Kovalev vs Ward: Sergey Kovalev Interview
Kathy Duva: “Hello everyone, welcome. We are now, I can’t believe it, just a week and a half away from the most exciting, the most compelling and the most competitive fight of 2016, and probably the last two or three years while we’re at it. We are just beside ourselves here. We are exhausted because everyone has been working so hard, but it’s a great feeling. I can’t compliment the fighters enough for stepping up and making boxing what it’s supposed to be and what it used to be, a sport that involved people competing in fights where we didn’t know the outcome. This is a 50-50 fight and we’re starting to feel the buzz and excitement. I want to thank all of you for participating today and I hope to see you all in Las Vegas very soon.”
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev: “Hello everybody, I’m glad to be here.”
Egis Klimas: “I just want to say hello to everybody. I want to thank Sergey Kovalev for making this appearance for this fight and bringing us to this level. He’s the man and he’s the one who brought us here and he’s the reason we are all here on the line. I just want to thank Sergey and welcome everybody to this phone call. Thank you very much.”
John David Jackson: “I just want to thank everybody for being here and I want all of the fans to come out and watch this fight, it’s a great fight between two very good fighters. It’s definitely a fight for the fans to see, so thanks everybody for participating.”
Q: Do you consider Andre Ward to be the best fighter you’ve ever faced?
Sergey Kovalev: “We’ll find out on November 19. I don’t know, but I think so, yes.”
Q: Sometimes Andre Ward brawls, sometimes he boxes. What do you expect him to do in this fight and how are you prepared for his different strategy?
Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t have any different strategy, my strategy is just the one, any cost to get the victory over him. He’s right now in my way to my goals and to my dreams and I should to do my job and fight for my goals and for my dreams. I want to destroy him.”
Q: Have you done anything differently in training to prepare for Andre?
Sergey Kovalev: “Why should I do something different if what I did before gave me success? I followed my same training camp as usual and it should get me in great shape for November 19.”
Q: “Do you think this fight will get you first place in the pound for pound rankings?”
Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t think about what will be after the fight. I have focused my whole attention on this fight and Ward and what I should do inside the ring. We’ll see about this after the fight.”
Q: Do you expect this to be a wrestling fight or a war?
Sergey Kovalev: “Of course this fight is an opportunity for both of us to show the boxing world who is the best pound for pound. I’m sure he will be there to do everything he can to get the victory over me and it’s the same for me. It’s going to be a war between us. Who is the best boxer and who is the best athlete?”
Q: What do you think makes you the more mentally tough boxer in this fight?
Sergey Kovalev: “I think this is most important thing. For me this is a mental fight. It’s not who is stronger, but who is smarter and brings best skills into the ring and who is mentally stronger. If I happen to knock him out, it will be a bonus for boxing fans and for me myself.”
Kathy Duva: “I’ve seen Sergey demonstrate his mental toughness time and time again. He’s been through more adversity in his life than most fighters have ever even contemplated. I’m aware that Ward has faced adversity, but I never heard Sergey talk about how boxing is a sacrifice, where we frequently hear from Ward about how it is. Sergey’s attitude towards boxing has always been, oh wow, this is a great opportunity and I’m so happy I’m doing it. I know he has tough times and there’s days at the gym where he probably doesn’t feel that way. But his attitude has always been about loving his work, and loving what he’s doing. He can’t wait for the fight to start. He works hard because he wants to be the best. It’s not just his mental toughness, it’s his mental attitude, I think it’s very positive and I think that’s the thing that carries him. That and the chip on his shoulder that has been there forever of just wanting to prove that he’s the best. You take that combination of work ethic, and chip on his shoulder and focus like a laser, and then loving what he’s doing. Sometimes when he gets in the ring he looks like he’s about to have a steak, that’s kind of the look on his face. I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun to watch him.”
John David Jackson: “I agree with what Kathy Duva. It’s his upbringing. Growing up in Russia, the hard time that he’s been through I think that’s what makes him the more mentally tougher fighter. That and his desire to be champion and stay champion. He loves the lime light and the adulation that he gets, but I think he’s the mentally tougher fighter and the mentally stronger fighter.”
Q: Does that make it tougher or easier for you to work with him sometimes?
John David Jackson: “A little bit of both. Sergey knows what he wants to do and his plan is already set. I just work off what he wants to do. In the ring he knows what he wants to do as all fighters should know what they want to do. For me it could be hard sometimes when his mindset is set on one thing. But I make it a little bit easier because I allow him to do what he wants and work off what he wants to do and that makes him a better fighter.”
