LOS ANGELES, California: Russian boxer Sergey Kovalev made his point then stormed off the podium as he butted heads Thursday with American champion Andre Ward in the final news conference before their world title rematch.
There appears to be genuine dislike between the undefeated Ward and challenger Kovalev, who is seeking to regain his three world titles when he faces Ward Saturday night in the US boxing capital of Las Vegas.
On Thursday, the 34-year-old Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) amped up US-Russian boxing tensions by taunting Ward and then walking off the stage.
“I already said enough and I will prove it June 17. And you get prepared,” Kovalev said, turning and pointing his finger directly at Ward before leaving by the back door.
Ward, who was sitting in his assigned seat on the podium, immediately shot back, “Turn my microphone on. Don’t you point your finger at me.”
The Russian sent Ward to the canvas in their first fight in November but failed to close the deal and is now hoping to prove his claim that he was robbed of a victory.
Ward, 33, won the controversial first fight by the narrowest of margins, 114-113, on all three judges’ scorecards, which earned him the IBF, WBA and WBO belts.
In the build-up to Saturday’s contest, Kovalev mocked Ward’s “Son of God” nickname by referring to him as the “Son of Judges.”
Three of the four major belts will be at stake as the pair meet for the second time in just seven months in a light heavyweight world title fight at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino.
If Kovalev learned anything from that first bout, it is that he can’t take any rounds off or rely on the judges’ decision.
Prior to his November defeat, Kovalev had been on a more than five-year winning streak dating back to a draw in August 2011 with Grover Young.
Like Kovalev, Ward has beaten his share of elite boxers.
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) is trying to prove he didn’t get a gift decision in the first fight. After suffering a knockdown, he was able to regroup and change the momentum of the fight in the sixth round.
Ward prides himself on being calm cool and collected, but he couldn’t help but show emotion on Thursday.
“I am not going to be distracted by the talk,” he said as he took his turn at the podium. “I am expecting his best, but you are going to see a different Andre Ward. You are going to see another guy in there Saturday night. That is my favorite time. Show-and-tell time.”