Press Release: On Monday at Le Parker Meridien in New York City, WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre "SOG" Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and his predecessor, Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs), addressed the media about their rematch, which is scheduoed for on Saturday, June 17th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The fight will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
Below is what the fighters and dais guests had to say at the press conference:
Andre "S.O.G." Ward:
"I want to thank everybody for coming out today - the media, obviously, HBO, Peter Nelson and their whole team, these guys work tirelessly to get these kinds of things done. I appreciate my team, James Prince, Josh Dubin, Roc Nation and everyone at Roc Nation, Jay Z, Juan and Desiree Perez, Michael Yormark. It's important to have a good team. We talk a lot about fighting, we talk all about match-ups, but when we talk about support, it's frowned upon. When we see fighters 10, 15, 20 years from now shuffling in a room, nothing to show what they fought for, that's okay. By the grace of God and by way of my team, that's not going to happen to me.
"Unfortunately, there's perception and there's reality. Perception is every one thing that's written, every opinion but as you grow and learn this business, it's not about perception. Nobody can point to a fight where I turned. Not one point. That's not in my track record. So, I don't mind the perception. I don't care about Instagram. This is chess, not checkers. You can make all the rules you want to make, but it's about the checkmate. That's when the game is over.
"My team is working on life after boxing. Educating me on the ins and outs. A lot of people talk about money, but they don't talk about the upside. They're not talking about the personal sponsorships for the fight, and your obligations for the sponsorship. They're not talking about the television rights and foreign rights, the merchandise. 'Be tough, keep focus, destroy the fight'. I'm not with that man. I want the whole thing, I want to understand everything. The fight is not the end.
"They have to understand, there's nothing scary about this man. You realize we just fought 12 rounds four months ago? Everyone wants to highlight the knockdown, that's probably one of the most beautiful moments of my career. And did you guys see the other 10 rounds? Nobody's talking about that. But that's what makes us who we are. It's hard concrete down there, we don't want to fall. We've got another drive, we've got another gear we've got to tap into when we hit adversity and hit the cannons. You guys saw that, in the biggest moment of my career.
"I didn't get to where I'm at because there's something unique about me. I didn't get to this point by happenstance. Some may not like it, but you got to respect it. You don't have to, but we've earned the position that we have. We don't mind being understated. The fight is academic. When my team green-lighted it, I said go ahead and announce it. The reality is, you've got to see me on June 17. That's the reality of the situation. I love to talk, it's all good. We knocked heads for 12 rounds, that's the reality of the situation. He felt me, he knows. On June 17, that's how we're going to do. We're going to get started a little early. Whether you're with me, or whether you're against me, tune in. Appreciate everybody's time. Don't miss this fight, June 17. You got what you asked for."
Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (pictured):
"Hello everyone. I am thankful the fight will take place on June 17th. Well, will take place on paper for now. I'm appreciative of my team and Team Ward that this fight will actually happen. I want to apologize to my fans for my performance the last time but we're going to get this squared either way. We're going to see who is the best fighter. I'm very excited for June 17. The only thing I hope is that a week or two before the fight, Andre Ward does not get injured and he has enough balls to come out and fight me on June 17th."
Michael Yormark - Roc Nation:
"Legacies are built on seminal moments. When the lights shine brightest, when the challenge seems insurmountable, when the eyes of the world are on you - that is when great athletes see the rarest of opportunities to shape their legacy, to ensure that their name lives on. Evander Holyfield said, 'a champion shows who he is by what he does when he's tested'. Back in November the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world tested each other like they had never been tested before in their careers. On that night, World Champion Andre Ward faced a defining moment and countered with an epic comeback victory over Sergey Kovalev. After that showdown, there was a lot of talk, a lot of debate, a lot of speculation, a lot of excuses. But on June 17th we put all of that talk to bed, because Ward-Kovalev 2: The Rematch is officially on, and from this day forward there will be no excuses.
"Andre Ward is the best boxer in the world - there is simply no debate. He is undefeated, breathlessly talented, and has gladly taken on any fighter with the guts to face him. For Andre, this fight represents the final nail in the coffin for the rest of this division and his would-be competitors, and the latest feat in a career that can only be defined as flawless. For Sergey, he has a lot to prove, which may be why he's been so, let's call it active on social media. After falling short in November, Sergey has become his own personal hype machine. In one of his latest tweets he demanded Andre, 'pray to me'. Sergey, I think what you were trying to say was 'pray for me', which we all will do before you get back into the ring with Andre on June 17.