Q: Kovalev has been with you for four and a half years. Can you describe your thoughts from when you first saw him and nobody wanted to sign him to where you are now?
Kathy Duva: “From the moment I saw him in Bethlehem I immediately imagined him being the best fighter in the division. I thought it at that second. I remember Russell Peltz coming up to me saying who wouldn’t you put this guy in with and I couldn’t think of anyone. To be where we are now, in a position to become number one in the world, this is the dream. Main Events has worked with some tremendous fighters and we’ve had some really good runs, but for the most part those were guys that came with Olympic medals and nobody was really surprised when they succeeded. To take Sergey from the point where nobody in Russia knew who he was, where he has never been given a leg up by anybody, where nobody wanted to even look at him to take him where he is today, I have to say, and we at Main Events couldn’t do that with anybody, but when a person came along with the skill and the desire to do it, it was the perfect marriage for us. Sergey gets to show his abilities and talents and Main Events to have the ability to know exactly how to move him perfectly. This is kind of the opportunity that I have been waiting for for a very long time, to prove myself, to prove my staff, to prove my company that we were still there and we could do this and I think we gave Sergey the opportunity to prove what he can do. It was a beautiful thing and meant to be.”
Q: “Ward was expected to be here, he was a gold medalist from the United States, he had a big signing bonus. We hear Andre talk about the sacrifice of boxing whereas with Kovalev this is a great opportunity to box. Andre was expected to be here from day one, maybe Sergey expected it from himself, but it’s a surprise to everybody else, do you think there’s something to that?”
Kathy Duva: “I think there is and I think you make a good point. Even when it comes to the job of making this event work and promoting it, Sergey has taken the attitude from the start that this is my job, this is my opportunity and I’m not going to have any regrets when it’s over so I’m going to do everything I have to do. I think we worked really hard to manage that load for him so it doesn’t interfere with his training. In the brief time I’ve worked with Ward the attitude is different, it’s not hey I’m really happy you’re all paying attention to me, it’s ok we’ll make a list of what we’ll do. I think when it’s always come to you and there have been people standing around you with lights and cameras from the start there’s a natural tendency to kind recoil from it a little bit. Sergey is running towards the light here and I know sometimes it isn’t exciting or fun for him to do that and I know how hard he has worked and I appreciate it more than anything in the world, how hard he has worked to become that fan friendly star that people want to see and know and it shows. He has a very different attitude, for him this is not a chore, this is an opportunity.”
Q: When you were coming up at Don Turner’s camp in North Carolina coming up and Egis was bringing you around from fight to fight to different places and you had no idea if you ever be able to show your talents to a wider audience to the point where you are now. What were your own expectations? How did it go for you in your mind to go from where you were at with Don Turner and Egis pounding it around the country to this fight? Are you surprised at all that you’re here?
Sergey Kovalev: “I’m very surprised myself. When I was in the amateurs I never thought that someday I would turn pro at all. For me professional boxing was very crazy, I thought pro boxing was just beating the whole brain out of your head. It’s very dangerous. In amateurs it was enough with injuries and some hard fights. I felt like I would never be able to do twelve rounds. My wife pushed me to turn pro and one man Anatoliy, Egis’s friend, found me in Russia and he met with me in Moscow and we started to talk about professional boxing. I started to think about it, but it was a maybe. Finally, I made my decision after the 2008 Russian Championships when I won the final fight and the victory was given to my opponent. When I turned pro and came to North Carolina, I was disappointed really. I thought if I turned pro I would get to this level where I am right now. For three years we fought without any promoter, I fought with the support of Egis. Throughout everything he was my father, my brother, my guide, for me he was everything…”
Egis Klimas: (cuts in) “But not the girlfriend!”
Sergey Kovalev: “Not the girlfriend, of course. I can get help from Egis anytime and when I fought 15 or 16 fights, I thought I should go back to Russia and do something to get money another way. After 15 or 16 fights, I had no money, no promoter and not really any future in boxing. When I fought in Russia in 2011, I stayed in Russia for two, three months and I almost decided not to go to America because we didn’t have any plans. We didn’t have a promoter or any plans for the future. I would be back in Big Bear for a workout and I thought, why? Egis called me in Russia and said to me that one promoter, Main Events, Kathy Duva wants to give me opportunity to prove myself and I believed once again that maybe this is the chance, so I should try again. We fought Darnell Boone for the second time and after that I signed with Main Events and Kathy Duva.”
Q: Egis, you’re the one who had the vision, what was it that you saw in him at that time and is the end result right now beyond what you expected?
