By Marc Livitz: Andre Ward has consistently been mentioned as one of boxing’s pound for pound best for close to a decade. His astonishing run through the "Super Six" super middleweight tournament from 2009 to 2011 catapulted him into the discussion as a true superstar. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Oakland, California was perhaps tested to his greatest limits as a professional last November. He chose to jump to the light heavyweight division a few years ago, which led to his showdown with Sergey Kovalev for the lineal crown in the division. Ward was knocked down for the first time in his career, yet the second round setback didn’t stop him from adjusting his tactics and doing whatever was necessary to negate Kovalev’s power and brutal approach. The three ringside judges unanimously agreed with each other and scored the bout 114-113, across the board in Andre’s favor.
In Ward’s view, he bullied the bully and prevailed through years of perseverance and the desire to chase perfection. Kovalev and his camp exercised their rematch clause and will get their wish to attempt to right the wrongs and reclaim the light heavyweight division’s top spot. On Saturday, June 17, "Ward vs. Kovalev 2: The Rematch" will take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and will be televised on HBO Pay Per View (9pm ET/6pm PT). Ward (31-0, 15 KO’s), and his trainer, Virgil Hill fielded questions from the media on Wednesday afternoon on an international conference call.
Selected Highlights Listed Below
Virgil Hill, Opening Statements: "We’ve had a very good and smooth camp, just the way you’d want them to be. We’ve had everything clicking. Andre’s getting closer and closer to who he is as a skilled pugilist. I am looking forward to the 17th and putting an end to this."
Andre Ward, Opening Statements: "I’m excited. We’re about ten days away and I’d like to thank HBO and everyone who had a hand in promoting this."
Ward on His Career So Far: "I’m definitely aware of all of what I have. I’ve seen fighters come and go. Some have long, illustrious careers and some don’t. Some have bad losses and don’t return. I’ve seen it all and I’m just thankful."
"I really had to buckle down and tap into my faith and why things happen the way they do. It’s how life happens. I can always call and get advice from the people in my life. I’m actually happy that I went through what I have because it made me a better person."
On His November Win over Kovalev: "I live in real life. Boxing is a major part of my life but it’s not my whole life. It doesn’t run my life and I enjoyed my victory. People have to understand that a close decision brings a lot of opinions. This wasn’t "home cooking" because I’m not from Las Vegas. It doesn’t always take a close decision to get criticized because I’ve shut guys out for twelve rounds in the past and still got the same."
"I knew what I had in me. I’ve been hurt in my career. I’ve been cut in my career. I have a tremendous godfather in my coach and you heard him during the fight. He didn’t panic. He reminded me that "this is your moment." Sometimes in those fights, it’s not technical. It’s a feeling."
On a New Strategy: "There’s adjustments to be made. It’s my job to go out there and implement it."
Virgil Hill on the same: "The opponent won’t see the same fighter. I wont ask him to do anything he can’t do or hasn’t practiced. I believe that what we’ve worked on, our plan "A" will be more than enough."
On Overconfidence: "You can’t have any fear or trepidation. You can’t have that. We’re aware that his opponent can punch hard. He’s used to giving up weight and size, just like he did in the Olympics. Once again, we respect our opponent on what he’s done and what he’s able to do but it won’t stop him from being smashed in this fight."
Ward on Kovalev’s Complaints: "I don’t know if he’s playing a game or not. I think he and his camp out think themselves. To be honest, it’s a non factor and not something we talk about. We’ve been doing this so long that the threats and stories don’t bother us. All that matters is what happens on the 17th."
"They’re trying to get ahead of the story just in case they get beat again. It’s my job to let there be no doubt this time."
On Age: "Once you get over thirty, you may think you are starting to punch the clock, but personally, I just look at the desire I have. In the past, my coaches had to fight me to get me to take days off. I feel the same. I will get therapy and massages and I look for the signs you see in your early to mid 30’s."
Kovalev’s Power: "I’m not really in the business of assessing guy’s power. Still, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. He is a champion fighter, though."
Virgil Hill on the 1st fight: "I invite anyone to watch the fight with me and tell me how Kovalev won. There are lists of people who feel the bout was even, but so far there’s only been highlights of what Kovalev did or didn’t do. All three judges saw the fight the same way. Why would that happen for any other reason than giving the nod to the right guy?"
"All of a sudden, you have announcers and writers that are better than judges. They’ve never judged a fight in their lives."
Ward on East/West Politics: "I try to stay out of the politics and government issues. I’m still honored to represent my country. It’s an honor and a privilege to live here in the United States."
On Boxing in 2017: "The first fight was a great fight with more drama than I wanted. I think this one will be a tremendous fight. You have to let it play out but you can’t determine whether or not people are going to love it because you just have to do your job."
On Fighting Styles: "Some of those blood and guts fighters eventually hit a wall. They sometimes become forgotten. The great ones can bang with you or box with you whenever it’s to their advantage. I appreciate the boxer, the boxer/puncher and the brawler. I appreciate it all. It’s not all action and that’s not how the sport should be represented."