Record: 31-0 (15 KO) ... Streak: W31 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’0" / 71" ... Age: 33
Thoughts: One of the finest technicians of his era, Andre Ward has become the recognized world champion at both 168 and 175 pounds in his pro career, after winning a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, the last male U.S. fighter to do so.
Still somewhat underrated about Ward, though, is that he’s more than a strong technical boxer. He’s a gritty, tough fighter who will bully opponents when the opportunity is presented, and is physically quite strong, if not a big puncher.
Ward’s win over Kovalev last November was plenty controversial — not a robbery, but a lot of people felt it could or should have gone the other way — and the rematch makes all the sense in the world. The fact that we’re actually getting it is a blessing.
Record: 30-1-1 (26 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’0" / 72½" ... Age: 34
Thoughts: Kovalev had been pretty much trucking his competition for years before running into Andre Ward, a fighter skilled and savvy enough to make things difficult for the Russian, whose combination of raw power and technical skill has overwhelmed the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, among others.
There was never really any doubt that Ward was going to be Kovalev’s toughest opponent to date, and he was, of course. But Kovalev and Ward really went about 50-50 overall in that fight. Sergey flashed his power, dropping Ward in the second round, but it was nip-and-tuck the whole way. Again, the rematch makes sense.
Matchup Grade: A+. I don’t have a lot to say about this, as you can surely tell. It was a great matchup and a really good fight last November, and it’s a great matchup and should be a really good fight on Saturday. This is a fight that doesn’t need to be sold to a boxing fan — two of the very best fighters in the world today going one-on-one for a second time, with the 175-pound championship at stake. It’s can’t-miss material.
- Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Moises Flores: Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO) made the mistake of smoking Nonito Donaire back in 2013, after which Top Rank pretty much abandoned promoting him, at least partially laying the blame at HBO’s feet for reportedly rejecting interest in a boring fighter. Eventually, Rigondeaux’s contract with them expired, and he wound up at Roc Nation, which is, you know, certainly a place you can be. The real problem for the Cuban is that he basically can’t get top fighters to face him, and he isn’t really able to force anything because, to be fair, he’s not a main event draw. Flores (25-0, 17 KO) is a legitimate contender, but still a massive underdog here. His only hope, perhaps, is that the 36-year-old Rigondeaux will “get old” in this fight. But Flores has been out of action for a year, too, so he may have some rust to shake early. Grade: C+
- Luis Arias vs Arif Magomedov: Two middleweight prospects, neither blue chippers. Arias (17-0, 8 KO) is a 27-year-old from Milwaukee, while Magomedov (18-1, 11 KO) is a 24-year-old Russian, who was dominated in an upset loss against a club fighter about a year ago. At best this is an OK ShoBox-level fight. Grade: C-
- Dmitry Bivol vs Cedric Agnew: A showcase for Bivol, who is an emerging contender and serious prospect at 175 pounds, currently 10-0 (8 KO) and coming off of wipeout wins over Robert Berridge and Samuel Clarkson. Agnew (29-2, 15 KO) has been around a while, a Chicago fighter who challenged Kovalev back in 2014, and also lost to Clarkson in 2015. If Bivol performs to expectations, this won’t be competitive, but Bivol is worth tuning in to see. Grade: C-