Egis Klimas: “I was inexperienced. I was the new kid on the block and Don Turner was my tutor, but I didn’t know much about what’s going on. Bringing Sergey to this point, we were in Kazakhstan and he did shadow boxing and Don Turner said Egis, where did you get this guy from? After that we went on a very long run. I used to call every single promoter, I used to try to put him on every single show. I used to try to show him to everybody who was around.”
Sergey Kovalev: “We were like kittens in this business. Like a kid being thrown into the water to learn to swim, we were just trying to get somewhere, to get to the shore. Kathy was the one who gave a hand to Sergey and said come here, come this way, swim this way.”
Egis Klimas: “If anybody is trying to bring me today manager of the year or to manage other fighters, it’s Sergey who brought me to that stage.”
Sergey Kovalev: “We brought each other, the three of us have helped each other and right now we all have success.”
Egis Klimas: “Exactly, he makes a very good point. Nobody knew who Egis Klimas is, nobody knew who Sergey Kovalev is, everybody knew Main Events but at that point Main Events didn’t exist, but now we have one big team and we are winners. And after November 19 we are going be winners, no question about it.”
Q: Andre Ward is known for his high boxing IQ; you’ve been saying you’re going to be the smarter fighter. Can you speak on how confident you are that you will be the smarter fighter when you guys meet?
Sergey Kovalev: “You will see on November 19. I am making a great training camp to kick his ass, this is my goal. A lot of people around the world will watch this fight and I understand this, and I’m going to prove who I am.”
Q: John David Jackson, can you speak on how Sergey is going to be the smarter fighter when he faces Ward?
John David Jackson: “A lot of so called experts and people in boxing say that Ward is a smarter fight. Listen, Ward is smart at what he does, but a lot of what he does is not fighting, it’s surviving and making his opponent frustrated with the tactics that he uses. Sergey on the other hand is a pure all around fighter. He can fight you if it comes down to it, but on the flip side to that Sergey is a very intelligent boxer and he knows how to fight. He doesn’t come into the ring trying to be a one punch knockout artists. If you watch Sergey’s fight, in his brilliance he looks to break down his opponents systematically. He does want a knockout, but he’s learned how to build up to the knockdown. He knows how to cut the ring off and break guys down to the body and if you want to fight with him and you’re looking for a shootout, you’re not going to win because his clip is fully loaded. Andre may be smart and very intelligent, but he’s fighting with half a clip. It’s like LL Cool J once said, you can’t fight an army with a handgun. Ward has a handgun and he’s a fighting against a tank, and the tank is smart, he knows how to fight and how to systematically beat him. For those that don’t know and realize how smart Sergey is in the ring, on November 19 they’re going to find out.”
Q: Have you guys been stressing having more patience in this fight because it is Ward and he’s a patient and crafty guy?
John David Jackson: “I think Sergey has figured that out by himself and we work off that. Ward is crafty and patient, but you can’t be that patient and crafty when you got a guy who has bombs in both hands. Sergey is going to break him down the way he has to. You don’t have time to dictate the pace of the fight and jab here and hold there. When you have a guy coming at you with power in both hands, he’s not going to have the time to be able to do all of the things that he wants to do. This fight here, he has to fight and if he’s not willing to fight he’s in trouble.”
Q: Who do you think has the physical advantage in this fight?
John David Jackson: “As an amateur Andre fought at 178 and he turned pro at 168, so he’s always been the bigger guy after he hydrated. But he can’t be the bully for this fight because he’s not the bigger fighter. Sergey is going to be the bigger fighter. As far as the advantage, it depends on how much he had to lose for this fight himself because he walks around pretty big himself. The seven-pound difference wasn’t a big deal to him because he was killing himself to make 168. I still say the advantage goes to Sergey, he’s the stronger fighter and in the ring it’s going to show. He’s more physical. How much more? We’ll find out that night, but I still give the advantage to Sergey.”
Q: You have a great right hand, are you expecting Andre to be turning southpaw the night of the fight? Do you think he’ll be doing that a lot?
Sergey Kovalev: “Yes, I think he will be changing his positions during the whole fight because in some moments he will be feeling uncomfortable after my punches.”
Q: It seems like he switches southpaw when he has his opponents frustrated. What do you think about that?
Sergey Kovalev: “I know one thing; I will be ready for anything he has to offer in the ring. I understand this and my goal right now is to be ready for everything that he will offer.”
John David Jackson: “Ward may turn southpaw, but when he does get hit by Sergey I think he’ll go to southpaw less and less and get back to his comfort zone which is the right handed stance. If you look at Sergey’s career, he does very well against southpaws so Ward can turn southpaw if he wants to.”
