Ward agrees to give Kovalev rematch in June

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Unified light heavyweight world titleholder Andre Ward and rival Sergey Kovalev will meet again.

Ward will defend the belts he won from Kovalev in a rematch on June 17 (HBO PPV) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, promoters Roc Nation Sports and Main Events announced on Tuesday.

After an extremely contentious contract negotiation and build up to the first fight, Kovalev and Ward met on Nov. 19 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Kovalev scored a knockdown in the second round but lost his belts by very controversial unanimous decision – 114-113 on all three scorecards – despite the majority of ringside observers believing Kovalev deserved the victory.

Kovalev had the right to an immediate rematch in his contract and exercised that right shortly after the bout.

After weeks of haggling over deal points, the rematch, being billed as “No Excuses,” was finally made.

“I’m going to keep it short and sweet. You got what you asked for — now you have to see me on June 17,” Ward said, directing his comments to Kovalev. “This time leave the excuses at home.”

It was the only fight Kovalev wanted.

“I’m glad to know that rematch will happen,” Kovalev said. “I really hope that Andre Ward will get into the ring for this rematch. Fans of boxing will see the real ‘Krusher’ — the one they have missed for couple of my last fights. For me this rematch is very important as no other bout in my entire boxing career. Thanks a lot to all of boxing fans.”

The first fight was one of the best that could be made in boxing as Kovalev and Ward were both undefeated, ranked among the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world and own contrasting styles – Kovalev being the aggressive puncher and Ward the more skillful boxer.

It turned out to be a very entertaining fight, though it did not move the masses. Kovalev and Ward were both participating in their first pay-per-view fight and it generated only about 160,000 buys. Now comes the rematch, buoyed by the controversy of the first fight.

“After the last fight, we are preparing for another unbelievable experience. Can’t wait for the bell to ring,” said Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter. “This is sure to be another nail-biting roller coaster ride. This is the only fight that Sergey wants right now and he refused to settle for anything less than the chance to get his belts back.”

Duva’s company was the lead promoter for the first fight but had to cede that authority to Roc Nation for the rematch because of Ward’s victory.

“I’m told that Roc Nation and Andre Ward have lots of great ideas for the promotion and we can’t wait to see them in action,” Duva said.

Ward, Kovalev and their teams will embark on a three-city media tour to promote the bout next week with stops scheduled in New York, the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“Last November, Andre showed the world he was boxing’s best,” Roc Nation Sports promoter Michael Yormark said. “No doubt he will build upon his legacy come June 17 in another historic night. There’s no excuses. The rematch is on.”

Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), 33, of Oakland, California, was a 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist before winning a super middleweight world title in 2009 on his way to a dominant run in the Super Six World Boxing Classic. Ward won 2011 fighter of the year honors in 2011, when he capped his Super Six run by easily outpointing Carl Froch to unify 168-pound belts. He followed that victory with a one-sided 10th-round knockout in 2012 against then-light heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson, who had dropped down in weight to challenge Ward for his super middleweight title.

Since then Ward has had layoffs of 14 months and 19 months because of a battle with his former promoter over his contract. He eventually signed with Roc Nation Sports in 2015, moved up to light heavyweight and got busy with four wins, culminating with the decision against Kovalev.

Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs), 34, a Russia native fighting out of Los Angeles, won a light heavyweight world title by traveling to Wales in 2013 and blowing away Nathan Cleverly in a fourth-round knockout victory. Kovalev made eight successful defenses (six by knockout), including winning a shutout decision against Bernard Hopkins in 2014 to take both of Hopkins’ belts in their unification fight, before losing to Ward.

One of the undercard fights will be the mandatory bout between junior featherweight world titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux and interim titlist Moises Flores, whose camps made a deal last week to avoid a purse bid. The bout was scheduled for Feb. 25 on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland HBO PPV card but that card was canceled when Kirkland suffered an injury.

Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs), 36, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba who defected and fights out of Miami, Florida, has not fought since last July, when he stopped James “Jazza” Dickens in the second round in Cardiff, Wales. Flores (25-0, 17 KOs), 30, of Mexico, has defended the interim 122-pound belt twice but has not fought since last June, when he outpointed Paulus Ambunda in Ambunda’s home country of Namibia.

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