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  1. Sat Dec 17, 2016 Oleksandr Usyk Drops Mchunu Three Times For KO in Nine The Forum, Inglewood, California - Making his American debut, Olympic gold medal winner Oleksandr Usyk (11-0, 10KOs) scored three knockdowns to stop Thabiso Mchunu (17-3, 11KOs) in the ninth round to retain his WBO cruiserweight championship for the first time. The battle of southpaws began with Usyk working his jab and sizing up Mchunu, who was using his short stature to make things very tough for Usyk. The second round was more of Usyk jabbing, with Mchunu landing the bigger and more effective shots. Usyk began to get more active in the third, but it was still Mchunu landing the better shots with his right hand finding the mark. Usyk picked up the pace even further in the fourth, by letting his hands go and started letting go with some very big punches. Uysk was more accurate in the fifth, and began to find the target more often and was really unleashing with his punch ratio. Mchunu was landing a good shot here and there but not nearly active enough. The sixth saw Usyk really unloading and landing some very hard shots on Mchunu, and a big left uppercut sent him. Mchunu got up and Usyk went right after him to to follow-up, but the Mchunu managed to fight him off to get away from trouble. Mchunu was trying to re-establish himself in the seventh while Usyk took his foot off the gas. Towards the end of that round, Mchunu was getting overwhelmed by a lot of shots coming at him. Usyk went right back to work in the eight, landing some good punches but then he seemed to get bothered by a few hard right hands that countered back from Mchunu. For some reason Mchunu did not follow up with anything to see if Usyk was actually hurt. Usyk started landing to the body in the ninth and then following up with combinations to the head. A few more punches wore Mchunu down for a second knockdown. Then Usyk jumped on with Mchunu trying to fight him off, but Usyk continued to land hard shots and sent him down for a third time - and the referee waved off the fight.
  2. Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald. Boxing: Unbeaten Hughie Fury shaping up for title fight against Joseph Parker Joseph Parker's handlers say they aren't in any hurry to make a decision on their heavyweight world champion's future, but it appears increasingly likely that he will fight in Dunedin in March or April. His opponent is likely to be Hughie Fury, the cousin of Tyson, whose drugs test failure and mental health issues opened the way for Parker to claim the vacant WBO title with his majority decision victory over Andy Ruiz jnr at Vector Arena on Saturday. If so, it would be a good fight for Parker. The undefeated Hughie Fury, 22, is a big man at 1.98m, 5cm taller than the 24-year-old Parker, who will be in the unusual position of fighting a younger opponent. Parker's best victories have come against bigger men, and he must once again get ready for fighting the giants of the division. Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, potential opponents next year, are the same height as Fury. WBC champion Deontay Wilder is also tall at 2.01m. A rematch against Ruiz is not on the agenda, but it appears inevitable that the pair will meet again at some stage. While Parker's next opponent is yet to be confirmed by Duco Events, one thing appears certain - he won't be kept on the same schedule which has seen him fight 15 times in three years. The workload has taken its toll, mentally and physically, on Parker and he is in dire need of a break. He is likely to remain in New Zealand for six weeks to two months before returning to Las Vegas. Trainer Kevin Barry, too, is due for a rest, and will remain here on holiday with wife Tanya and daughter Jordy before returning to his base on January 22. Barry admitted that Parker had been on a "very, very ambitious schedule", over the past three years. He has been a professional for a little over four years. Asked whether that would continue, Barry said: "Not a chance." "The truth is, we've had a very, very busy three years and Joe's body is a little tired now. He needs this break, his trainer needs the break." Asked about Hughie Fury as a potential next opponent, Barry said: "He's definitely one of the options. Right at the moment we're not planning the next fight. We're just celebrating this victory and having some time off. "Right now we're reflecting on the last four years and what we've achieved as a team together," he said. Hughie Fury. Photo / Getty Images Tyson Fury and David Haye, whom Parker was due to