Sergey Kovalev defeated Isaac Chilemba via unanimous decision in Russia, but he didn’t look great doing it. People are now questioning Kovalev’s chances against Andre Ward after his unusually unimpressive effort against Chilemba.
Isaac Chilemba has an awkward style that can frustrate his opponents, and it seemed to frustrate Kovalev. Chilemba looked very good against Kovalev in the early rounds. Chilemba’s jab gave Kovalev problems throughout the entire fight. Kovalev proved to be an easy target.
Chilemba’s issue is that he lacks power. He hit Kovalev with multiple shots, but he couldn’t hurt him. Kovalev endured Chilemba’s jabs to the face and broke Chilemba down with power punches. He dropped Chilemba in the seventh. Chilemba was never the same after that point. He fought the rest of the fight to survive, not win.
Kovalev won by decision, but many expected him to win by early knockout. Those expectations were unrealistic. Chilemba has never been knocked out in his 11-year career. Chilemba has proven to be a solid contender in the light-heavyweight division, but he is nowhere near the level of Andre Ward. Ward and Kovalev are supposed to meet towards the end of the year, most likely in November.
Before his fight with Chilemba, many believed that Kovalev would be the favorite against Andre Ward. Ward has only fought three times over the last three years, but Kovalev’s underwhelming performance has boxing pundits changing their opinions.
Andre Ward is an incredibly technical fighter with superior defensive skills. Kovalev has a power advantage over Ward, but power will not help him if he cannot hit Ward. Unless Ward has a poor showing against Alexander Brand in August, look for Ward to be at least a 2-1 favorite against Kovalev. If Ward looks spectacular against Brand, then the odds against Kovalev will grow.