Marvin Vettori wasn’t mincing his words after beating Paulo Costa at UFC Fight Night 196.
Andre Ward survived a second-round knockdown to do just enough to win a narrow decision over Sergey Kovalev in a battle of unbeaten light heavyweights.
Ward took Kovalev’s light heavyweight titles in a fight that lived up to its advance billing, winning enough rounds late to eke out a unanimous decision. He remained unbeaten in his last 20 years in the ring, but it wasn’t without some moments of worry.
All three ringside judges had Ward winning 114-113.
Kovalev knocked down Ward in the second round and chased him around the ring much of the early part of the fight. But Ward dug deep and managed to land some good punches of his own in a fight that built to a climax in the later rounds.
The crowd at the T-Mobile Arena roared its approval as the two fighters went after each other, neither giving an inch. In the end, the judges favored Ward’s counter punching against the aggressive style of Kovalev.
The fight was billed as a matchup of US and Russian fighters, with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Ward against a Russian who lives mostly in the Los Angeles area. It was a classic match up of puncher versus boxer, and for the early part of the fight the puncher was winning.
Kovalev flashed his power early, hitting Ward with a left hand midway through the first round that briefly wobbled Ward’s legs. Ward grabbed and held on and finished the round jabbing at the Russian, but the tone of the fight was set early.
Midway through the second round, both fighters threw right hands but it was Kovalev’s that landed flush to the side of Ward’s head, putting him on the canvas. He got up quickly and smiled as if not hurt but needed all of his defensive skills to make it out of the round.
Ward seemed unwilling to go inside after that, moving backward and trying to land jabs to control the action. But he abandoned the style that had served him so well over the years and fought moving backward, throwing only one punch at a time, as Kovalev constantly pressed the attack.
Ward did have some moments, including the seventh round when he landed a good left that snapped Kovalev’s head back.
Ward earned $US5 million ($A6.8 million), while Kovalev was paid $US2 million ($A2.7 million) plus a percentage of pay-per-view.