Ward vs Kovalev II: Andre Ward produces stunning stoppage win over Sergey Kovalev in rematch
By Richard Damerell
Last Updated: 18/06/17 3:13pm
Andre Ward retained his world light-heavyweight titles after a controversial stoppage victory over Sergey Kovalev in their rematch in Las Vegas.
The American hurt Kovalev with a big right hand in the eighth round, but the Russian complained that a few of the final blows were below the belt line after referee Tony Weeks hastily waved off the fight.
Ward had received a hotly disputed points victory in their first fight and there will be fresh debate after he retained his WBA 'super', IBF and WBO belts.
Paulie: Terrible Ward stoppage
Paulie Malignaggi questioned the timing of Andre Ward's stoppage win over Sergey Kovalev
The bitter rivals had produced another evenly contested fight, with Ward sending out an early warning to Kovalev by landing his crisp right hand in the closing seconds of the opening round.
But Kovalev enjoyed success with his own clubbing right fist in the second round, despite receiving a low blow, and a string of stinging jabs seemed to be troubling Ward in the third.
Neither fighter was allowing their opponent to gain a foothold as Ward landed a lightning left hand in the fourth round, while Kovalev was caught with a crisp left hook in the fifth.
'Krusher' tried to drain Ward's desire for battle with body shots in the sixth, but the American displayed his reflexes with clever counter punches in the seventh and would deliver a stunning punch in the next round.
Complaints by Kovalev about another low blow were ignored by referee Weeks and Ward seized upon his pained opponent, uncorking a huge right that left him on unsteady legs.
As Kovalev lurched around the ring, Ward trapped him in the corner and rammed in a succession of shots around the belt line and the shaken fighter was sagging on the ropes as Weeks swiftly signalled the finish.
In his post-fight interview, Kovalev questioned the intervention of Weeks and suggested that he had received an illegal punch.
"It didn't hurt like I could go down on the floor, but it was a low blow," said Kovalev.
"Right now, I could have continued. I didn't feel that hurt.
"Why stop the fight? It's crazy. I want to get again a fight with him."
But Ward would only offer respectful words to Kovalev, despite their heated exchanges beforehand, and extended his unbeaten record to 32 victories.
"Kovalev fought a good fight, but once I compute a fighter in my brain, I know what I had to do the next time around," said Ward.
"Facing great fighters, you've got to raise your game to the next level and I'm thankful we did that tonight."