As the Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward clash comes up, we have another round of updates. It includes a full conference call transcript with Ward and Kovalev.
Also here, we have two preview videos, the HBO Boxing Countdown to Kovalev vs Ward, and Harold Lederman’s latest Hey Harold: Kovalev vs. Ward.
Andre Ward Call Quotes
Andre Ward: Thank you Michael. I don’t have much to say, I just want to thank everybody who worked on putting this together, everybody who’s been working to keep this fight moving as it should in terms of the promotion. Everybody on my team has been working tirelessly to get me ready and I am ready. I’m excited that this fight is less than two weeks away and I’m ready to answer any questions.
Q: How does this fight compare to some of your other big fights in terms of how you’re mentally approaching it?
Andre Ward: Mentally it’s honestly the same to me. Obviously, there’s a lot at stake and it’s a different challenge moving up in weight, pay-per-view, all of those things make it a little bit different. Whether it’s Alexander Brand or Sergey Kovalev I approach every situation the same way. I wouldn’t be able to get to this level and stay at this level if I checked in and checked out. It’s the same dedication and it’s the same work. For me it’s about trying to be the best in sport where there’s little room for error. I understand that every time I step into the ring and leads to me making sure I prepare accordingly.
Q: Can you compare Kovalev to other fighters that you have neutralized in the past?
Andre Ward: At the end of the day, personally we don’t approach the fight being enamored with anything a guy does well. We acknowledge it and we respect it and we understand what we’re up against, but I been in the ring with big punchers, good boxers, you name it. At the end of the day, to be a champion you have to be able to beat whatever’s in front of you and Kovalev is not just a big puncher. He’s a boxer. He’s a thinker. He understands range, positioning and different things like that. There’s a lot more to him than just being a big puncher, but at the end of the day many people make the same mistake with me. They call me a great boxer or a great neutralizer, but there’s so much more going on with me than that. If I was just about defense and neutralizing then a lot of these big punchers would just try to walk through me and there’s a reason they’re not. But that’s what fight night is all about, it’s not about talking about it to try to prove your case, it’s about the opportunity to be great on November 19 and it’s less than two weeks away.
Q: In your last two fights you appear to be fighting more stationary than usual. Was that strategic on your part? Was it because of the layoff? Can we expect to see that on the 19th?
Andre Ward: I think it’s always about what’s in front of you. It’s about what type of opponent I have and what needs to be done. As you get older, it’s about becoming more efficient. I’ve heard some people say that I’m not the same fighter that I was when I was in my 20’s and I hope I’m not. I should be getting better and more efficient, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about making unnecessary moves. It’s about making the necessary moves when you need to make them. The last two opponents I had, that was what was necessary. You’re going to see a little bit of everything in this fight and that’s what it’s all about. It’s about rising to the occasion and being in the moment. We specialize in that and I look forward to doing the same thing on November 19.
Q: Do you think Kovalev is going to be a little craftier than he has been in the past and does that play to your advantages more?
Andre Ward: He’s not a brawler who doesn’t think, he thinks in there. But the fight has already started between our two sides and our two camps. I don’t put too much stock in that. There’s a lot said. It’s chess moves being played. We don’t get caught up in my camp with the things people say. We don’t pay attention to that stuff, but we’re ready for whatever he wants to bring and that’s the key. However he wants to bring it, we’ve got our game plan and it’s about making constant adjustments, the ebbs and flows and who wants it the most is what it’s going to boil down to.
Q: How do you expect Kovalev to come out? Do you think he’ll be aggressive or more patient than he has been in the past?
Andre Ward: I can’t say. I don’t know what’s going on in their camp, but like I said, I don’t put too much stock into what they say. I’m just ready man and I’m ready for whatever and I truly mean that. When you’re at that point, you welcome it all. I’m not concerned about what he’s going to do. At the end of the day, you got to find ways to make adjustments to get the job done in these big moments. That’s what’s going to separate the guy who gets his hand raised from the guy who doesn’t. We’ve been working on everything. Mentally I’m prepared for everything he brings and I’m sure he’s prepared too.
Q: Who are the top couple of punchers you’ve fought so far?
