As Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev prepares to face Andre “S.O.G.” Ward live on HBO Pay-Per-View he will once again have former two-time world champion John David Jackson in his corner. Kovalev and Jackson have worked together for several years and all of Kovalev’s big-time fights. Below Jackson breaks down Kovalev’s keys to victory:
Question: What is the one thing Kovalev has to accomplish in the ring in order to beat Ward?
John David Jackson: “In order to beat Ward, Sergey has to be able to cut the ring off. He has to make Ward engage and if Ward engages he will make himself vulnerable and leave himself open to the counter-punches. Sergey also has to beat his body down and make Ward, as the rounds go by, depleted of his energy. Then he will get him late with a knockout.”
Q: What is the one thing that Kovalev has to prevent Ward from doing in order to beat Ward?
JDJ: “What Sergey has to prevent Ward from doing is getting into a trap of falling behind in rounds. He can’t let Ward get two, three, four, five, six rounds ahead where he is behind the eight ball trying to play catch-up. Sergey has to come out of the gate and establish his power, his strength and his boxing abilities. If he does not win the first three rounds, he at least has to keep him even, so down the stretch as he begins to deplete Ward of his power, he will get him with either a late-round knockout or dominate the later rounds and win by decision. He cannot let Ward get ahead early and have to try to play catch-up.”
Q: You have said that non-American fighters are hungrier than American fighters. Do you still adhere to that, and, if so, does it apply to the Kovalev-Ward fight?
JDJ: “I still stand by that. To a degree, most American fighters today aren’t really that hungry. The European fighters that come from Russia or Germany they are hungry because their lifestyle and their way of living is a little bit harsher. Either you are rich or you are poor in Russia. There is no middle ground. There are no subsidies from the government to help you out. You are either rich or you are poor and that is what makes these fighters hungry. I still believe in that. A lot of these guys who come from European countries, they are hungry. They don’t have the advantages that we have in America. I still believe that they are hungry and they are more dedicated at least in the beginning of their careers when they first get here.”
Q: What is Kovalev’s biggest advantage in this fight?
JDJ: “Kovalev’s biggest visible advantage is his punching power. Power like his is God-given. You either have it or you don’t and he has it. He may not look like he is strong but he has tremendous punching power. That is definitely his biggest advantage. His second biggest advantage is he is a better boxer than most people give him credit for.”
Q: Does Ward have an advantage in any area in this fight?
JDJ: “Ward has an advantage in ring generalship. Ward is a very intelligent, smart fighter. He has had to win most of his battles with ring smarts. He has had to be able to be evasive and able to avoid the big shots. He does that very well along with his grabbing tactics. He suffocates his opponents so they can’t punch. Those are Ward’s biggest advantages. He is able to deflect a lot of your strengths while exposing a lot of your weaknesses. His advantage is that he is a very smart, tactical ring fighter. He uses ring generalship to his advantage. Up to this point in his career it has worked for him but I think with Sergey’s power and ring generalship it is going to be a different night for Ward. I think he is going to taste defeat for the first time since he was 12 years old.”
Q: You have said that Ward has several disadvantages-suspect chin, lack of power and three major mistakes he makes and hasn’t and can’t correct. Is this still your opinion?
JDJ: “Ward has three major mistakes but I cannot reveal them until fight night. On November 19 we will see if he has corrected them. Ward still made mistakes in his last two fights. He is past his prime. He is on the downward decline. Some have said that so is Sergey but Sergey is a puncher. His decline will not be as visible as Ward’s will be. We will find out on fight night if Ward has corrected any of the mistakes I have seen him make in prior fights. That will be the tell-tale sign. As far as his suspect chin, if Sergey hits him flush that question will be answered right away because Ward will go down like a ton of bricks. As for lack of power, if Ward tries to prove that he has power now, that would work to our advantage because it means he will have to stand there and try to engage with Sergey. That is really what Ward doesn’t want to do.”
Q: You have said that Kovalev will win within the 12-round distance. Is this still your prediction, Kovalev by KO or TKO?
JDJ: “Let’s just say that I predict that Kovalev will win, by knockout or by decision. Hopefully, for the fans, the win will come by knockout but I believe Sergey can also win by decision. Sergey is a very good boxer. He is a very good technician. He knows how to box. Sergey is also very well-schooled from his amateur days and now as a pro. He has better boxing skills than people realize. Can he win by decision? Yes, he can. Will he win by decision? I hope not. I hope he knocks this kid out and cements his pound-for-pound number one rating.”
Q: If or when Kovalev wins, can there be any doubt that he is, unquestionably, the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound?
JDJ: No doubt. If Sergey wins, he is the best fighter pound-for-pound.
Curtis Stevens Camp Notes
Stevens, 31 of Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York is known for his one-punch knockout power. For years he climbed through the ranks of the middleweight division with ease. Then after a couple of setbacks he reassessed his entire strategy. For his most recent bout against Patrick Teixeira on the Canelo-Khan HBO Pay-Per-View undercard he worked with former two-division world champion John David Jackson. Stevens stopped Teixeira in the second round to secure the upset victory and the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title. The victory over Teixeira catapulted Curtis back into the rankings of all four major sanctioning bodies. On Nov. 19 Stevens and Jackson will team up again this time to face 28-year old Mexico native James “The King” De La Rosa on the Kovalev-Ward “Pound For Pound” HBO Pay-Per-View undercard.
Making fights for Stevens has not come easy for Main Events’ matchmaker and 2015 NABF Matchmaker of the Year Jolene Mizzone who said, “Curtis is always mentioned with the top-ten fighters in the middleweight division but when it comes to actually making a fight with him, no one will ever sign on the dotted line! A lot of fighters talk a big game when it comes to a fight with Stevens but De La Rosa was the only one who stepped up and took the fight. Kudos to De La Rosa for accepting.”
When asked what makes fighters so scared to face him, Stevens said, “I think people are afraid that I am with John now. I believe they don’t want to get hit. They know I hit hard and they know now I am more focused than ever. Me and John are like peanut butter and jelly. John tells me to be more relaxed and that the knockout will come. I take every fight seriously. There are no easy fights. I just have to go in there and do what I do. Once again I can showcase my talent. I just need to go in there and do what I do – check in and check out.
In his first fight with Jackson, Stevens demonstrated great power in both hands. Jackson explained, “Most people when they look at Curtis all they see is a tremendous left hook but he has a tremendous right hand also. I wanted him to start using that right and in his last fight he knocked the kid out with his right hand. He showed the fans that night that he has power in both hands. He is a two-handed fighter with a two-handed attack. Most people look at him as a left-hook artist but they need to realize he has a right hand and he can use both of them. I was happy with what he did against Teixeira. He was working on it every day in camp and come fight night he let his hands go. Curtis is a very intelligent fighter.”