meet in a mandatory challenge to his WBO title before the Englishman decided to take what many regard as an easier fight against cruiserweight Tony Bellow, sent Parker messages after his victory, saying "there were big things ahead". For Barry, there must also be improvement, saying that Parker did not quite follow the specifics of a game plan which targeted Ruiz's ample body. "There are a couple of things that I was asking him for in the fight yesterday that he didn't deliver - one was a straight right hand to the body and left hook that we have worked multiple times in training. And it works beautifully off the double jab. He was setting the double jab up but he wasn't giving me the third and fourth punch. I asked for that many times during the fight. Duco's Dean Lonergan on Joseph Parker's next move "I know that Joe has a really nice liver shot and I thought that Andy might have been the guy that we could have really executed that on, but we didn't. "As nice as Joe's jab was on the outside, next year I need that jab even stronger and to be thrown more often, because when he's throwing that jab he's in total control. When he doesn't use it, he allows other people to close the distance. "Now that's he's a world champion, those standards have to be higher now. We have to take it to a whole new level. This is not the end of four years, this is the beginning of Joe's career now." Like Parker, Barry brushed off the criticism about the decision of the judges to either score the fight a draw or a win for his man. Salven Lagumbay (Philippines) scored it 114-114, with Ramon Cerdan (Argentina) and Ingo Barrabas (Germany) giving it to Parker 115-113. "I thought it was a very close fight," Barry said. "I thought that Joe scored with a lot of clean punches with his left jab from the outside. We had three independent judges from three different countries around the world that we had no affiliation with." - NZ Herald Must say I don't like the Fury's at all
  3. scribbs

    Kennedy McKinney

    Forgotten Legends: Kennedy McKinney By: Steve Gallegos Throughout the 1980’s into the 90’s, the Heavyweight division in boxing still hailed at the top; however in the early 1990’s a string of fresh new talent began to emerge in the lower weight divisions. Some of that talent included fighters like Johnny Tapia, Michael Carbajal, Kevin Kelley, Junior Jones and Orlando Canizales. They were little big men as they were smaller guys who packed a heavyweight punch. There was another member of that elite group that has long since been forgotten. He was former two-time super bantamweight champion, Kennedy “King” McKinney. A very exiciting, hard hitting fighter with a iron will and chin, McKinney put the super bantamweight division on notice in the 1990’s. McKinney was a very good amateur who competed in many national tournaments. He represented the United States at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea in which he brought back the Gold medal in the bantamweight division. He turned professional in February of 1989 and would go 21-0-1 with 13 KO’s over the next 3 1/2 years. He would get his first crack at a world title when he faced South African Welome Ncita. They met on 12/02/92 in a very small arena in Tortoli, Sardegna, Italy for the IBF Jr. featherweight championship. The early rounds were a back and forth war waged on the inside. In the middle portion of the fight, McKinney began to find his range with his right hand. He was setting up the right hand with his left jab and hurt Ncita many times in the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds. The pace picked back up in the ninth as both fighters had they’re moments. In the 10th, Ncita would have his best round as he rocked McKinney and almost had him on the canvas. The 11th round was the best round of the fight as Ncita rocked McKinney with a combination. McKinney was hurt, turned his back and went down. It appeared McKinney had quit; however he got up and took the count. Ncita went in for the kill, landing hard shots to the body and head; however he punched himself out and McKinney once again found his range. Towards the end of the round while against the ropes, McKinney landed a flush right hand that put Ncita down and out. It was a tremendous ending to a great fight and McKinney was now a world champion. He would successfully defend his title five times over the next 15 months, two by KO including a majority decison win over Ncita in a rematch. On 08/20/94, McKinney traveled to South Africa to defend his title against then unknown South African challenger Vuyani Bungu. It wasn’t McKinney’s night