't just going to be blown away early by Kovalev's punching power. He's too intelligent a boxer for that. He'll force the Russian champion to think like he's never had to before.

Whichever way you look at it however, on paper it already looks like it could be boxing's greatest match up of 2016. Ward has already spoken of wanting the fight and Kovalev will fight anyone, even in their own backyard if he has to, to cement his position as the greatest light heavyweight in the world. It's a classic fire versus ice match up, where two genuine talents could clash without politics or weight controversies or any of the current malaises that currently trip up the modern fight game on a regular basis. Just a classic tear up to see who's the last man standing. Just like the good old days in fact.