LAS VEGAS — Twenty rounds ago, Sergey Kovalev was boxing’s pre-eminent dragon, a beast who bloodied people for sport.
Two fights with Andre Ward have not only tamed Kovalev. They have reduced him.
On Saturday night he was on one knee as referee Tony Weeks waved his hands in adjournment, and Ward kept the three light-heavyweight championships he took from Kovalev last November.
Kovalev had little to say afterward. The people around him did.
Promoter Kathy Duva, angrily facing a “press conference” that was populated with Ward fans, said it was “inconceivable” that Kovalev could lose on “all those low blows in a row,” and promised to appeal the decision to the Nevada state athletic commission.
Good luck with that. Referee Tony Weeks did separate Ward and Kovalev twice and advised Ward to keep his punches off Kovalev’s trunks, but the shot that began Kovalev’s demise in the 8th round landed right on the beltline. It was followed by a wicked right hand shot to the jaw, and Kovalev, who had doubled over in pain twice already in the round, took another barrage to the midsection and went down.
“They can talk about the low blows but there were rabbit punches that he threw, too,” Ward said. “He was grabbing the back of my head. But it’s amazing how people are always going to say something. He’s a quality fighter. I’m blessed to get this win, but I thought it would happen. I was a lot better prepared this time.”
Duva was also suspicious of Guillermo Rigondeaux’s first-round knockout of Moises Torres, which preceded Ward-Kovalev. Referee Vic Drakulich was just getting in between the two fighters at the bell when Rigondeaux’s left hand crashed into Torres’ head. Torres fell, although some felt he was flopping to prompt a disqualification. Drakulich ruled it a knockout, and state commission officials huddled before they supported the ref’s decision, instead of giving Rigondeaux a no contest or even disqualifying him.