Andre Ward favored vs. Sergey Kovalev in Light Heavyweight title rematch

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The familiarity factor underlies why the sharps have given the betting edge to Andre Ward in his rematch against Sergey Kovalev.

Ward is the -160 favorite against Kovalev in the betting matchup for their light heavyweight title fight at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Ward won by an unanimous decision – each judge’s scorecard was 114-113 – in their first fight last November, which was also in Las Vegas.

Kovalev, who is 30-1-1 with 26 knockouts in his career, has the distinction of being one of just two men to knock down Ward in the ring. The Russian, who has a slight reach advantage against Ward (72 inches to 71), is the more powerful puncher of the two, as shown when he controlled the early rounds of their first meeting.

The +130 price on the boxing odds is enticing, given that a different evaluation in a couple of rounds might have led to Kovalev getting the decision in the match.

If the upset is to happen, it will probably involve Kovalev finishing the match relatively early. The latest that any of Kovalev’s knockouts have occurred is the eighth round. That said, realizing that goal is easier said than done against Ward, who is very elusive.

Ward, who is 31-0 with 15 knockouts, adapted adroitly against Kovalev in the first fight, working inside to immobilize his punching power. That first fight could end up being a prologue to a more decisive victory this time, since Ward, as the better all-around boxer, has the capability of controlling the tempo and limiting Kovalev from throwing the kind of devastating combinations that can set up a knockout (or knockdown) punch.

Ward can be counted on to stick with his game plan, which would likely involve working the body to wear down Kovalev.

A Ward win by knockout seems to be the least probable outcome, since the champion typically doesn’t have to risk going for the knockout in order to keep his belts. Eight of Ward’s last 10 fights have gone the distance with him winning by an unanimous decision, while the other two were stopped in rounds nine and 10 by technical knockout.

Boxer LaMotta, immortalized in ‘Raging Bull,’ dies at 95

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MIAMI (AP) Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life was depicted in the film “Raging Bull,” has died at the age of 95.

His fiancee, Denise Baker, says LaMotta died Tuesday at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia.

The Bronx Bull, as he was known in his fighting days, compiled an 83-19-4 record with 30 knockouts.

LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, handing Robinson his first defeat. He lost the middleweight title to him in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

In his previous fight, LaMotta saved the championship in movie-script fashion against Laurent Dauthuille. Trailing badly, LaMotta knocked out the challenger with 13 seconds left.

LaMotta threw a fight against Billy Fox, which he admitted in testimony before a U.S. Senate committee. He said he was promised a shot at a title.

On June 16, 1949, he became middleweight champion when Marcel Cerdan couldn’t continue after the 10th round.

The 1980 film “Raging Bull” was based on LaMotta’s memoir. Actor Robert DeNiro won an Academy Award for it.

Canelo and Golovkin fight to controversial draw

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gennady Golovkin retained his middleweight titles Saturday night, fighting to a draw with Canelo Alvarez in a brutal battle that ended with both fighters with their hands aloft in victory.

The middleweight showdown lived up to its hype as the two fighters traded huge punches and went after each other for 12 rounds. Neither fighter was down and neither appeared seriously hurt but both landed some huge punches to the head that had the crowd screaming in excitement.

Golovkin was the aggressor throughout and landed punches that had put other fighters to the canvas. But he couldn’t put Alvarez down, and the Mexican star more than stood his own in exchanges with Triple G, from Kazakhstan. The two were still brawling as the final seconds ticked down and the fight went to the scorecards.

One judge had Alvarez winning 118-110, a second had it 115-113 in Golovkin’s favor while the third had it 114-114. The Associated Press scored it 114-114.

Golovkin, who has never lost in 38 fights, retained his middleweight titles with the draw. But Alvarez showed that he could not only take Golovkin’s punches but land telling punches of his own.

A frenzied crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena roared throughout the fight as the two middleweights put on the kind of show that boxing purists had anticipated. They brawled, used sharp jabs and counter-punched at times, with neither one willing to give the other much ground.

“Congratulations all my friends from Mexico,” Golovkin said. “I want a true fight. I want a big drama show.”

There was plenty of drama late in the fight as Alvarez seemed to rally and rocked Golovkin with uppercuts and big right hands. But just as soon as he landed he often took one back from the slugger so feared that most other fighter avoided him.

“I won seven-eight rounds easily,” Alvarez said.

It was a battle from the opening bell as Golovkin tried to walk Alvarez down but often found himself getting hit from sharp counter punches.

“Today, people give me draw. I focus on boxing,” Golovkin said. “Look my belts, I’m still champion. I’ve not lost.”

Golovkin predicted before the fight that the late rounds would resemble a street fight, and in a way they did. Both fighters were willing to trade, and both had no problems landing hard shots to the head.

Golovkin had chased Alvarez for nearly two years, trying to get the signature fight that would pay him millions and make him a pay-per-view draw on his own. Alvarez finally agreed after Golovkin looked vulnerable earlier this year against Daniel Jacobs in a decision win that stopped his knockout streak at 23 fights.