Q: Kathy what fight would you compare this one to from a historical perspective?
Kathy Duva: “I guess the easiest comparison would be to the first time two undefeated fighters fought for pound for pound supremacy and that was Meldrick Taylor versus Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Main Events promoted Meldrick Taylor so we have been here before. We have also been involved in major fights with people like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Arturo Gatti and Pernell Whitaker and on and on and on. But I have to say this is the first time we’ve taken a guy that didn’t come out with an Olympic medal or the heralded amateur career, because Sergey did indeed have an amateur career where he clearly learned a lot, it’s the first time we’ve taken someone who nobody expected to this level of achievement and for that one we’re really proud and really happy. It’s a different kind of excitement for us, it’s a lot more fun when nobody expects you to do it.”
Sergey Kovalev: “Everybody in the world wants to see somebody who kicks my ass, but it’s not happening.”
Q: That depends on who you ask; a lot of people want to see you kick his ass.
Sergey Kovalev: “Believe me, there’s a lot of haters. It’s new motivation for me, I really like to disappoint these people.”
Q: John, what was the game plan for the Bernard Hopkins fight and why did it work?
John David Jackson: “First of all, Bernard is an old fighter. Even though he sayshe’s an Alien and the Executioner and all that, the bottom line is he’s an old fighter, so you have to treat him like an old fighter. You have to do things that take him out of his comfort zone. You have to make him work. Sergey was able to use his jab to offset Bernard’s trickery, Bernard is very well-schooled and he’s a student of the game. He was just older and unable to do what he once did.”
Q: If Sergey beats Ward do you think he will get full credit for the victory?
Kathy Duva: “As Sergey points out, haters gonna hate. If you look at the picks the reporters are making and the betting line is favoring Ward a little bit, which is awesome because it’s always better when you’re the underdog and, as we’ve been saying on this call, not having it be expected. But Ward, the position he’s in for better or worse, he’s expected to win, that’s who he is. That’s the guy he’s always been, he’s the guy who hasn’t lost a fight since he was a child. You put that out there, then you’ve got to defend that and we don’t think he can. When it’s over I hope Sergey gets the credit he deserves and it should be a whole lot because this is a tough fight.”
Q: As a promoter does it frustrate you that Sergey is the B side here?
Kathy Duva: “To me he’s not the B-side. His name is first on the poster, he does have the world titles. I think that designation of A- and B-side is an unfortunate thing in many cases, but when you have two guys who could argue all night over who’s going to win then there’s no A-side and no B-side. It’s two great fighters fighting each other. Sergey holds the titles right now, Ward has held titles in the past. Ward is a legendary fighter; Sergey is trying to become one. There’s little different points in the legacy aspects of their careers, but nevertheless this is the fight that we wanted. We wanted it sooner, but we had to wait and so we did. Ward has had his fights that he needed and there’s no excuses. There are certain fights that defy that A-side/B-side description and I think this is one of them.”
Q: Do you think Sergey’s last three opponents, Bernard Hopkins, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal, have built him up for this fight before it was even signed?
John David Jackson: “To a degree maybe. What people don’t realize is that Sergey can fight against any style. He’s very intelligent in the ring, he knows how to solve the fighters’ defensive mechanisms. Those three fights have helped him prepare for this fight, but I think Sergey would have been able to solve the Andre Ward problem regardless. Ward is crafty and he’s not going to be a big problem offensively. If he does, then he’s rolling the dice and he’s going to leave himself open for wide open shots and I don’t think he’s going to do that, especially after he gets hit by Sergey. I think he’s going to be evasive and try to avoid Sergey’s power shots, and if he’s really evasive, how can you win a fight being an evasive fighter? He’s going to have to stand and fight eventually.”
Sergey Kovalev: “Pay attention to November 19 everybody. It’s going to be a huge fight with Andre Ward. He’s never lost before, but it’s my job. So let me be the one to do it.”
Egis Klimas: “We’re looking forward for somebody to lose and that would be Andre Ward. I’m sorry about it, but that’s the only thing I think I can say. Tune into HBO PPV on November 19.”
Kathy Duva: “You’re going to see the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on November 19. Make sure all of your readers and viewers know about it because this is the fight Mayweather-Pacquiao should have been.”
Kovalev vs. Ward “Pound For Pound”, a 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA light heavyweight title at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, is presented by Main Events, Roc Nation Sports, Krusher Promotions and Andre Ward Promotions and is sponsored by the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Corona Extra, Zappos, JetLux and Monster Products. The championship event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. Tickets are available on axs.comand the T-Mobile Arena box office.