This Saturday in Vegas it’s the monumental rematch between pound-for-pound stars Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev for the unified light heavyweight crown, there’s the rare event of someone brave enough to try and take master boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux’s belt when Moises Flores steps up to the ring, and the biggest battle in Europe is title fight between Tyron Zeuge and Paul Smith.
What started as a bit of a mutual appreciation club between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev has turned into a full blown feud since their first encounter. Popular opinion is that the American will retain the belts a bit more easily than he won them, but I think the Russian is being underrated.
In the first fight ‘Krusher’ Kovalev started like a ‘Krusher’ should and levelled Ward for the first time in his career in the second round. But the former super middleweight champ was able to edge his way back into the fight and eventually all three judges awarded the titles to Ward by one point.
Ward looked surprised when he was announced the winner but Kovalev was kicking-off immediately – calling it a home decision and claiming he’d ‘kick Ward’s a**** in a rematch. Well, now it’s the rematch and there is no love lost between the two. The fight is 5/2 not to go the distance.
Kovalev has claimed his training camp has been much better this time, but I don’t expect to see the challenger much improved. Despite his increasing animosity towards Ward, Kovalev will take a more measured approach to save some gas for the second half of this bout.
Stats-wise, 22 of the Soviet Sledgehammer’s 26 KO’s have come before round five and that he’s never stopped someone after round eight. Kovalev is 18/1 to win in rounds 1-3 and that could offer a bit of value.
Ward will think that if he can avoid the early onslaught this time the skill and experience that has made him a two-weight, five-time world champion will be enough to get him the victory.
California’s 2004 Olympic gold medalist is unbeaten since he was about 14 but I, along with most people, think he should have lost that record to Kovalev.
Ward is an odds-on favourite for this fight, but if ‘Krusher’ mixes power with pacing himself he can get the favour of the judges this time.
Bet of the bout: Kovalev to win on points 11/4.
Double Olympic gold medalist and unbeaten super bantamweight world titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux is the most avoided man in boxing but courageous challenger Flores is also unbeaten and might sense that this is the right time to take on the all-time great.
‘Rigo’ is approaching 37 years of age and he has only participated in two fights since 2014, while Flores is the prime age of 30 and has a huge size advantage. None of that has stopped Paddy making the Cuban champ a massive 1/9 favourite.
Flores is a Mexican and likes to celebrate his heritage by going on the attack non-stop when he’s inside the squared circle. Rigondeaux has been down a couple of times in his career and Flores should believe he can take out his older opponent, but that strategy will also leave him open to counters.
A late stoppage either way is a small possibility. However, I expect Rigondeaux to show his class and dominate his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Bet of the bout: Rigondeaux to win on points.
Don’t mention to Tyron Zeuge or Paul Smith that the strap they are fighting over isn’t a proper world title (it’s the WBA ‘Regular Title’ and George Groves owns the superior ‘Super Title’). They don’t care and good luck to them, and it shouldn’t stop us having a little wager either.
Neither super middleweight is world class and although the German is unbeaten his record has few recognisable names. Liverpool’s Smith has been in with current world champions Ward, Groves and James DeGale, and has come up spectacularly short each time.
That’s not to say they are bad boxers or that the bout won’t be entertaining. I think Zeuge is too lively and too strong for Smith but so does Paddy and just about everyone else. The Berliner doesn’t have great power and that gives ‘Smigga’ a chance.
The fight should be close, which is why I am very tempted by the 9/1 for Smith to win on points and the 22/1 on the draw. Home advantage is unfortunately very real in Germany, so the best bet in this one is for the local lad to win after 12 full rounds.