Sanchez: Ward Isn’t Ready for Kovalev
Andre Ward will look to prove the extent of his greatness on Saturday night, when he takes on light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in the most important fight of the year. Abel Sanchez, former trainer of Kovalev, believes that the Oakland-born Ward is not prepared for the fight that the Russian champion is going to bring to him.
Ward is considered a highly cerebral fighter, but Sanchez told BoxingScene that he does not have the mental fortitude to stand with Kovalev.
"He is not as sharp, not only technically but mentally he is not as sharp," Sanchez said. "What happens is when you fight a guy like Barrera, it takes you a little ways there and then the next guy like Barrera will take you a little further there and then a little further after that."
Sanchez cornered his fighter Sullivan Barrera against Ward in March. Ward won the fight, one of the bouts he took to acclimate in the new division and prepare himself for the light-heavyweight champion, by unanimous decision. Having watched Ward up close, Sanchez does not see a fighter that he believes is prepared for Kovalev.
"In fact at that press conference in Oakland after (Ward-Barrera) I was questioned about what I thought and people laughed, saying like, ‘he is ready right now’ but he is not and you will see he is not. The Brand fight showed you he is not. He fought a guy that really didn’t belong in the ring with him and went 12 rounds."
Many of the analysts picking Ward (30-0) over Kovalev (30-0-1) have pointed to Kovalev’s last performance against Isaac Chilemba, an unconvincing unanimous decision victory, as reason to believe Kovalev’s skills may be slipping. Sanchez, however, believes that the Russian is as sharp as ever, and too sharp for Ward.
"Things like that don’t prepare you for a Kovalev. Yes he had a difficult fight against (Isaac) Chilemba but you have to look at the circumstances. He fought in his hometown. He went back to the venue where unfortunately a tragedy happened 5 years before that so all those things combined and the friends and family being there was a distraction for a fighter."
"Chilemba is a difficult guy to fight but I still think he has done what he has done to stay consistent and stay busy to be able to deal with Andre’s skills. There is a lot of skills there. They are just hidden right now."