Andre Ward: You guys should be able to answer that question for me because you guys are the ones that tout these guys’ punches. I think all of the guys I’ve fought have had a good punch and should be respected as punchers. Some guys get more credit than other guys, but I can’t really single anybody out. Froch is a good puncher…there’s been several.
Q: How much do you think your experience against high level of opposition will be an advantage in this fight?
Andre Ward: I definitely think it helps. I don’t think it hurts for sure. In a fight like this you take everything you can. You take every tough fight, every experience not just in the ring, but in your life experiences and who you are into that ring. Looking back to the Super Six and Chad Dawson and the two fights I’ve had this year, all of them mean something. That’s why it’s so important to be moved and managed properly. I know there’s no cookie cutter way to do it, but to fight the right fights at the right time and then to be able to test yourself against the best. When you have showdowns like this you want to be able to say I’ve been in this this position before, I’ve been in with guys who have buzzed me or I’ve been in 50-50 fights before. I can point to all those things and know I’ve had those moments and have been fortunate enough to prevail, so obviously that has me going into this fight well prepared.
Q: Do you think the winner of this fight should be the number one pound for pound fighter in the world?
Andre Ward: It’s hard to say definitively, but I think it would be really, really hard to argue against it. I’m saying this based on both of our resumes and based on the fact that we are both willing to step up and face each other at this stage of our career. We’re both 30-0 and we both have a lot to gain and a lot to lose. I think that the winner of this fight should be pound for pound number one.
Q: What are your expectations of the Pay-Per-View for this fight?
Michael Yormark: We haven’t put a number out there, but we’re obviously excited about this match up and we think it’s going to do very well. Collectively, us and Main Events think this is going to be the best Pay-Per-View event of the year. We’re very optimistic about the Pay-Per-View numbers. We’ve got two great fighters in a 50-50 fight, it’s the best fight of the year and arguably on paper the biggest fight of the last decade. We would be very disappointed if it wasn’t the biggest Pay-Per-View of 2016.
Q: You seem to put a lot of pressure on your opponent whether you’re fighting on the inside or the outside and you seem to be ahead of them mentally. Would you say that’s accurate?
Andre Ward: I would say that’s a very accurate assessment. I know they want blood, they want me knocked down and staggered. I’ve studied this sport for many years and if you look at old footage of Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins and old interviews and footage of Floyd Mayweather, it’s the same kind of things that were said about them and those three guys are legends and hall of famers. You can’t be worried about that because you understand that some people get it and some people won’t, but you have to do what you have to do. Some people won’t like it, but some people will. I could not have described it any better than you did, so it’s good to know that some people get it and appreciate it.
Q: When you’re displaying that in the ring is that something that comes to you in the moment or is it something you worked on training specifically for an opponent?
Andre Ward: I think it’s a little bit of both. A lot of who you are is who you are. It’s who you’ve been all these years, but what I think separates fighters a lot of times is who can make the adjustments and those adjustments start in the gym. One of the things I love about my coach is that he’s not too enamored with what I do well. He acknowledges it. He starts where he feels I could be beat or I’m susceptible to get hit, or something could happen and that’s where he starts to train me, from that point. He’s not enamored with what we’ve done, he’s always tweaking and encouraging me to get better and add a new wrinkle. As long as I’ve been fighting, I come to the gym and sometimes I feel like I’m just starting out because there’s always something he’s working on for me to get better at. And if you put the time in these things show up when you need them.
Q: What should we know about your style and what should we be looking for that’s overlooked in some of the more simplistic explanations of it?
Andre Ward: That’s a tough one. Some things are taught and not taught. I can’t explain what my style is. I don’t really have a set style. If you see it and you understand it and you know what’s going on in there then you kind of do, but you kind of don’t. I don’t know if there’s anything I can say to anyone that would make them understand. It’s tough to describe. It’s something that’s indescribable.
Q: What would you like people to understand better about angles, in fighting and the stuff that gets overlooked for people who expect wild brawls?
