HBO PPV Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev, Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Moises Flores, Dmitry Bivol vs Cedric Agnew & Luis Arias vs Arif Magomedov
BY KID HERSH
From the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas came the highly anticipated rematch of light heavyweight kings Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward on HBO PPV.
First up on the PPV was Luis Cubas Arias (17-0, 8KO's) vs Arif Magomedov (18-1, 11KO's). Robert Byrd was the referee. In the first round both men landed some snappy shots - with Arif showing that he did not come to be a showcase fight opponent for Arias as he caught Arias in between his punches and got shots off first instead of waiting on his man. Arias was landing some good punches of his own but did not look warmed up until he came out in the second round and took control, landing an uppercut one minute in that looked like it shook Arif. He continually landed throughout the round - including more uppercuts and a right hand that wobbled Arif's legs in the closing seconds of the round. In the third round the fight grew pretty ugly as Arif was frustrated from not being able to land on Arias - even looking to land elbows on the inside when he got the opportunity (getting a warning from Byrd). Arias continued taking over the fight bit by bit - with Arif looking very 1D and unable to change his tactics. Then in the fifth round Arias landed a right hand flush a minute into the round that stiffened the legs of Arif. He followed up and put Arif down. Arif got up but was basically out on his feet and Cubas got the easy stoppage. This was a really good showcase fight for him; Arif is not a gimme fight by any means he took over the fight completely after a tough first round.
Next up was Dmitry Bivol (10-0, 8KO's) vs Cedric Agnew (29-2, 15KO's). Russell Mora was the referee. Bivol almost had himself a first round stoppage as Agnew felt his jab and immediately went into a shell - not even throwing a punch in the first round really. He was dropped in the final minute of the first round and while he got up he backed into a corner and covered up for the remainder to barely make it through. Not much happened in the second round as Agnew would not open up at all and was just looking to stay alive. Agnew was getting beat up further in the third round but was surprisingly opening a bit more - meaning maybe ten punches in the round instead of zero. Then in the fourth round the fight was over midway through when Agnew was hit with a right hand and looked to be blinking and noticeably affected by the punch. Mora waved off the fight - already knowing that Agnew was out of it and not going to make a fight of it while looking for a way out. Here it was on a silver platter, whether he created it or its legit.
Next up was was the highly anticipated pre main event featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11KO's) vs Moises Flores (25-0, 17KO's). Vic Drakulich was the referee. In the first round Flores was wading forward and throwing punches but hitting nothing but air as most Rigo opponents do. Then the controversy would ensue at the very end of the round when both men were throwing their first hard punches in an exchange and Rigo landed a left to the chin that appeared to be well after the bell. Flores would fall down but it looked like it was in a bit of "fashion", if you know what I mean, as he had a bit of a delay and sprawled out on the canvas. Drakulich looked slightly confused for a split second as he stood over Flores but was not counting, only to wave off the fight eventually when it was obvious that Flores was not going to get up. The punch was officially ruled a legal blow, so Rigo got the knockout.
Main event time! Andre SOG Ward (31-0, 15KO's) vs Sergey Krusher Kovalev (30-1-1, 25KO's) in their rematch from their November bout that left many unanswered questions and a split among boxing fans as to who won the fight. The referee was Tony Weeks. In the first round Kovalev came out pressing and landed a couple shots to the body. After that it was Ward who took over the action; showing a great defense in slipping many of Sergeys shots while catching him with quick counters he did not see coming. Ward was also looking to tie up on the inside - something he perhaps did not do enough in the first bout. In the second round the action got a bit more heated after a slow start, with Andre pumping his jab and Kovalev returning in kind. Both men were answering - or at least trying to answer - each others blows because they were vying for the upper hand to be the ring general yet. In the third round it was still closely contested with Ward controlling the distance and range the fight was fought at but Kovalev was pressing the action the majority of time. Both men were getting a bit rough on the inside and throwing punches behind the back of the head. In the fourth round it was Kovalev who was controlling the action with his jab and footwork - being the boxer! But Andre would take the action back over after the first minute with his quick punching and great sense of distance. It was still, yet again, another close round. In the fifth round Kovalev was starting to shows signs of wear around his eyes - in particular his right eye that was very red from all of Andres left hooks. He was also breathing very heavy as it looked like perhaps the fight was turning in the direction of the first one. The sixth round was again turning more in Wards favor with left hooks landing flush and Kovalev looking slower by the round. Wards style was really wearing on Kovalev, who was completely exhausted and seemed to be complaining about legal blows to the body. Then the unimaginable happened when in the eighth round Ward blasted away to the body but then landed a right hand to Kovalevs exposed chin that shook his legs. He did not recover as Ward blasted away further - a lot to the body as well - and got the stoppage when Kovalev was slumped over the ropes unable to continue.