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.