Andre Ward: I just think, taking me out of the equation just as a whole, boxing has never been about one thing. In this day and age, the public is sold that if it isn’t a knockdown drag out fight and one guy’s ear isn’t hanging off then it wasn’t worth your time or money and I don’t think that’s fair to the fighters or fair to the fans. Hardcore fans know who they like and know what kind of style they like and they’re going to tune in and buy tickets. But I feel that turns the casual fan off when they’re not being educated on what they’re looking at or they’re reading things that are always ripping one type of style and one type of fighter. It’s one thing if a guy doesn’t throw or look like he wants to be in the ring, but if a guy has a particular style where he has nuances and sometimes he fights, sometimes he boxes, whatever the case may be I feel the general public should be educated on what they’re looking at.
Q: Do you have a prediction?
Andre Ward: I’m not leaving Las Vegas without those belts and however I got to get it we’re going to get it that way. I don’t have a prediction. I’ve never been a prediction guy. I just know I’m ready, I’m excited and I can’t wait to fight.
Q: Do you think you have won your detractors over after the terrific documentary that just aired on HBO?
Andre Ward: It was a real vulnerable moment. I hadn’t really talked about that all for a lot of reasons. If anybody heard about my story and became a supporter, or previously was a detractor and became a fan I welcome that and I’m appreciative of that. I’ve done that myself where I’ve generally knew about a guy, but then heard a story and became a big fan. Dak Prescott is a perfect example. I’m not a Dallas Cowboys’ fan by any means, but I admire his talent on the field. And then I heard his story and I became a supporter who appreciates where he comes from. By no means am I trying to win somebody over. Detractors are always going to be there and it’s ok. Everybody doesn’t have to like you or appreciate you, but I am appreciative if my story touched somebody, that’s a good thing.
Q: Back in 2012 when Floyd was retired and you beat Chad Dawson a lot of the pundits were looking at you as the top fighter pound for pound. Do you think it’s a little strange that this is the first time you’re fighting in Vegas?
Andre Ward: I’ve definitely tried to make it happen. Being close to Vegas, in theory I feel it should it have happened. I always wanted to fight in New York City at Madison Square Garden or at the Barclays Center but it just didn’t happen for one reason or another. I’m just glad that it’s happening right now and what better time than at this stage of my career? You just got to trust the guy with the plan. It’s not always going to be what you want it to be or would like it to be, but I can’t argue with the way the table is set right now. I’m just excited about seizing this moment.
Q: Why did it take so long for your story to come out? How could we do a better job as boxing journalists to get these kind of stories out there and serve the fighters better?
Andre Ward: This is the first time that I really, really opened up about it. From my standpoint, I’m a private person number one. Number two I’ve always wanted to respect my mom and dad. My dad was a dying addict, my mother is doing well right now and I’ve always seen the rags to riches, the kids that come from the ghetto, and I didn’t want to come into the game with that type of story preceding me. I wanted it to be about who I was as a person, about my talent, my ability. And then I felt like at the right time I’ll start to open up about it. It took twelve years. I’ve been a professional for almost twelve years now and it kind of got me going, where I just started to feel content with myself. I feel like my supporters and my fans know me and know part of my story, but I felt it was important to open up and pull back the curtain and let them know it hasn’t always been easy. Hopefully somebody could just relate to what I’ve gone through and it serve as an inspiration to them in some kind of way. I’m so much more than just a fighter. I’m more than what the public sees in the ring. I’ve overcome a lot in life and that speaks to my faith. All these things people wondered about sometimes, I felt like the missing component was me just opening up and talking about it. My father is deceased, but I talked to my mom and asked if it was okay and she told me to speak about it. I just want people to know that they could trust who they’re talking to, there’s not going to be anything added or taken away, or sensationalized or whatever the case may be. I think trust is a major thing and I think sometimes people don’t realize that it goes a long way. For me, if I can trust you I’ll give you the world.
Q: Anything else you think boxing journalists could do better?
Andre Ward: At the end of the day, it’s about integrity and it’s about trust. You guys individually and collectively are great at what you do which is why you do it. I just think humanizing the athletes and looking at them as more than just commodities is important. I think a lot of athletes get the rap as being meatheads or unintelligent, especially with fighters. It doesn’t matter what a person’s level of education is, they know when you’re being real with them. They can sense and feel if you’re trustworthy and have their best interest at heart. Just be truthful. I feel like fighters and athletes would open up a lot more if they felt they could trust you.
