Sergey Kovalev seeking to regain titles he lost to Andre Ward

Las Vegas. Kovalev is scheduled to fight Andre Ward in a light heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday in Las Vegas

Andre Ward defeated Sergey Kovalev to retain the unified light heavyweight titles on Saturday from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Paradise, Nevada.

Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight with 31 seconds left in the eighth with Kovalev kneeling down from what he said was a low blow.

Again the Russian started stronger, with Ward firing off enough counter-shots to keep himself in the fight but looking tired between rounds. The formula was a blend of vicious body shots that at first slowed and then weakened the challenger.

So, will we see Ward vs Kovalev 3 next?

At the time of the stoppage two judges gave a slight edge ward (67:66), and one referee felt that closer to the victory, Kovalev (68:65).

Could be Ward's craftiness played a role, as well as all the holding, about which Kovalev's promoter Kathy Duva afterward said, "The ref (Robert Byrd) wasn't doing his job". Ward's final flurry included several borderline shots and Weeks should have given Kovalev a standing count rather than waved it off. Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) was badly hurt, and Ward went right at him and began firing away. The points Kovalev scored early were an edge that wasn't taking him anywhere. "I had a couple of missions in mind when I came to Las Vegas-to glorify God with my performance and the way I act outside the ring, to defend my belts that I won back in November, and to get home and kiss my wife and kids", he said.

BTW.it's not the first time the Russian fighter has been accused of racism, but he has said in the past that cultural misunderstandings were to blame for the controversies. I knew I had him. I'm pretty straightforward. I don't say anything unless I mean it. I'm just going to leave it at that.

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"He is a world champion". He is a great fighter.

"I see him outboxing Anthony Joshua, there are some things about Joshua that I see". I see things with him in particular and he's the best. "Obviously, he didn't because the fight got stopped". "I'm comfortable being uncomfortable; that's how we work, that's how we train". "No disrespect to Stevenson but I haven't even been thinking of him". I just needed to keep being smart. I sparred 107 rounds for the first fight. "I'm not a person that demands respect or none of that. I don't get a vote". Ward, meanwhile, didn't rule out a third bout with his rival, but intimated that he is thinking about moving up to cruiserweight and possibly heavyweight.

"It's gotta be the right guy, but I dream big".

"Can I ask a question?" For both fighters, Saturday's rematch is a chance to move beyond that controversial match, with Kovalev believing he was robbed of a victory and Ward believing he didn't get enough credit for the win. And, if you choose to make a defense for Kovalev's plodding battle plan, there were definitely the low blows. "The ref didn't call them".

"I was empty one month before the November fight", he said. I went right back there again, and he wasn't reacting. "I didn't feel he could throw the punch that would end the fight".

Instead of having one magnificent fight, we will remember this night differently.

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