as Bungu controlled the bout with his crisp boxing en route to a convincing 12 round decision in Ring Magazine’s upset of the year. McKinney would take a year off from boxing and returned the in August of 1995 with an eighth round TKO over unbeaten John Lowey to claim the WBU super bantamweight title. This setup a showdown with future Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera. Barrera came into the bout with an outstanding record of 39-0 with 27 KO’s and he successfully defended his super bantamweight title four times. They met on 02/03/96 at the legendary Great Western Forum in Englewood, CA for the WBO super bantamweight title. It would be the first main event on HBO’s legendary Boxing After Dark series. Earlier in the week at a press conference to promote the fight, McKinney got under Barrera’s skin by telling him that he couldn’t beat him and how dare he try to come in and beat him while calling him “Boy”. Barerra got upset and stood up and clocked McKinney with a right hand; therefore it was a very intense atmosphere going into the bout. It was a pro-Barrera crowd that night and the Forum crowd booed when McKinney was introduced. The first round was all action as both men had their moments. McKinney was successful with his jab and was able to get in a couple of hard right hands. Barrera however was unphased as he landed hard shots of his own to the body and head while taking the round. The second round was more of the same as McKinney was able to weather Barrera’s vicious attack and stuck to his game plan by throwing his jab to set up his terrific right hand and had better success than the previous round. The third and fourth rounds were much of the same as McKinney controlled the pace with his jab and right hands. He used his longer reach to his advantage by not allowing Barrera to get on the inside and his punch output began to increase. As the bout neared the midway point, McKinney elected to abandon his jab and go toe to toe with Barrera. Both men landed hard shots to the body and head and it was nonstop as the bell sounded to end the sixth. In the eighth, the tide turned in favor of Barerra as he landed a hard combination that put McKinney on the canvas. Barerra, known as being a great finisher went in for the kill landing hard shots and put McKinney on the canvas again. McKinney was able to get up and survive Barrera’s onslaught to make it out of the round. Barrera continued to pressure McKinney in the ninth and would put Kennedy down again with an accumulation of punches. McKinney showed amazing heart by getting up off the canvas again and make it out of the round. McKinney regained the momentum in the 10th as he was able to land his right hand at will, stunning Barerra and causing him to back up. In the 11th, McKinney re-established his jab and he was able to land a hard flush right hand that buckled Barrera, causing his glove to touch the canvas; therefore it was scored as a knockdown. McKinney had the momentum going into the final round; however McKinney’s corner told him he needed a knockout. In the early stages of the 12th, Barrera put McKinney down with another quick combination; however McKinney appeared to slip and didn’t feel it was a true knockdown. In either case, it was scored a knockdown. McKinney elected to stand and trade with Barrera, giving it his all. Barrera would put McKinney down with a hard body shot, however referee Pat Russell unusually ruled it a slip. McKinney was hurt and Barrera went in for the kill to put McKinney down with a straight right hand as referee Pat Russel stopped the bout. Larry Merchant said it best, “A fitting end to a great, great prizefight“. It was a great way for boxing to start off 1996 and it was 1996’s “Fight of the Year”. Despite taking the brutal punishment, McKinney was back in the ring only three months later and won his next two bouts by decision, however the performances were subpar. 14 months after the sensational war with Barerra, McKinney was back in line for another title shot as he went back to South Africa to challenge Vuyani Bungu in a rematch, however he would once again come up short by losing a close 12 round decision. McKinney once again wasted no time and he was back in the ring only a month later as he won a unanimous decison over former world champion Hector Acero-Sanchez. He would win his next fight by TKO to set up another title shot. This time against super bantamweight champion “Poison” Junior Jones. Jones was on a high as he was coming off of two big wins over Marco Antonio Barrera. He was in the top 10 pound for pound and was confident he was