Russian boxer Sergey Kovalev’s controversial 8th-round stoppage defeat to Andre Ward in their world light heavyweight title rematch has polarized the boxing world.
Many believe that US referee was wrong to stop the fight and award a technical knockout victory to Ward, as the American had delivered several low blows to Kovalev.
With the fight finely poised in the eighth round in Las Vegas, Ward seemed to be gaining the upper hand before delivering a series of punches to the body of former champion Kovalev, the final causing him to double over, at which point Weeks halted the contest.
Kovalev protested the loss, which was his second in succession to Ward, the first of which was also hotly debated, with many believing Ward had been soundly beaten by ‘Krusher’ Kovalev.
Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, let the gathering of journalists at the post-fight press conference know exactly what she thought of the decision.
“Good evening everyone. I’m still having a hard time processing what I just witnessed. I saw someone who should have been disqualified get his hand held up,” Duva said, only to be greeted by jeers from those in attendance.
“Oh no, no, no, no. If you’re a fan – shut up! We’re here to work. If you’re Andre Ward fans it’s not your place to talk,” a visibly agitated Duva fired back while Kovalev, sitting to her left, played with his son Sasha.
WBO super-featherweight champion and pound-for-pound star Vasyl Lomachenko, ringside at the fight, said he thought the decision was “bullsh*t.”
“Second time a mistake. Second. Both it’s a mistake. It’s bullsh*t,” the Ukrainian told reporter Elie Seckbach.
“What do I think? You know. This is sport. We have rules. Ward all fight punches low blow. I don’t know why referee stopped this fight. I don’t know.”
However, four-time world title challenger Matthew Macklin, a commentator for Sky Sports, tweeted, “They weren’t low blows. Borderline & they don’t hurt, I know! Kovalev quit! Ward shook him with the right hand & was breaking him up anyway.”
Boxing analyst and former two-weight world titleholder Paulie Malignaggi tweeted his disgust at the decision.
“Absolutely, stoppage was terrible, refereeing was terrible, granted Kovalev has to show character and not complain, refs are spectators many times,” he said.
Former light-welterweight world champion Ruslan Provodnikov posted on Instagram that he “fully supported” Kovalev, but that he felt the referee had to answer some questions.
“The stoppage I think was absurd, but the punch that hurt Sergey was crucial, this is boxing and now and again both boxers get let off,” Provodnikov, who won the WBO light-welterweight championship in 2013, said.
“Ward, like Sergey, did his job, therefore think all issues should be put to the referee. Sergey wishes to keep calm and return stronger to silence the haters!” he added.
A tweet allegedly from the twitter account of fight referee Tony Weeks, in which the official apologized for the decision and admitted he had made a mistake, was widely circulated, but later discredited.