Sergey Kovalev storms out of press conference as bad blood with Andre Ward spills over

American world champion’s team dismissively call Russian’s premature departure a ‘classy move’ with tensions heating up ahead of rematch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 3:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 9:29pm

The bad blood continued in the build-up to Sergey Kovalev’s rematch with Andre Ward as the Russian boxer stormed out of their final news conference.

Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) is seeking to regain the WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles he lost in a controversial fight last November, which Ward claimed by scores of 114-113 on all three judges’ cards.

Having already no-showed a media roundtable event on Thursday ahead of Sunday morning’s (Hong Kong time) fight in Las Vegas, Kovalev kept his message brief for the undefeated American before walking off stage.

“What do you want to hear from me? I already said enough and I will prove it June 17,” said the 34-year-old, who was wearing a cap emblazoned with the word “WAR”.

“And you get prepared,” Kovalev added, turning and pointing his finger directly at Ward before leaving with his manager, Egis Klimas, and trainer John David Jackson.

Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), seated with his team to the left of the podium, shot back: “Turn my microphone on. Don’t you point your finger at me.”

Two-weight world champion Ward’s three light-heavyweight titles will be on the line at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

Andre Ward plays up US-Russia tensions ahead of Sergey Kovalev rematch

The build-up has been heated, with Kovalev already mocking Ward’s “Son of God” nickname by referring to him as the “Son of Judges”.

He had sent Ward to the canvas early in their first fight but Ward picked himself up and changed the momentum of the bout from the sixth round, with Kovalev claiming afterwards that he was robbed of victory by the scorecards.

Before the defeat, Kovalev had been on a winning streak dating back to a draw in August 2011 with Grover Young.

Ward’s team were quick to criticise Kovalev for walking out of the news conference, with his promoter, Roc Nation president Michael Yormark, mocking it as a “classy move”.

The American’s manager, James Prince, seemed happy to play up the narrative of US-Russia tensions going into the fight.

It’s on: Floyd Mayweather confirms he has finally agreed to Conor McGregor August ‘super fight’

“Russia has ran off,” said Prince. “The manager, everybody has ran off, left the scene.

“I don’t know how they behave in Russia. But we don’t act that way in the United States of America. “He’s not going to show up for the post-fight press conference as well because it’s going to be the same story. We’re going to defeat him.”

Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, did stay for the rest of the conference.

“[Sergey] will be angry and he will be spectacular and we are going to have fireworks. So please don’t miss it,” she said.

But Ward’s long-time trainer, Virgil Hunter, also chimed in, accusing Kovalev of disrespect.

“For those of you who glorified this special moniker [‘Krusher’] and gave him this special pass, he just showed you what he really thinks of you,” he said to the media.

“To not give you the opportunity to snap a face-off photo, or get a comment is really an insult.”

In one final jibe, Duva pointed to the towels placed on Ward’s side of the podium.

“Nice towels, Virgil,” she said. “Are those the ones you’re going to throw into the ring on Saturday night?”

Additional reporting Agence France-Presse