World renown trainers, John David Jackson and Virgil Hunter, squared off in a debate moderated by HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney on Wednesday, Nov. 16, ahead of Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward “Pound For Pound” showdown on Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
John David Jackson is the trainer of WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs). Virgil Hunter is the trainer of Two-Time World Champion and 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (30-0, 15 KOs). Here is what the trainers had to say:
John David Jackson, Trainer of Sergey Kovalev:
“Alright, thank you very much it’s nice to have the press out here and I’m glad you made it out the Sergey Kovalev – Andre Ward fight is a fight that I am glad was made for a lot of reasons, but one reason is for the fans because this fight was deserved. In boxing today, there’s too many fights that aren’t being made these are the best fighters in the world so it definitely had to be made.
“Decline I say because when you look at his past (Ward’s) last five years and the way he dominated 168. He fought different fights and he fought a different way.
“In Andre I see many thing but you know what on that night they might not show. He may become totally different but we are prepared for what he brings to us.
“Andre has a lot of strengths. You know when you look at him or when you really study him he’s a well schooled fighter he listens to everything Virgil preaches and he definitely absorbs it. The one beautiful thing I’ve noticed from that is he trusts Virgil. When you trust your trainer that speaks volumes for you, you listen to everything he tells you to do, so any game plan that Virgil advises he’s gonna follow.
“I really studied Andre these past few weeks I have a great appreciation for what he does because looked and I said you know what his style was similar to mine. I was busy in my fights, I was very captivated in my moves, I set traps for my opponents. As soon as I sat down and recognized what he does, I like what he (Ward) does he’s very smart.
“Once I really sat down and studied Andre and Virgil I had to sit back and give them all the credit they deserve I kinda sold them short a couple years back.
“He don’t need to worry about the knockout if the knock come it come but if it doesn’t we are prepared to go 12 hard rounds to get the victory by decision.
“We knew going in that this was the fight that would make Sergey a household name his names good but being in a fight with a name like Andre ward makes it even better.
Virgil Hunter, Trainer of Andre Ward:
“Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward ‘Pound For Pound’ is going to be a historical initiation. As far as preparing for this fight, we’ve been preparing for it from the first time that he started boxing.
“Each fighter is different but you have the masses, the critics who need to be impressed by a certain way that a victory comes up. We came out of the garage from a one-and-a-half-year layoff and fought Sullivan Barrera. He was the number one contender at the time, so it was a dangerous fight until the fight was over, then Barrera was garbage. Nobody is ever going to be satisfied. That’s just the nature of the game so you have to be satisfied with yourself.
“I’m very attuned to body language, I’m very attuned to tone of voice, and from what I hear, from what I see, it’s safe to say that there is a lot of disarray in that camp. What I mean by that is I don’t even know if Coach Jackson is getting the respect he is due in that camp but time will tell. For instance, why do we have to make an excuse for Kovalev in Russia for selling tickets and things. Don’t you have a team who could have taken care of that? You’re supposed to have a team to take care of that to take the pressure off the fighter.
“I believe somebody probably told Kovalev to say that Ward is a dirty fighter because you go eight, nine weeks and all of a sudden he is a dirty fighter? Kovalev will learn, one day, to not be everyone’s robot and do what they tell and ask him to do. He does it because he’s loyal. It doesn’t even sound like him. That’s not him saying that. That’s not in his character. That is his promoter saying that. It’s nothing but if he kicks Ward, he’ll get kicked back. Simple as that.
“We know Kovalev is a dangerous fighter, we give him all he’s due. I give Coach Jackson all he’s due. The coaching fraternity is a very tough fraternity. We are the first ones to get the blame. The fighter never takes full responsibility for his shortcomings. The fighter always has other people in his ear, telling him there is a better way, so I understand what he goes through as a coach.
“I just want the best Andre Ward and the best Sergey Kovalev. If Kovalev wins the fight, my respect goes out to him. If we win the fight, my respect goes out to him because they can’t be great unless they fight each other. Sometimes two people come out of that situation looking great. I wish the best to both of them regardless of what happens.
“‘Do I believe that Ward will exhibit mental toughness? Yes, without a doubt. Do I believe that Kovalev will exhibit it? I’m sure he will as well, and that’s the making of a great fight.”
Kovalev vs. Ward “Pound For Pound”, a 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA light heavyweight title at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, is presented by Main Events, Roc Nation Sports, Krusher Promotions and Andre Ward Promotions and is sponsored by the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Corona Extra, Monster Products, JetLux, Zappos, Jordan Brand and Shoe Palace. The championship event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. Tickets are available on axs.com and the T-Mobile Arena box office.