Q: Michael, are you a long-time boxing fan?
Michael Yormark: I’ve been a boxing fan for many, many years. I remember watching Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks with my mother, brother and sister. When I got out of graduate school, I did an internship for Madison Square Garden Boxing and worked for Bobby Goodman who as you know worked for Don King for many, many years. Boxing has been a passion of mine for many years. When I joined Roc Nation three years ago, there was a great opportunity for me to be involved in a sport that I watched closely for many years and fortunately we’ve got some great fighters, namely Andre and Miguel Cotto and it’s just been an incredible thrill for us.
Q: Did you help push Roc Nation Sports getting into boxing?
Michael Yormark: JAY Z and Juan Perez the head of our sports division have been boxing fans for many, many years and made the decision to get into the sport. I joined Roc Nation right at the moment that we stepped into this space. Obviously, I’ve helped push it along and we’ve come a long way in a very short period of time. To have the opportunity to work with Andre and to be part of this event on November 19 is something we couldn’t have imagined two years ago. It’s a great moment for us, a great moment for Andre and his family and we’re just looking forward to it.
Q: Do you think your success has increased in the interest of boxing in Oakland?
Andre Ward: That’s a great question. I hope I’ve had some part to play in it. Boxing in Oakland used to be much bigger. There was Pittman’s, King’s Gym, which is still there, and it was just a more competitive town for the sport. You had top contenders and a lot of bad guys fighting in the same city. They sparred together, they fought against each other and I heard a lot of these stories and I started boxing at the tail end of all of that. Just to be able to make my mark starting here and then going worldwide is just unbelievable. When I see young kids who say they box because I box and they want to win a gold medal like I won a gold medal, it’s just amazing to me. I’m blown away. I never get used to that and I’m so thankful for that opportunity to just play my part. I’m not a guy who recruits kids to fight because I know that it’s a different kind of sport and it could be very dangerous, but I totally support it if a kid wants to do it on his own and he’s dedicated and he wants to give it his all then I’m behind it 100%.
Q: What’s it going to be like when you’re able to look at your mural on the verge of becoming pound for pound undisputed?
Andre Ward: It’s surreal. Because I had a coach growing up and was fighting as a young kid we’ve never really got too caught up with ourselves. And I’m talking about me, Virgil and my father, when he was alive. We’ve always had a blue collar mentality and I get a little scared sometimes to look back on what we’ve accomplished and kind of relish on it because the clock is still ticking. I’m still active. My career is still going, but I’ve got to continue to show up and show my worth and continue to be the champion that I am. It’s just hard to stop and look back at what you’ve accomplished and the road that you’ve traveled on. Personally it’s good to do it sometimes, but when I do peek back just for a split second it’s overwhelming. I can’t believe God has taken us this far. I can’t believe that a young kid at nine years old who just wanted to do what his dad did got this far. I’m sure if my dad was alive he wouldn’t be able to believe it either.
Q: How many people from the Bay Area do you think will show up?
Andre Ward: I think the Bay Area is going to show up and show out like they always do. They support their own. Everybody I run into is very excited about it, as they should be. It’s funny because some casual fans don’t think you’ve made it unless you go to Vegas, so I think the Bay Area has been waiting on the Vegas moment and it’s here now.
Andre Ward: I’m ready. I’m excited. Tune in to watch this fight on November 19, it’s worth every dollar. It’s worth every dollar if you pay to come see it, you won’t be disappointed.
Sergey Kovalev Call Quotes
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev: “Hello everybody, I’m glad to be here.”
Egis Klimas: “I just want to say hello to everybody. I want to thank Sergey Kovalev for making this appearance for this fight and bringing us to this level. He’s the man and he’s the one who brought us here and he’s the reason we are all here on the line. I just want to thank Sergey and welcome everybody to this phone call. Thank you very much.”
John David Jackson: “I just want to thank everybody for being here and I want all of the fans to come out and watch this fight, it’s a great fight between two very good fighters. It’s definitely a fight for the fans to see, so thanks everybody for participating.”
