Sergey Kovalev wants to punch Andre Ward in the head every time he looks at him

NEW YORK -- When asked to share his opinion of Andre Ward as a person, former light heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev could barely hide his distaste. 

“I don’t think about Andre Ward. I don’t think he’s anything,” Kovalev said through a Russian translator. “There was a moment before the first fight when I lost respect [for him] and now it has multiplied 100 times more.”

Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) lost his trio of 175-pound titles in a controversial decision loss to Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) last November and has taken umbrage with Ward’s comments in the aftermath. The two met with media members on Monday in midtown Manhattan to announce their June 17 rematch at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. 

“I did lose respect for him, the way he acts,” Kovalev said. “I feel like he’s walking with a crown on his head. He thinks he’s something. I don’t like him. There is no reason to like him.”

If his social media posts since their first fight are any indication, every waking hour over the past five months have only seemed to infuriate Kovalev more. In fact, it’s painfully obvious upon meeting with him just how much even the sound of Ward’s name grinds his gears. 

“I just saw him in the lobby of the hotel yesterday for the first time,” Kovalev said. “It’s real hard. When he looks at me, I just want to punch him in the head. I have nothing to talk to him about. 

“He does not deserve respect from me. I want to punch him and punish him. I want to destroy him.”

In the opinion of Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, both Kovalev and Ward were a bit too nice to each other in the lead-up to their first fight and pay-per-view sales suffered in part because of it. 

“I think people want to know that if guys are going to beat each other up that they don’t like each other,” Duva said. “And I think last time, they had almost too much respect. Our feeling in this, it was made very clear to me on the day after the fight [when Kovalev said], ‘I want my belts back.’ So [the rematch] isn’t about the money as much.”

Respected as quite possibly the most dangerous puncher in the sport, Kovalev floored Ward with a hard right hand in Round 2 but was unable to land much of anything over the second half of the fight after Ward made adjustments. But the identical 114-113 scorecards from the trio of judges, along with constant comments from Ward supporting his case for victory, has brought out a nasty side in Kovalev. 

The native of Russia has increased his use of profanity, tweeting on April 4 for Ward to “Be ready motherf-----! I’ll finish your boxing career.” He has also mocked Ward’s “Son of God” nickname, a nod to his Christian faith, by calling him “Son of Judges.” 

Kovalev took an even nastier tone in an April 6 Instagram post that has since been deleted when he posted a picture of himself standing over Ward, who was on all fours, from their first fight. The caption read: “Hey @andreward, you should call yourself Andre SOK Ward. ‘Son of Kovalev.’ Here is a photo of you praying to your God.”

Ward’s longtime adviser, James Prince, was openly upset with the nature of Kovalev’s post and referenced it during the press conference.

“Sergey, you’re code has been cracked. We know who you are now, understand that,” Prince said. “Don’t be surprised if you get knocked out this fight. 

“I’ve noticed that you’ve been real vulgar lately about a lot of things but you need to know when you’re dealing with me and a God, we don’t have no fear of nothing you bring to the table. So understand that. Once again, the United States, we shall be victorious against Russia. As always.”

Asked about the tone of Kovalev’s recent trash talk, Ward wasn’t willing to enter into any kind of back and forth. 

“I could throw a lot against the wall and see if it sticks, but I have a track record. This isn’t my first rodeo,” Ward said. “I’m not getting caught up in that. You’ve got to see me June 17. Let’s simplify. You’ve got to see me June 17. And like I told him, leave the excuses at home this time.”

Ward went on to say that getting up from the early knockdown against Kovalev and righting the ship was “one of the most beautiful moments of my career.” Because of that, he has no fear entering the rematch. 

“Contrary to anything that is out there, there is nothing scary about him,” Ward said.

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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