The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was the temporary home to 13,310 spectators along with a number of seats left unfilled Saturday night where the Cold War was rejuvenated in the squared circle.
It was only the 7th time in boxing history that a title fight took place between two undefeated fighters with at least 30 wins to their credit.
On top of that, the winner would have a legitimate claim to the title of best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet (it’s actually Gennady Golovkin, but that’s not the point) along with the WBO, WBA, and IBF light heavyweight belts.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a narrative that should have made the country stop what they were doing and tune in.
Oakland native, Andre Ward, is the American hope in boxing at the moment and hasn’t suffered a loss since he was a 13-year old amateur. And the 30-0-0 man was fighting in only his 4th fight in the past 50 months.
A master technician, who unlike Floyd Mayweather, is legitimately enjoyable to watch and the fact we get to witness him in action so sparingly made it all the more compelling.
Despite the American storyline at hand it was Ward’s opponent, Sergey Kovalev, that should have created a can’t miss moment.
Kovalev checks every box necessary to become the boxing super villain needed to artificially rally a country around one of their own.
- Russian? ✔️
- Intimidating nickname? ✔️ (“Krusher”)
- Physical freak? ✔️
- Killed an opponent? ✔️
Did I mention he’s Russian?
So, undefeated American squares off with undefeated power-punching Russian in boxing’s Mecca and somehow no one even knew it was happening.
With the way fake news shaped our presidential election by preying on people’s lust for headlines you would think that this fight, surrounded by legitimate storylines, could have been at the forefront.
But, alas it slipped through the cracks.
I’m not sure if people have become gun shy about pulling the trigger on PPV fights after so many disappointing ones during the Mayweather era, but I assure you this one was worth the price.
I watched with a small group of friends with a 50/50 split in terms boxing fans, but once Ward was knocked down in the second round all of our investments in the proceedings intensified.
Maybe it’s the sheer volume of tremendous athletes we’re blessed to have hail from the United States or perhaps the notion that boxing is dying, but for those of us who sat down to watch Saturday night it became apparent there aren’t many events with the similar electricity about them like a bout of this magnitude.
Following Ward’s two sloppy opening rounds the importance that surrounded every moment was heightened.
Every connected punch. Every hold that the ref let linger a little too long as precious time for comeback ticked off the clock. Every unofficial scorecard offered by the ringside announcers.
The internal discussions that occurred as we thought Ward was stealing rounds as the broadcast was awarding them to Kovalev created a rare phenomena – this was going to be the first fight in recent memory where the decision would be a legitimate surprise.
As the 12th round concluded, we sat in silence waiting for the PA announcer to begin reading off the results…
As strange as it sounds, it was like a combination of sport and reality TV as we were left waiting for a subjective decision to be made by the only 3 voices in the room who truly mattered. And when the judges reached their verdict we all stopped.
With our breath held we finally were able to let out a mix of elation and disbelief as we heard the word that signified the victor…
“And your winner.. the new unified champion”
Andre Ward’s reaction mirrored much of our own and the internet immediately got their Twitter fingers working to vent their dissatisfaction.
I'm sorry. Love Ward as a fighter and person. Glad he won…..but he did not deserve this. Fair-is-Fair. Kovalev got robbed!#BadDecision.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) November 20, 2016
After watching Sergey Kovalev get robbed against Andre Ward, I may be done with boxing. Too many awful decisions, zero quality control. 👎🏻
— Johnny Knoxville (@realjknoxville) November 20, 2016
Twitter told me that Hilary would be president, Red Panda bats 1.000 and Kovalev wrecked Ward. I'm never trusting Twitter again
— Chillin in my Bacta (@AminESPN) November 20, 2016
— Marcellus Wiley (@marcelluswiley) November 20, 2016
A tightly contested 114-113 unanimous decision between two of the premier boxers on Earth and a lead up that was filled with tremendous storylines got its icing on the cake the sport needed: Controversy
In another era this would have been the most talked about decision around the globe, but as unpredictable as 2016 has been one thing remained constant: Boxing doesn’t have the appeal it once did.
And that makes me genuinely sad as it lead to a robbing of a momentous event from much of the country.
However, as they say, one great thing leads to another and you will have (at least) one more chance to catch Ward and Kovalev square off. Don’t squander the opportunity this time.
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) November 20, 2016