unbeatable at 122 lbs. They met on 12/19/97 at Madison Square Garden, New York City. It was the co-feature on a huge night headlined by “Prince” Naseem Hamed, who was making his American debut against Kevin Kelley. Jones was hoping to land that big money fight against Hamed and was very confident he would overpower McKinney. McKinney appeared to show Jones no respect by turning his back during the referee’s instructions. McKinney also said that Jones had a glass jaw and the fight wouldn’t go eight rounds. Jones, an excellent boxer with a great jab and controlled the pace of the first two rounds. In the third round, Jones picked up the pace and put McKinney on the canvas with a good combination to the body and head. McKinney got up off the canvas and Jones went in for the kill, hoping to take his man out. In the middle of Jones’ onslaught, McKinney was able to land a hard right hand that buckled Jones towards the end of the round. Jones came out in the fourth, still dazed and winded from punching himself out. McKinney patiently began to stalk Jones, landing right hands at will. Within the last half minute of the round, both men threw right hands, however McKinney’s landed first and it landed hard, putting Jones on the canvas. Junior was able to get up, however he had nothing left and when the referee said fight, Jones then stumbled and fell forward, causing referee Wayne Kelly to stop the fight. It was a great comeback win for McKinney and he was back on top as he was once again a world champion. “Prince” Naseem Hamed would score an impressive fourth round knockout of his own in the main event. McKinney came into the ring after the fight with his new title belt to congratulate “Naz”, hoping he could get that big money fight. Negotiations began for a mega fight between Hamed and McKinney and it was close to being scheduled for “Halloween” night, 1998 in Atlantic City, however Hamed elected to fight Wayne McCullough instead. McKinney then decided to move up to featherweight to challenge WBC champion Luisito Espinosa. They met on 11/28/98 in Indio, CA and the winner of this fight was promised to get a shot at “Prince” Hamed. McKinney was coming off an 11 month layoff and the ring rust showed in the ring as he was destroyed in two rounds. It would be the end of Kennedy McKinney’s career near the top. He would go 3-2 from 1999-2003 before retiring with a record of 36-6-1 with 19 KO’s. Today he runs a boxing gym in Olive Branch, MS. He was a hard nose, blood and guts warrior who was right there in front of his opponent for every second of every round. Probably the most successful American super bantamweight of all time and he put the division on the map in the 1990’s. We hope to see him in Canastota someday. RingTV - Best I Faced Watch Fights
  4. Gareth A Davies, Boxing Correspondent 4 December 2016 • 9:28am Eleven months of inactivity after being crowned WBO middleweight champion showed in Billy Joe Saunders's lack of sharpness during his first title defence against fellow southpaw Artur “Wolverine” Akavov in Paisley. Saunders, exhausted by the final round, won the contest by a unanimous 116-113, 116-112, 115-113 points decision but this was a lethargic, unconvincing performance against the WBO's No 10-ranked challenger. This was a long way from Saunders's best. "I should be embarrassed to talk about facing Gennady Golovkin on that performance, there was nothing there, I felt flat," he said afterwards. "That was terrible, not a world-class performance. But a win's a win." There was an appearance from Tyson Fury, former holder of three of the heavyweight belts, and currently exiled from boxing due to mental health issues, who carried Saunders's belt into the ring, animatedly urging the middleweight fighter to attack in the closing stages of the contest. Yet mysteriously absent from Saunders's corner was highly-experienced trainer Jimmy Tibbs. It told. Saunders was unwilling to reveal to broadcasters BoxNation exactly why Tibbs was not present. The Hatfield traveller's slickness and trademark jab were absent from the early rounds, the 27-year-old champion caught flush with a left by the Russian, based in Brooklyn, in the third, as the unbeaten Briton took time to work off ring rust and find his rhythm in the fight. It was not until the seventh round that Saunders began to work with urgency, evading Akavov and landing heavier shots of his own. Saunders advanced his record record to 24-0 (12 KOs), but this was a poor showing from the skilled fighter who still has hopes of facing Golovkin, the division's No 1-ranked fighter, in 2017. Full Fight HD 'I WAS F****** S**T! FORGET GGG BASED ON THAT' -BILLY JOE SAUNDERS SLAMS PERFORMANCE AGAINST AKAVOV