Q: Do you consider Andre Ward to be the best fighter you’ve ever faced?
Sergey Kovalev: “We’ll find out on November 19. I don’t know, but I think so, yes.”
Q: Sometimes Andre Ward brawls, sometimes he boxes. What do you expect him to do in this fight and how are you prepared for his different strategy?
Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t have any different strategy, my strategy is just the one, any cost to get the victory over him. He’s right now in my way to my goals and to my dreams and I should to do my job and fight for my goals and for my dreams. I want to destroy him.”
Q: Have you done anything differently in training to prepare for Andre?
Sergey Kovalev: “Why should I do something different if what I did before gave me success? I followed my same training camp as usual and it should get me in great shape for November 19.”
Q: “Do you think this fight will get you first place in the pound for pound rankings?”
Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t think about what will be after the fight. I have focused my whole attention on this fight and Ward and what I should do inside the ring. We’ll see about this after the fight.”
Q: Do you expect this to be a wrestling fight or a war?
Sergey Kovalev: “Of course this fight is an opportunity for both of us to show the boxing world who is the best pound for pound. I’m sure he will be there to do everything he can to get the victory over me and it’s the same for me. It’s going to be a war between us. Who is the best boxer and who is the best athlete?”
Q: What do you think makes you the more mentally tough boxer in this fight?
Sergey Kovalev: “I think this is most important thing. For me this is a mental fight. It’s not who is stronger, but who is smarter and brings best skills into the ring and who is mentally stronger. If I happen to knock him out, it will be a bonus for boxing fans and for me myself.”
Kathy Duva: “I’ve seen Sergey demonstrate his mental toughness time and time again. He’s been through more adversity in his life than most fighters have ever even contemplated. I’m aware that Ward has faced adversity, but I never heard Sergey talk about how boxing is a sacrifice, where we frequently hear from Ward about how it is. Sergey’s attitude towards boxing has always been, oh wow, this is a great opportunity and I’m so happy I’m doing it. I know he has tough times and there’s days at the gym where he probably doesn’t feel that way. But his attitude has always been about loving his work, and loving what he’s doing. He can’t wait for the fight to start. He works hard because he wants to be the best. It’s not just his mental toughness, it’s his mental attitude, I think it’s very positive and I think that’s the thing that carries him. That and the chip on his shoulder that has been there forever of just wanting to prove that he’s the best. You take that combination of work ethic, and chip on his shoulder and focus like a laser, and then loving what he’s doing. Sometimes when he gets in the ring he looks like he’s about to have a steak, that’s kind of the look on his face. I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun to watch him.”
John David Jackson: “I agree with what Kathy Duva. It’s his upbringing. Growing up in Russia, the hard time that he’s been through I think that’s what makes him the more mentally tougher fighter. That and his desire to be champion and stay champion. He loves the lime light and the adulation that he gets, but I think he’s the mentally tougher fighter and the mentally stronger fighter.”
Q: Does that make it tougher or easier for you to work with him sometimes?
John David Jackson: “A little bit of both. Sergey knows what he wants to do and his plan is already set. I just work off what he wants to do. In the ring he knows what he wants to do as all fighters should know what they want to do. For me it could be hard sometimes when his mindset is set on one thing. But I make it a little bit easier because I allow him to do what he wants and work off what he wants to do and that makes him a better fighter.”
Q: Kovalev has been with you for four and a half years. Can you describe your thoughts from when you first saw him and nobody wanted to sign him to where you are now?
Kathy Duva: “From the moment I saw him in Bethlehem I immediately imagined him being the best fighter in the division. I thought it at that second. I remember Russell Peltz coming up to me saying who wouldn’t you put this guy in with and I couldn’t think of anyone. To be where we are now, in a position to become number one in the world, this is the dream. Main Events has worked with some tremendous fighters and we’ve had some really good runs, but for the most part those were guys that came with Olympic medals and nobody was really surprised when they succeeded. To take Sergey from the point where nobody in Russia knew who he was, where he has never been given a leg up by anybody, where nobody wanted to even look at him to take him where he is today, I have to say, and we at Main Events couldn’t do that with anybody, but when a person came along with the skill and the desire to do it, it was the perfect marriage for us. Sergey gets to show his abilities and talents and Main Events to have the ability to know exactly how to move him perfectly. This is kind of the opportunity that I have been waiting for for a very long time, to prove myself, to prove my staff, to prove my company that we were still there and we could do this and I think we gave Sergey the opportunity to prove what he can do. It was a beautiful thing and meant to be.”
