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Hunter: Ward has backup plan if he gets knocked down

Virgil Hunter talks to reporters about some of their preparations for Saturday’s rematch with Sergey Kovalev.

Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

Trainer Virgil Hunter took tome time to chat with media members and answer questions about their preparations for this weekend rematch with Sergey Kovalev. FightHub was on hand to catch the media scrum, so check out what Hunter had to say...

Hunter on in Ward has come to terms with the idea he might have to eat some of Kovalev’s punches to get off his own:

“Well, we understand that. But what we wanna do is make sure that he doesn’t get the flush punch. You know, he might graze you with a glancing punch, it might be a rushed punch, you know, a punch - ‘get off of me’ as opposed to being planted, and zeroing in and boom, getting that shot.

“And I’m not saying that even that kind of punch can’t do it, it depends on if he loses sight of the punch, or the elements are right — even that punch could do it. But we feel like it works both ways.”

On if Ward was hurt when he was dropped in the first fight:

“No, contrary to what everybody said. [Ward] said he definitely felt the blow, it was sharp, but if people want to be honest about the fact, about the knockdown, when he got up there was 28 seconds left, wasn’t it? I think it was 28 seconds let. He never landed another punch. So if he was hurt, how could he make him miss? He had the eyes and the reactions to where he never landed another punch. All you gotta do is watch it after the knockdown.’

On John David Jackson laughing at Ward’s power and if he believes that Ward’s power was making an impression on Kovalev in the second half of the fight:

“Well, the fighter’s know. Coach Jackson, you know, he puts it the way he wants to put it. I mean, I’m a realist, I’m not hoping it turns out this way, hoping that you can’t crack but the bottom line and the facts are that we’ve faced many big punchers. Miranda — when he was Miranda — Abraham, Froch, and for somebody who can’t hit they sure didn’t wanna take a chance and keep coming in there. Because when he hits you, he hits you sharp and he hits you accurate and those punches hurt.

“...[Ward] has a high connect rate, he was second in the world behind Mayweather in connect percentage, and not that far off, I think maybe by 1 point, 1.2, something like that. So when you got punches constantly hitting you in different places, you gonna think twice. And [Ward] is very physically strong. But he does hit very hard to the body.”

On if Ward has asked him if he should do anything differently in preparing for this rematch:

“No. No. Once his knee was sound and we knew that wasn’t gonna be a problem any more, all it did was take us back to where he was before he had the knee issue...Andre’s taken great care of himself, he doesn’t party, he doesn’t drink, smoke, and he doesn’t have any wear and tear on him from boxing. The year-and-a-half did him good and also this will be our fourth fight to face a Sergey Kovalev with only two fights coming back. That’s a big task. You know ideally you would like four or five fights where, you know, he could get into that groove.

“But because the knee, sort of had to make adjustments where he fought more from the waist up, he was more stationary...his legs were spread a little wider in order to compensate for that feeling so, we just did what we had to do. And that just goes to prove how versatile he is.

“ this stage, people say strategy, but at this stage with a fighter like Andre that can adapt and feel you out, I think you would put a little too much on the table to have an initial strategy, but we do have backup plans if he gets knocked down again. We have to go back to what he did in the first fight, take it one round at a time and, you know, come back.”

On Ward not doing any roadwork leading into the first fight:

“No. We tried but it wouldn’t work. So we just did other measures, I mean, we were able to do some cardio, don’t get me wrong, but running is just a little different because you can simulate what you do in the ring and he doesn’t just run straight ahead. Backwards, laterals, skips, hops, you know - those types of things. So he just wasn’t able to do that.

“So it does compromise your legs when you get used to doing things a certain way. His legs are very important.”

On if Ward has to fight Kovalev on the inside because boxing him on the outside is too dangerous:

“Well, we’ll see because his legs are sound. Okay, and all I did was take him back to the Olympics with the four-time world champion that he beat, Evengy Makarenko from Russia, and the strategy that we had to beat him because of course he had his legs. So in the [first fight] we knew that he was gonna be stationary.”

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