  5. Orlando Cruz could become the first gay boxing world champion Orlando Cruz wants to become the first openly gay boxing world champion and he could achieve it on Saturday night. He's trying to win the WBO lightweight title from England's Terry Flanagan in Cardiff. The 35-year-old Puerto Rican says victory would be "for all the gay athletes in the world". It would be a major milestone for a traditionally macho sport, so if you've never heard of Orlando Cruz here's everything you need to know. Who is he? It's a good place to start. Orlando Cruz has been boxing for more than 27 years. As an amateur, he represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia - going pro later that year. People have told me I'm an inspiration for coming out of the closet Orlando Cruz He's nicknamed El Fenomeno, which loosely translates from Spanish as "the phenomenon". He came out in 2012, making him the first boxer to do so while still competing. "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican," he said, "I have always been and always will be a proud gay man". In July he dedicated a match to victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, in which he lost four friends. Is he any good? Impressively, Cruz remained undefeated for the first nine years of his professional career. He first lost to America's Cornelius Lock in 2009. He's also already had one pop at become the world's first openly gay boxing champion back in 2013. He didn't make it, though, losing the fight to Mexico's Orlando Salido. What's he said? Cruz isn't playing down the importance of his second chance to make history. "It's a big moment for me, my community and my country," he says. "It's very important, wonderful, that other people are interested in me as a role model. "People have told me I'm an inspiration for coming out of the closet. They want to be the same as me - not scared, only happy. "I want that other [gay] athletes are not scared to walk into the society. Don't be scared. Be happy with your life, and happy with your decision. All people are the same." Can he do it? Image caption Orlando Cruz's opponent, Terry Flanagan This is where things get a bit more tricky to answer. Cruz has had a great year and he's won his last five fights. But his opponent, 27-year-old Brit Terry Flanagan, is the firm favourite. He's the current holder of the belt and he's never lost a fight. "I've not got a problem with him being an openly gay fighter," he said. "My sister is openly gay and I'm more proud of her than anyone. "Fair play to him for coming out in such a tough sport and it might encourage others to come out."
  6. Cliff Rold does excellent previews - here's tonight's big one - my pick is Ward - just a gut feeling and not based on anything else - a pick'em fight for me Sat Nov 19, 2016 Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward: Pre-Fight Report Card by Cliff Rold Four years ago, having gone through the Super Six minefield and becoming the first man to stop then lineal light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in a super middleweight title fight, Andre Ward looked like the heir apparent. Following the wild round robin years of the 1980s featuring a relative parity of elite talent led by Sugar Ray Leonard, there has always been that one guy who stands out from the crowd; the sublime master talent whose peers can’t quite catch up to in their prime. Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather…Andre Ward? That’s the way things looked like they were heading. Maybe that’s the way they’ve been all these years anyways. Injuries and a well documented legal battle with his former promoters kept Ward on the shelf for most of 2013 and all of 2014. Since returning in June 2015 from an eighteen-month layoff, the former 168 lb. king Ward has been in the ring three times. He may not have lost more than a handful of rounds. He hasn’t shared the ring with anyone who had any business doing better than that. That changes this weekend. A lot of things have changed over the last four years. When Ward stepped into the ring with Dawson in September 2012, Sergey Kovalev was still just an interesting prospect in the light heavyweight division. In January 2013, he announced that he might be much more. A three round annihilation of former titlist Gabriel Campillo was an eye opener. Campillo came in on the heels of highly debated decision losses to Beibut Shumenov and Tavoris Cloud; he could easily have been a unified beltholder that night. Kovalev walked through him. He’s