Q: “Ward was expected to be here, he was a gold medalist from the United States, he had a big signing bonus. We hear Andre talk about the sacrifice of boxing whereas with Kovalev this is a great opportunity to box. Andre was expected to be here from day one, maybe Sergey expected it from himself, but it’s a surprise to everybody else, do you think there’s something to that?”
Kathy Duva: “I think there is and I think you make a good point. Even when it comes to the job of making this event work and promoting it, Sergey has taken the attitude from the start that this is my job, this is my opportunity and I’m not going to have any regrets when it’s over so I’m going to do everything I have to do. I think we worked really hard to manage that load for him so it doesn’t interfere with his training. In the brief time I’ve worked with Ward the attitude is different, it’s not hey I’m really happy you’re all paying attention to me, it’s ok we’ll make a list of what we’ll do. I think when it’s always come to you and there have been people standing around you with lights and cameras from the start there’s a natural tendency to kind recoil from it a little bit. Sergey is running towards the light here and I know sometimes it isn’t exciting or fun for him to do that and I know how hard he has worked and I appreciate it more than anything in the world, how hard he has worked to become that fan friendly star that people want to see and know and it shows. He has a very different attitude, for him this is not a chore, this is an opportunity.”
Q: When you were coming up at Don Turner’s camp in North Carolina coming up and Egis was bringing you around from fight to fight to different places and you had no idea if you ever be able to show your talents to a wider audience to the point where you are now. What were your own expectations? How did it go for you in your mind to go from where you were at with Don Turner and Egis pounding it around the country to this fight? Are you surprised at all that you’re here?
Sergey Kovalev: “I’m very surprised myself. When I was in the amateurs I never thought that someday I would turn pro at all. For me professional boxing was very crazy, I thought pro boxing was just beating the whole brain out of your head. It’s very dangerous. In amateurs it was enough with injuries and some hard fights. I felt like I would never be able to do twelve rounds. My wife pushed me to turn pro and one man Anatoliy, Egis’s friend, found me in Russia and he met with me in Moscow and we started to talk about professional boxing. I started to think about it, but it was a maybe. Finally, I made my decision after the 2008 Russian Championships when I won the final fight and the victory was given to my opponent. When I turned pro and came to North Carolina, I was disappointed really. I thought if I turned pro I would get to this level where I am right now. For three years we fought without any promoter, I fought with the support of Egis. Throughout everything he was my father, my brother, my guide, for me he was everything…”
Egis Klimas: (cuts in) “But not the girlfriend!”
Sergey Kovalev: “Not the girlfriend, of course. I can get help from Egis anytime and when I fought 15 or 16 fights, I thought I should go back to Russia and do something to get money another way. After 15 or 16 fights, I had no money, no promoter and not really any future in boxing. When I fought in Russia in 2011, I stayed in Russia for two, three months and I almost decided not to go to America because we didn’t have any plans. We didn’t have a promoter or any plans for the future. I would be back in Big Bear for a workout and I thought, why? Egis called me in Russia and said to me that one promoter, Main Events, Kathy Duva wants to give me opportunity to prove myself and I believed once again that maybe this is the chance, so I should try again. We fought Darnell Boone for the second time and after that I signed with Main Events and Kathy Duva.”
Q: Egis, you’re the one who had the vision, what was it that you saw in him at that time and is the end result right now beyond what you expected?
Egis Klimas: “I was inexperienced. I was the new kid on the block and Don Turner was my tutor, but I didn’t know much about what’s going on. Bringing Sergey to this point, we were in Kazakhstan and he did shadow boxing and Don Turner said Egis, where did you get this guy from? After that we went on a very long run. I used to call every single promoter, I used to try to put him on every single show. I used to try to show him to everybody who was around.”
