By: Raymundo Dioses
IBF light heavyweight champion Andre Ward successfully defended his title against Sergey Kovalev at the Mandalay Bay in front of 10,592 fans in a stunning performance that ended with an eighth round TKO in what was Ward's first defense of the title he won from Kovalev last year.
The HBO pay per view event was a rematch of their initial encounter in November 2016, which also was staged in Las Vegas.
In the first fight, Ward was awarded a unanimous decision with 114-113 scores from all three judges.
At the outset, both fighters landed meaningful punches which delighted the crowd. Out of the two, Ward was more inclined to use a body attack, which slowly wore down Kovalev throughout the course of the fight.
Referee Tony Weeks warned both fighters to keep the punches clean midway through the bout. At one point Kovalev turned his back following a flurry of punches leaving Ward perplexed. The attack from Ward continued and after another flurry, Kovalev was bent over on the ropes, citing a low blow, and referee Weeks had determined Kovalev could no longer defend himself and stopped the match at 2:29 of round eight.
Ward, (32-0, 16KO) an Oakland, California native, was pleased with the results. “I’m ecstatic, I’m happy. I didn’t predict a knockout, but I said it could happen. I’ve been boxing a long time and, sometimes, a lot of writers and reporters they don’t take you at your word. If you look at my career and the way I’ve gone about things, I’m pretty matter of fact. I’m pretty straightforward. I don’t say anything unless I mean it. I have a lot of respect for Kovalev. He is a world champion. He’s been on top for a long time. He’s a great fighter; there’s not a lot of people that elite. I’m not going to throw him under the bus even though they did a lot of different things. But I knew the temperament that I was fighting. I don’t want to call him a frontrunner, but if he’s not having his way, he’s got to dig deep. I don’t know if he had the right answers tonight. Obviously, he didn’t because the fight got stopped."
At the time of the stoppage, two of the judges had Ward up, with one judge having Kovalev ahead on his card.
On the night’s televised undercard, Luis Arias (18-0, 9KO) made a dominant defense of the USBA middleweight title over Arif Magomedov with a TKO win in which Arias knocked down and eventually forced opponent Arif Magomedov's corner to throw in the towel.
A Las Vegas native, Arias threw sharp punches and used a dedicated body attack en route to his fifth round stoppage win.