walked through a lot of other good fighters since while winning three of the four most recognized belts in his class. Nathan Cleverly and Jean Pascal had never been stopped before they faced Kovalev. No one had ever shut out the great Bernard Hopkins before Kovalev did it. In nine title fights at light heavyweight, only two have lasted the distance and all have hit the deck at least once. None of them were Andre Ward. In the four years since Ward last faced someone regarded as an elite talent, a genuine rival has emerged. In each other, Ward and Kovalev find an opponent that can both validate everything they’ve done to date and elevate their standing to a new plateau. Many fights can be regarded going in as 50-50 but for the rare few does that really set the imagination on fire. It might not decide history’s king at 175 lbs. (that claim still resides with Adonis Stevenson), but the winner will be widely regarded as the best light heavyweight in the world. This isn’t just a fight where we can’t be sure who will win. It’s a fight where we can’t wait to find out. Let’s go the report card. The Ledgers Sergey Kovalev Age: 33 ?Current Titles: WBO Light Heavyweight (2013-Present, 8 Defenses); WBA Super Light Heavyweight (2014-Present, 4 Defenses); IBF Light Heavyweight (2014-Present, 4 Defenses) Previous Titles: None Height: 6’0 Weight: 175 lbs. ?Hails from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Hails from Russia) Record: 30-0-1, 26 KO Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec), #2 (ESPN) Record in Major Title Fights: 9-0, 7 KO Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 4 (Gabriel Campillo TKO3; Nathan Cleverly TKO4; Bernard Hopkins UD12; Jean Pascal TKO8, RTD7) Vs. Andre Ward Age: 32 ?Current Title: None Previous Titles: WBA Super Middleweight (2009-15, 6 Defenses); WBC Super Middleweight (2011-13, 1 Defense); TBRB/Ring/Lineal Super Middleweight (2011-15, 2 Defenses) Height: 6’0 Weight: 175 lbs. ?Hails from: Oakland, California Record: 30-0, 15 KO Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene, TBRB), #3 (ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec), #4 (Ring) Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 1 KO Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Mikkel Kessler TD11; Sakio Bika UD12; Arthur Abraham UD12; Carl Froch UD12; Chad Dawson TKO10) Grades Pre-Fight: Speed – Kovalev B+; Ward A Pre-Fight: Power – Kovalev A; Ward B Pre-Fight: Defense – Kovalev B+; Ward A Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Kovalev A+; Ward A+ If the weigh in is any indication of the atmosphere Saturday night, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist at Light Heavyweight, Ward, will have the home court advantage here. Kovalev got a round of boos when he stepped to the scale. He smiled anyways. This isn’t first time he’s been on the road in hostile territory. Both men looked elated by the moment and in peak shape. There was no reason to expect anything less. Both Ward and Kovalev have been consistently professional throughout their careers. They also consistently met and exceeded expectations. Kovalev and Ward are gamers. They don’t just win their big fights. They win big in their big fights. What will that mean Saturday? It could mean one man holds to that standard and simply takes over. We can hope it means we get something more memorable than that, a genuine two-way contest worthy of the anticipation this has garnered among serious fight followers. There are reasons to think both are possible. If one man takes over, the smart pick to do so is probably Ward. Kovalev physically dominating Ward, hurting him early and never letting up, is possible. Ward’s craft makes that less likely. The American is the sort of fighter who does a little bit of everything right. He has excellent balance, understands distance as well as any fighter in the game, and can throw in some work from the southpaw side just to mess with an opponent’s timing. Ward’s best power punch is the left hook but power isn’t what makes his game. What makes Ward so fascinating to watch, and frustrating for foes, is the way he takes weapons away. For fighters who like to fight inside, Ward has proven able to box at range and smother when they get close. Against foes that like to keep a man at the end of a jab, think Kessler and Dawson, Ward beat them up at close quarters. He doesn’t waste motion regardless. Ward moves but he’s not a guy who stays on his toes all night. His movement is about getting to the next spot where he can plant and land again. It’s not always pretty and he’s not above bending the rules. Forearms, an