Andre Ward kept his undefeated record intact while settling his rivalry with Sergey Kovalev once and for all on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Ward met Kovalev for a second time after their first fight ended in a very close, controversial decision that many scored for the Russian this past November.
The rematch was booked almost immediately with a lot of bad blood being shared between the two light heavyweight boxers going into the fight. Much like the first bout, Kovalev and Ward battled at a grueling pace through the first seven rounds in another razor close fight.
Ward quickly returned fire with a series of stinging left hands, but each round was left a toss up as they continued to battle back and forth throughout.
As the sixth and seventh round got underway, Kovalev seemed to slow down just a bit, which was part of the problem he suffered in the first fight as well. His output and volume of punches landed diminished with each passing minute.
In the eighth round, Ward started to target the body more and more. And with each punch landed to Kovalev’s midsection, the 34-year-old Russian seemed to wince while going into survival mode. With Kovalev clearly hurt, Ward poured on the punishment with a heavy barrage of punches to the body as referee Tony Weeks kept a close eye on the action.
The 33-year-old Ward’s assault didn’t slow down until he had Kovalev pinned against the ropes. And as Kovalev bent over from the succession of punches, the referee had no choice but to stop the fight at 2:29 of the eighth round.
Replays of the finishing combination seemed to show that at least a couple of the punches Ward landed went below the belt as he punished Kovalev to earn the TKO. Still, Kovalev was clearly rattled and hurt during that final sequence of punches, which stopped the fight and gave Ward the victory.
When the fight was stopped, two judges had Ward up on the scorecards with the third judge giving the edge to Kovalev through seven rounds.
Ward now moves to 32-0 in his career while retaining his WBA, IBF, WBO light heavyweight titles while also picking up the vacant Ring light heavyweight title as well.
Following his win, Ward mentioned the possibility of even testing higher weight divisions. But for now, he’ll celebrate his TKO over Kovalev (30-2-1) and shutting the door on that rivalry for the time being.