Sergey Kovalev: “We were like kittens in this business. Like a kid being thrown into the water to learn to swim, we were just trying to get somewhere, to get to the shore. Kathy was the one who gave a hand to Sergey and said come here, come this way, swim this way.”
Egis Klimas: “If anybody is trying to bring me today manager of the year or to manage other fighters, it’s Sergey who brought me to that stage.”
Sergey Kovalev: “We brought each other, the three of us have helped each other and right now we all have success.”
Egis Klimas: “Exactly, he makes a very good point. Nobody knew who Egis Klimas is, nobody knew who Sergey Kovalev is, everybody knew Main Events but at that point Main Events didn’t exist, but now we have one big team and we are winners. And after November 19 we are going be winners, no question about it.”
Q: Andre Ward is known for his high boxing IQ; you’ve been saying you’re going to be the smarter fighter. Can you speak on how confident you are that you will be the smarter fighter when you guys meet?
Sergey Kovalev: “You will see on November 19. I am making a great training camp to kick his ass, this is my goal. A lot of people around the world will watch this fight and I understand this, and I’m going to prove who I am.”
Q: John David Jackson, can you speak on how Sergey is going to be the smarter fighter when he faces Ward?
John David Jackson: “A lot of so called experts and people in boxing say that Ward is a smarter fight. Listen, Ward is smart at what he does, but a lot of what he does is not fighting, it’s surviving and making his opponent frustrated with the tactics that he uses. Sergey on the other hand is a pure all around fighter. He can fight you if it comes down to it, but on the flip side to that Sergey is a very intelligent boxer and he knows how to fight. He doesn’t come into the ring trying to be a one punch knockout artists. If you watch Sergey’s fight, in his brilliance he looks to break down his opponents systematically. He does want a knockout, but he’s learned how to build up to the knockdown. He knows how to cut the ring off and break guys down to the body and if you want to fight with him and you’re looking for a shootout, you’re not going to win because his clip is fully loaded. Andre may be smart and very intelligent, but he’s fighting with half a clip. It’s like LL Cool J once said, you can’t fight an army with a handgun. Ward has a handgun and he’s a fighting against a tank, and the tank is smart, he knows how to fight and how to systematically beat him. For those that don’t know and realize how smart Sergey is in the ring, on November 19 they’re going to find out.”
Q: Have you guys been stressing having more patience in this fight because it is Ward and he’s a patient and crafty guy?
John David Jackson: “I think Sergey has figured that out by himself and we work off that. Ward is crafty and patient, but you can’t be that patient and crafty when you got a guy who has bombs in both hands. Sergey is going to break him down the way he has to. You don’t have time to dictate the pace of the fight and jab here and hold there. When you have a guy coming at you with power in both hands, he’s not going to have the time to be able to do all of the things that he wants to do. This fight here, he has to fight and if he’s not willing to fight he’s in trouble.”
Q: Who do you think has the physical advantage in this fight?
John David Jackson: “As an amateur Andre fought at 178 and he turned pro at 168, so he’s always been the bigger guy after he hydrated. But he can’t be the bully for this fight because he’s not the bigger fighter. Sergey is going to be the bigger fighter. As far as the advantage, it depends on how much he had to lose for this fight himself because he walks around pretty big himself. The seven-pound difference wasn’t a big deal to him because he was killing himself to make 168. I still say the advantage goes to Sergey, he’s the stronger fighter and in the ring it’s going to show. He’s more physical. How much more? We’ll find out that night, but I still give the advantage to Sergey.”
Q: You have a great right hand, are you expecting Andre to be turning southpaw the night of the fight? Do you think he’ll be doing that a lot?
Sergey Kovalev: “Yes, I think he will be changing his positions during the whole fight because in some moments he will be feeling uncomfortable after my punches.”
Q: It seems like he switches southpaw when he has his opponents frustrated. What do you think about that?
Sergey Kovalev: “I know one thing; I will be ready for anything he has to offer in the ring. I understand this and my goal right now is to be ready for everything that he will offer.”
John David Jackson: “Ward may turn southpaw, but when he does get hit by Sergey I think he’ll go to southpaw less and less and get back to his comfort zone which is the right handed stance. If you look at Sergey’s career, he does very well against southpaws so Ward can turn southpaw if he wants to.”
