Kovalev vs Ward – Preview
By Neel Khagram
15th November 2016
Far too often boxing lets itself down when the best fighters avoid each other. The sport is littered with examples throughout history. On Saturday night though two of the finest fighters of this generation in Sergey Kovalev and Andrew Ward put their legacies on the line in a bid to be crowned the pound for pound number one pugilist on earth.
Physical titles on the table seem irrelevant given the magnitude of the contest. For the record, Kovalev enters as the unified Light Heavyweight Champion and Ward the named challenger. Neither man has been defeated in a clash billed as the puncher vs the boxer.
However, to simply class Kovalev as a heavy hitter would be unjust. After destroying Nathan Cleverly to acquire his first world championship belt three years ago, ‘Krusher’ has swept aside respected opponents including Jean Pascal and Isaac Chilemba. He also showcased tremendous ability to outbox future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins in a manner of victory many did not expect two years ago.
Whilst Kovalev has many facets to his arsenal, there is no doubt that Ward is the superior boxer. Having won gold at the Athens Olympics, the Californian has not lost a fight since the age of thirteen. Ward’s 2011 ‘Super Six’ tournament victory at 168lbs also showcased a level of talent which led to many classing him as one of the best fighters on the planet.
Ward’s career since this triumph has been dogged with inactivity due to promotional differences and injury. Momentum and profile have therefore suffered as he now aims to make up for lost time. In contrast, Kovalev is on a crest of a wave and looking to take advantage of the golden period he is currently enduring.
In this classic 50-50 bout, both men deserve credit for agreeing to the matchup in what is boxing’s biggest fight of the year.
Groves v Gutknecht – Preview
By Neel Khagram
15th November 2016
Super Middleweight contender George Groves returns to the ring this Friday at Wembley’s SSE Arena to take on Eduard Gutknecht live on terrestrial TV. The bout is officially sanctioned for the WBA International Title, with the winner likely to earn a shot at the vacant ‘super’ world belt against Fedor Chudinov.
Groves’s career is well publicised. An elite amateur from Dale Youth ABC, his early professional years ran parallel to bitter rival James DeGale. An upset victory against the Olympic Gold medallist in the paid ranks made Groves a household name amongst UK fight fans overnight. However, back to back defeats to Carl Froch and a point’s decision loss to Badou Jack has meant three failures at world championship level.
The man from Hammersmith is rebuilding his career under the watchful eye of Shane McGuigan. Asides from confidence, McGuigan has got Groves back to a style of fighting which brought him success early in his career. In the three victories they’ve had together there is a distinct shift away from the pot shot style which was deployed in Groves’s losses to Froch at the national stadium and Jack in Las Vegas. Groves is now sitting down on his punches again, varying the jab to both head and body and setting up the big right hand in a more aggressive and educated fashion. Both fighter and trainer will be looking to make a big statement on Friday night.
Gutknecht will provide a solid test for Groves. Even though the German has mainly fought out of his homeland, he is coming down in weight having campaigned at light heavyweight and has shared the ring with Jürgen Braehmer twice. He also holds an amateur win over Gennady Golovkin.
Whilst the visitor is likely to take Groves some rounds, the ‘Saint’ should have far too much in his final hurdle before embarking on the world crown again.
Groves v Gutknecht – Post Fight
By Neel Khagram
19th November 2016
George Groves remains on course for a fourth world title shot after a comfortable points win over Eduard Gutknecht. However, distressing news has since emerged that the German collapsed in the dressing room after the fight and briefly stopped breathing. He is currently under close observation at St Mary’s hospital in West London.
Gutknecht made his intentions clear from the first bell as he rushed across the ring and connected with a big right hand. The visitor continued to pour the pressure on in the first two rounds but his straight lined approach allowed Groves to use his jab to create distance and negate any threats.
Gutknecht’s best round of the fight came in the third when he backed Groves up against the ropes and landed a short right hand. This was as good as it got though as Groves took control for the rest of the contest, landing a huge right hand in the fourth and some spiteful body shots in the sixth which all served to slow the challenger down.
The man from Hammersmith then upped the tempo in the second half of the fight, throwing a hurtful uppercut in the seventh and further back hands in the ninth which resulted in a nasty cut opening above Gutknecht’s right eye.
Gutknecht looked discomforted from that point on but his bravery saw him through to the end of the twelfth. The three judges at ringside scored the bout 119-109, 119-109 and 119-110 all in favour of the home fighter.
The condition of Eduard Gutknecht’s health following the fight puts the narrative of the contest into some irrelevance though. Boxing is a sport served up between two gladiators for the entertainment of others and anyone that steps into the ring deserves credit.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the fighter and his family in this worrying time.