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Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev Pick

Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) vs. Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs)
When: Saturday, June 17th, 2017
Where: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV
Weight Class: WBC Light Heavyweight Title
by Scott, Boxing Betting Analyst, Predictem.com

Betting Odds: Andre Ward -160, Sergey Kovalev +140

Fight Analysis:

Light heavyweight champion Andre Ward defends the title in a highly-anticipated rematch with Sergey Kovalev on June 14 in Las Vegas. Itís one of the biggest fights of the year, following their November fight won by Ward via a close unanimous decision that elicited a lot of debate. Hurt early and dropped by the murderous-punching Russian, Ward worked his way back into the fight and crossed the finish line a nose ahead. Kovalev and his backers were adamant that he had won and hopefully on June 17, we get some closure in this 175-pound rivalry.

Ward, 33, and Kovalev, 34, engaged in an entertaining fight in November. Ward was almost taken out of the fight with the sheer power of Kovalev nearly winning the day. But as the fight wore on, he acclimated himself and made the adjustments to work himself back into the fight. Some feel he didnít do so to enough of an extent to win the bout, but he did a lot better late in the fight after getting his bearings. It was Wardís first really tough bout in years, so maybe he just needed an extended period to warm up to the task of fighting the best. Whatever the case, his strong close to the fight and the prospects of him making adjustments has made him a -160 favorite in the rematch.

Kovalev did wane over the second half of the fight. At the same time, in his first fight against an elite fighter in his prime, he showed he is squarely in his element. He hung in there and in a lot of peopleís minds, should have gotten credit for becoming the first man to beat one of the most-elite boxers in the world. And while people seem to be focusing on the improvements Ward can make for the rematch, Kovalev also has the right to improve. He enters the fight knowing heís the dangerous one in the fightóthe man who can hurt his opponent the easiest in this matchup.

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Itís an appealing mix of styles with the KO puncher Kovalev against the pure boxing talent of Ward. And the first fight showed there is little to separate the two. Again, we are forced to evaluate who has the best chance to improve for the rematch. On one hand, Kovalev has been the more active pro. He has taken on tough fighters in recent years, while Ward has spent a lot of time on the shelf. But thatís also a reason to give the nod to Ward when it comes to improvement potential for this fight. He had been out of the swing of things for a while. A hard fight with Kovalev just 6 months ago, we should see a version of Ward who is more-prepared to hit the ground running in the rematch.

Not to paint Kovalev as a Neanderthal slugger, but Wardís calling-card is his ring IQ and cerebral approach. We saw that manifest over the course of the fight, as he was able to make mid-fight adjustments to somehow win a fight it looked all of the world like he was going to lose. Now given a number of months to reflect, plot, contemplate, and re-launch, one has to figure that will do Ward some good. And when you consider that at least a small majority of people thought Kovalev won the first fight, there has to be some reason Ward is an 8-5 favorite for the rematch. And a lot of that centers on the projection that Ward will be better based on how he closed the fight and the added insight gained from this time between fights.

We just need to remind ourselves that Ward has not monopolized the right to improve for the second fight. Kovalev may not have finished the fight as well as he started it, but he showed he belongs. For the first time in his career, he was facing a fighter who possessed elite boxing skills. The knowledge that he can thrive in that dimension could give him some added confidence. Not to mention he feels genuinely victimized by the scorecards of the first fight and is likely to be bolstered by the notion of seeing justice served in the rematch.

This bout is again in Vegas, where the customs of boxing are usually at their most vivid. And one of those customs is that itís not easy to win a decision against a top pound-for-pound fighter, a gold medal winner in his home country who is a long-established star in the sport. Fighters like that can win fights like this by merely being competitive in the fight. The B-side of the equation has to go above and beyond to ingratiate himself to the judges. All the close rounds go against him. His work resounds less.

This is nothing new and we saw some of that affect the scoring in the first fight. But with so many people sour on the decision in the first fight, could we see some backlash where judges unconsciously go the other way to atone for past grievances? Itís something to consider. But with Ward, weíre dealing with the countryís lone remaining Olympic gold medal champion, the only true American boxing superstar still on the scene. As we saw in November, thatís not an easy guy to beat on the cards in Las Vegas.

Taking everything into consideration, Iím not sure -160 is such a bad price for Ward. There is some value in that price for a champion who last lost 20 years ago in the amateurs. He increasingly came to grips with the menace of Kovalev over the course of their first fight. The time to prepare will be much more-pointed and precise for the rematch than it was for their first fight. And with his high ring IQ, Ward should once again figure out a way to get to the winnerís circle. Iím taking Andre Ward.

My Prediction to Win the Fight:
Iím betting on Andre Ward at -160. After not having big fights for so many years, he was thrown off early by the hard-hitting Kovalev, before starting to figure out his opponent. Combine his ability to make mid-fight adjustments, a built-in edge with the judges, and the time he has to prepare for the rematch, I see him being in a better position to earn a win in the rematch. Bet YOUR Ward/Kovalev pick using your credit card and get a 50% bonus added to your account at one of the web's best boxing wagering sites: Bovada Sportsbook!

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