Q: Kathy what fight would you compare this one to from a historical perspective?
Kathy Duva: “I guess the easiest comparison would be to the first time two undefeated fighters fought for pound for pound supremacy and that was Meldrick Taylor versus Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Main Events promoted Meldrick Taylor so we have been here before. We have also been involved in major fights with people like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Arturo Gatti and Pernell Whitaker and on and on and on. But I have to say this is the first time we’ve taken a guy that didn’t come out with an Olympic medal or the heralded amateur career, because Sergey did indeed have an amateur career where he clearly learned a lot, it’s the first time we’ve taken someone who nobody expected to this level of achievement and for that one we’re really proud and really happy. It’s a different kind of excitement for us, it’s a lot more fun when nobody expects you to do it.”
Sergey Kovalev: “Everybody in the world wants to see somebody who kicks my ass, but it’s not happening.”
Q: That depends on who you ask; a lot of people want to see you kick his ass.
Sergey Kovalev: “Believe me, there’s a lot of haters. It’s new motivation for me, I really like to disappoint these people.”
Q: John, what was the game plan for the Bernard Hopkins fight and why did it work?
John David Jackson: “First of all, Bernard is an old fighter. Even though he says he’s an Alien and the Executioner and all that, the bottom line is he’s an old fighter, so you have to treat him like an old fighter. You have to do things that take him out of his comfort zone. You have to make him work. Sergey was able to use his jab to offset Bernard’s trickery, Bernard is very well-schooled and he’s a student of the game. He was just older and unable to do what he once did.”
Q: If Sergey beats Ward do you think he will get full credit for the victory?
Kathy Duva: “As Sergey points out, haters gonna hate. If you look at the picks the reporters are making and the betting line is favoring Ward a little bit, which is awesome because it’s always better when you’re the underdog and, as we’ve been saying on this call, not having it be expected. But Ward, the position he’s in for better or worse, he’s expected to win, that’s who he is. That’s the guy he’s always been, he’s the guy who hasn’t lost a fight since he was a child. You put that out there, then you’ve got to defend that and we don’t think he can. When it’s over I hope Sergey gets the credit he deserves and it should be a whole lot because this is a tough fight.”
Q: As a promoter does it frustrate you that Sergey is the B side here?
Kathy Duva: “To me he’s not the B-side. His name is first on the poster, he does have the world titles. I think that designation of A- and B-side is an unfortunate thing in many cases, but when you have two guys who could argue all night over who’s going to win then there’s no A-side and no B-side. It’s two great fighters fighting each other. Sergey holds the titles right now, Ward has held titles in the past. Ward is a legendary fighter; Sergey is trying to become one. There’s little different points in the legacy aspects of their careers, but nevertheless this is the fight that we wanted. We wanted it sooner, but we had to wait and so we did. Ward has had his fights that he needed and there’s no excuses. There are certain fights that defy that A-side/B-side description and I think this is one of them.”
Q: Do you think Sergey’s last three opponents, Bernard Hopkins, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal, have built him up for this fight before it was even signed?
John David Jackson: “To a degree maybe. What people don’t realize is that Sergey can fight against any style. He’s very intelligent in the ring, he knows how to solve the fighters’ defensive mechanisms. Those three fights have helped him prepare for this fight, but I think Sergey would have been able to solve the Andre Ward problem regardless. Ward is crafty and he’s not going to be a big problem offensively. If he does, then he’s rolling the dice and he’s going to leave himself open for wide open shots and I don’t think he’s going to do that, especially after he gets hit by Sergey. I think he’s going to be evasive and try to avoid Sergey’s power shots, and if he’s really evasive, how can you win a fight being an evasive fighter? He’s going to have to stand and fight eventually.”
Sergey Kovalev: “Pay attention to November 19 everybody. It’s going to be a huge fight with Andre Ward. He’s never lost before, but it’s my job. So let me be the one to do it.”
Egis Klimas: “We’re looking forward for somebody to lose and that would be Andre Ward. I’m sorry about it, but that’s the only thing I think I can say. Tune into HBO PPV on November 19.”