LAS VEGAS — The second verse, as usual, was louder than the first.
Andre Ward finished Sergey Kovalev in the 8th round of their light-heavyweight rematch at Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday night, keeping three belts and raising his record to 32-0 with his 16th knockout.
The two were staging a tense, tactical fight until Ward popped Kovalev with a left at the beltline, which seemed to stun the former champion. Ward then connected with a sweet right in the chops, and Kovalev’s legs were shaking.
Ward then began pounding Kovalev to the midsection again, and Kovalev bent over helplessly. Referee Tony Weeks stopped it at 2:43.
Ward threw and landed fewer punches than Kovalev but hit 37 percent of his power shots, according to Compubox. He started slowly, as he did in his unanimous-decision win here in November, but kept gaining strength as the rounds went on. He shook off Kovalev’s left hand and began establishing his own, and then found enough alleyways for his right hand.
At the time of the stoppage Ward led on two of the three judges’ cards. Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman had Ward winning by a point. Steve Weisfield favored Kovalev by three.
“He’s been on top for a long time,” Ward said. “Great fighters have to raise their game to the next level, and that’s what I had to do tonight.
“Championship fights don’t start until after the sixth round. I got him with the right hand, then I went back to the body a few times. When you go to the body, you got to keep going back down there.’
Ward smiled. “Can I get back on the pound-for-pound list now?” he said. “I keep my head down and keep working. I don’t get a vote.”
Kovalev seemed mystified by the turn of events. “I think both of us were better in this fight,” he said. “ But I don’t really know what happened.”
The Kovalev camp wasn’t happy about several shots by Ward that were either on or below the equator.
Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, said she would appeal the…