By Raymundo Dioses
The newest edition of the Emmy award winning HBO 24/7 franchise opens with the immediate aftermath of Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev I on November 19, 2016. A dejected yet still upbeat Kovalev walks into his dressing room and throws a wink at the camera while Team Kovalev conjoins and agrees in unison that "they got a gift", in reference to the controversial outcome of the first encounter, a decision win in Ward's favor.
"Raise your hand if you panicked when I went down," a jovial Ward asks his crew inside his locker room. "You all didn't think it was over? Be honest now!" Asks Ward in comical tone as the room tells the unified light heavyweight champion that they in fact did not worry when Ward suffered a second round knockdown, the first of his career. "I appreciate you all, I love you all, thank you," Ward goes on to tell the pro-Ward room.
Back to Kovalev's room the HBO cameras go as Kovalev vents his frustration at losing his belts to Ward, followed up with an embrace from wife and son. "Did you see how your daddy got robbed?," Kovalev asks his toddler son. Scene shift to the Ward room, who shows the IBF belt to his toddler son.
The narrator does a lead-in to the rematch, officially set for June 17, 2017, again in Las Vegas, set at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
BACK TO BIG BEAR STARTS KOVALEV’S ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Back to Big Bear Kovalev returns in seek of redemption. The loss to Ward was a big one, Kovalev's first as a professional and with it, the loss of not only the IBF belt, but also the WBO and WBA straps. Kovalev takes to the Southern California mountains in pursuit of re-gaining the titles and status lost on November 19, 2016, meanwhile 400 miles north Ward
wraps his hands in Oakland, California and sets the bar high for himself, stating he needs to be better than the first time around.
A flashback to fight No. I shows fight day footage from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Both men stepped into the arena that night full of confidence with Kovalev starting off with a dominant left hand jab that led to an opening rounds knockdown. "That wasn't the start that I wanted," reflects Ward of the first few frames of the fight. Expert HBO commentator Jim Lampley chimes in, stating he knew of Kovalev's power and how it could give Ward problems, which it did as Ward fell in round two from a straight right thrown by Kovalev.
Ward re-grouped with trainer Virgil Hunter in his ear between rounds, yet the onslaught continued from Kovalev, who jabbed and combination punched his way through the mid rounds. "One mistake that Kovalev is making right now is that he is following Ward around, watching him cut the ring off," states HBO voice Roy Jones Jr., who recounts how Kovalev stepped off the petal in the mid to late rounds, giving Ward the opportunity to come back on the scorecards via body attacks and the fight was still undecided heading into the final frame. Kovalev had his doubts about getting the decision after the final bell, while Ward threw a glove in the air and knew it was close, yet was grateful for the way he came back in the fight.
A 114-113 unanimous decision was given by all judges in the favor of Ward in what was the thinnest margin of victory in the career of Ward, which provided his biggest prize since his middleweight title reign.
"We will decide who is the best in the rematch," states Kovalev as he is shown laying the groundwork for fight II on the streets of Big Bear, California. Kovalev believes he over-trained for the title defense, backed up by trainer John David Jackson, who noted the fighter would run up to 14 miles a day during his three month training camp. Kovalev brought in a conditioner and now has more relaxed workouts three times per day.
IBF LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION WARD A TRUE FAMILY MAN
Ward is seen with his performance coach performing out of the box types of routines in preparation of his first IBF light heavyweight title defense. A series of weights and band work consist of the training Ward has included into his training camp. A more intimate side of the new champion is then shown as the fighter is filmed with wife and children inside their home. Ward gives the smallest of children an exercise command of five pushups for a missed catch of a football, which the four year old does, and then some, pumping out eight in front of his IBF champion father. "Who's daddy getting ready to fight," asks Ward of his youngest. "Sergey Kokolev," responds Ward's son.
CAMPS CLOSE, FIGHT NO. 2 LOOMS
Kovalev begins training in Big Bear and ends camp in Oxnard, California, where son-of-Kovalev dons mini Krusher-gloves and taps punches off his boxer father. A rope-skipping session ensues, followed up with mitt-work with trainer Jackson to a James Brown tune. "Get those belts back," Jackson states while sitting side by side with his fighter, with scene cut to training clips featuring both fighters in preparation for fight II.
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II for the IBF light heavyweight title takes place June 17, 2017 live on HBO Pay Per View from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.