educated forehead, and clinches that allow him to use his physical strength to wear men down aren’t about aesthetics. They’re just about winning. Another thing that makes fighters like Ward successful is that they bring the punch output of their opponent’s down. Ward has smart head movement and is no easy target. If Kovalev headhunts, he is in for a long night. He’s regularly shown the ring smarts to be more than that but he struggled in spots in his last fight against Isaac Chilemba. Chilemba boxed, stayed in his game, and lasted the distance while winning a few rounds along the way. Kovalev couldn’t find him the way he was used to finding others. His punch output dropped from a Compubox average in the eight fights prior to Chilemba by approximately nine punches per round. If Chilemba can do that, Ward’s chances to bring his output down even more look good. Kovalev isn’t above using the rough stuff either. He punches what is available. Sometimes that means flirting around the waistline; sometimes it means a hard shot that lands on the back of the head. Kovalev will have to have answers for Ward’s reservoir of tactical knowledge. It will start off the jab. In his breakthrough fight against Mikkel Kessler, Ward disrupted the Dane’s jab all night. Kessler had arguably the best jab in the super middleweight division then. The same can be said of Kovalev right now at light heavyweight. Kovalev’s jab appears superior to Kessler’s. It’s just as straight but Kovalev isn’t as athletically rigid and he mixes it up to the head and body better. Ward has the edge in speed here but Kovalev is quick enough to use his advantage in arm length. The reach, on paper, isn’t far apart but Kovalev has more narrow shoulders than Ward. Earlier this year, the punch that Sullivan Barrera had the most (of limited) success with against Ward was the jab. Like Kovalev, that was predicated on his length. If Kovalev can establish his jab, he can win the fight. The jab sets up everything else. Some have pointed out Kovalev’s perceived deficiency on the inside. If this becomes a phone booth fight, the edge will be to Ward. Few are better at working in the clinch and hacking away with the free hand. Carl Froch was able to land his share of awkward rights against Ward. It wasn’t enough to change the fight, but the angles he worked from made Ward work to the end. Kovalev is quicker than Froch and can land at similar angles with more precision. It doesn’t mean Kovalev lacks weapons at close range. He’s very good at taking a short step backwards and landing quick left hooks and shortened, slashing overhand rights when foes try to crowd. That he can land those with power moving backwards makes him more dangerous. Defense is an assumed advantage for Ward but Kovalev isn’t easy to hit either. His head movement is an overlooked asset and he’s good at creating space. This could be a fight where we see both men thinking and looking for openings in spots versus punching. Temperament will be a factor as well. Neither Kovalev nor Ward come across as kindly men in the ring. Can either man shake the other mentally and force them out of character? How will Ward respond if he has to come off the floor? How will Kovalev respond if he finds himself being bullied inside and forced to the ropes? We’re mere hours from finding both the answers to these questions and what questions we didn’t think to ask. The Pick There are a few ways for Ward to win here and it will be interesting to see what his strategy is. Does he think his chances are better in smothering Kovalev or will he find his edge in speed allows him to use his legs and counter punching to keep Kovalev frozen and resetting. For Kovalev, it's a tighter needle to thread. He has to hurt Ward at some point and not let him establish a rhythm. Kovalev can win rounds that way but it's hard to see seven of them. Ward is a twelve round, methodical fighter. A long steady contest favors him. The power of Kovalev, his underrated quickness, and fluid combinations, make him a threat no matter the round. This isn’t as simple as boxer versus puncher. Both men are well-rounded, high boxing IQ talents with commensurate professional experience. They’ve seen a range of styles, both have been in big fights, and neither knows how to lose. However, in flipping the coin on a fight that is 50-50 on paper, the coin comes up Ward. Kovalev’s paths to victory depend on offense and Ward is a master of stifling offensive fighters. It’s the safe pick even if no pick feels safe on this one. The fight is that good. Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 37-13