Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev rematch set

Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev was a battle between two of the best pound-for-pound talents in boxing. (AP)
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev was a battle between two of the best pound-for-pound talents in boxing. (AP)

After an intense and hotly contested battle last November, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will meet again.

The freshly minted WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion will defend his titles that he took from Kovalev on June 17 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The fight will be broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View.

The rematch — billed as “No Excuses” — finds two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world looking to prove their dominance once and for all. Ward won a controversial unanimous-decision victory last November in Las Vegas and there was speculation that there would not be an immediate rematch after the two sides went back and forth regarding the deal. However, everything was settled and they’ll meet again just seven months after their initial bout.

Kovalev dropped Ward in the second round and built an early lead. However, the U.S. Olympic gold medalist closed the gap with some adjustments midway through the fight and squeezed out a decision. The previously unbeaten Kovalev hopes to even the score when they step into the ring again.

“I’m glad to know that rematch will happen,” said Kovalev (32-1, 26 KOs). “I really hope that Andre Ward will get into the ring for this rematch. Fans of boxing will see the real Krusher —
the one they have missed for couple of my last fights. For me this rematch is very important as no other bout in my entire boxing career.”

The initial battle saw Ward enter as a -135 favorite, according to SportsBook Review. Chances are that Ward may hold a slight edge with oddsmakers in the rematch despite the fact that many ringside observers felt Kovalev did enough to win the bout.

It will be interesting to see how well the rematch does on pay-per-view, considering the initial bout reportedly reeled in roughly 160,000 buys despite featuring two of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Perhaps the controversy from the first fight will serve as a boost for the return bout.

Also scheduled on the undercard of Ward-Kovalev 2 will be the return of two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who will face interim titlist Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs). They were initially scheduled to meet on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland HBO Pay-Per-View on Feb. 25. But after Kirkland was forced out with an injury, the entire card was scrapped. Now the two will square off in Las Vegas where the 36-year-old Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will fight for the first time since last July.