There are regrets — such as judging — that Sergey Kovalev wants to stop dwelling upon as he moves toward his June 17 rematch against Andre Ward.
The lament that continues to gnaw at Russia’s former three-belt light-heavyweight champion is one he plans to keep foremost in his mind while preparing for the second meeting with Oakland’s Ward at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Kovalev says he over-trained for the first fight.
“I don’t like what happened with me after the fifth round. I lost my power, my natural ability, my speed … I tired,” Kovalev said Wednesday at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel on the third and final stop of the national tour to promote the HBO pay-per-view bout.
“I didn’t feel him for the first four rounds at all. In the first minute of the fifth round, I felt finished. My mistake. I will train less than I did.”
Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 knockouts) will continue to keep his camp at Big Bear under trainer John David Jackson, but said his progress will be more closely monitored by an assistant conditioning coach.
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) rallied from a second-round knockdown in the Nov. 19 bout and piled up a slew of rounds in the second half to win by 114-113 scorecards from all three judges — John McKaie, Burt Clements and Glenn Trowbridge.
Ward, who has said he expects to continue his success in the rematch, told reporters Wednesday that Kovalev and his team are doing themselves a disservice by pushing the over-training narrative and not confronting the real problem of how Ward out-boxed him.
“He says he’s going to be better and he says he’s training less this fight?” Ward wondered.
“What they think is helping him — giving him a pass — is hurting him. Why didn’t you finish me? … I smiled and got up. … It spoke to a lot of people.”
Kovalev continues to take issue somewhat with judges’ scoring in the first bout.
“Andre Ward took my belts … not fair. He didn’t deserve it,” Kovalev said. “Once it was announced by Michael Buffer, when I heard 114-113, I thought the judges would give the victory to my side. And I didn’t think I won just because of the knockdown. Just watch only the 10th round. All the judges gave that to Andre Ward. So you understand what happened.”
That implication was given voice by some who surmised Ward, the most recent U.S. Olympic men’s boxing gold medalist, was favored by the three American judges.
Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva said she asked Ward’s promoter, Roc Nation Sports, to consider requesting that the Nevada State Athletic Commission retain at least one international judge for the rematch and says she was told no.
The promoters and sanctioning bodies do not have the final say in the judges’ selection, however. The Nevada commission does.
“No one had concern with those three judges before the first fight. In fact, [Duva’s] Main Events was very happy,” said Bob Bennett, executive director of the commission. “I’m willing to listen to the recommendations of the promoters and sanctioning bodies, but I’m more concerned with selecting the best judges possible for the fight.
Kovalev’s ideal performance is to win by knockout, removing judges from the equation.
In Oakland on Tuesday, he told Ward, “I will finish your boxing career,” and on Wednesday he glared at Ward to tell him, “I will get my belts back.”