"We return to Las Vegas where all big fights belong, live at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and on HBO Pay-Per-View. Roc Nation is proud to be the lead promoter of this global event, presented by Corona Extra and powered by Monster Products. This event would not have been possible without the support of Richard Sturm and Sid Greenfeig of MGM, and HBO's Peter Nelson and Tony Walker - I'd like to take this opportunity to specifically thank them. MGM and HBO are synonymous with the biggest and best boxing events and Roc Nation is honored to be working in partnership with them for yet another historic fight. I'd also like to thank our chairman JAY Z and President of Roc Nation Sports Juan Perez for their support of this sure to be epic event. Additionally, a big thank you to our presenting partner Corona Extra, as well as Monster Products. I would also like to acknowledge Le Parker Meridien for their support and hosting us here today. Despite what you read in some corners of the boxing world, this rematch was always inevitable, both fighters wanted it, both promoters wanted it and I would be remiss if I did not sincerely thank Main Events and Kathy and Nicole Duva for their professionalism and class in negotiating and finalizing the June 17th fight. Last but certainly not least thank you to Team Ward - Andre, James Prince, Josh Dubin and Virgil Hunter - not only for once again putting your unblemished, championship record on the line under the bright lights of Sin City, but for being incredible partners throughout this process and the best ambassadors the sport of boxing could possibly ask for. Thank you."
Kathy Duva - CEO of Main Events:
"Thank you, HBO, thank you Le Parker Meridien, Mandalay Bay and of course our sponsors, Corona and Monster. I'll make it short and sweet. My greatest hope for June 17th is that the winner wins this time. Sergey's going to do everything in his power to make sure there's no question on who that is.
"I expect he's going to show us all how to get your titles back. And here he is, future light heavyweight champ of the world, Sergey Kovalev."
James Prince - Manager of Andre Ward:
"I'd like to thank God for this opportunity, HBO, Peter Nelson. I'd like to thank Roc Nation, who has stood by us 1000%, solid as a Roc. We're looking forward to this fight coming up, David versus Goliath, part two. Like I said, the last time, and I reiterate the same thing because not much has changed, we've cracked the code. Sergey, your code has been cracked, we know who you are now. Come June 17, you will see one of the greatest fights ever. As I stated earlier in the interview with HBO, don't be surprised if Kovalev gets knocked out this fight. Don't you be surprised. So, we look forward to that moment and I notice that you've been real vocal about a lot of things, but you need to know, we don't have no fear. So, understand that, once again, the United States will be victorious against Russia as always."
Josh Dubin - Manager of Andre Ward:
"This industry, unfortunately, has some nasty, ugly people in it that say and do nasty things and show their behind too much. A lot of the things you hear about our beautiful sport is true. I'm so fortunate to have been blessed by kings, that have enriched my life, to be able to grow and get to know these men. James Prince and Andre Ward have been all class and dignity and professional. They don't need to tell you what you think might sell a fight, or what you think people might want to hear, but just what's real. What a breath of fresh air. I thank both of you for enriching my life and allowing me to grow on this journey with you.
"We're always hearing about role models, and why aren't athletes role models - well look no further. You've got a family man who is spiritual, you can't bait him and get him to say what you think he should say or want him to say because you curse him out on social media. We're not into all that, these are kings over here. You can keep tweeting on your phone over there, but we won already. We won in life, we won in this sport, and we're just going to continue winning. This is a formality at this point. A formality. So, you can cry and complain and all that, but that's what bullies do when they don't get their way. Bullies make excuses, bullies try to intimidate when they don't get their way. Bullies of all sorts, in the ring and in business. Well, you didn't get your way, you ain't getting your way and you're not going to get your way. Period. The reason that probably is, if we bring in spirituality, is the moral arc of the universe does bend towards good and greatness and kings. So, with that, I say this: you want to tune in to this one, because you'll want to be able to say, 'I got to see the best fighter to ever walk in the ring, fight again and conquer again'. Don't miss it. Thank you."
Daniel Bagdasarov - Egis Klimas's Assistant:
"I want to thank the media and MGM. He's happy about the rematch and that it actually happened. We're excited about it, we're ready. Thank you to all the promotions that have gone into the fight, thank you HBO for making this happen. Thank you so much."
Peter Nelson - Executive Vice President, HBO Sports:
"I want to thank all the media for being here, this fight came together initially because of what you asked for. First and foremost, I want to thank the fighters, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. The two of them at the zenith of their careers and the apex of their undefeated records deciding to get in the ring against one another, and that's exactly the expectation that fight fans should have. It's something to be celebrated and we're excited we are going to have the rematch on June 17.
"Again, these two men decided they want to step up and fight each other, the controversy of time when a lot of fighters walk the other way from one another. Some fights, they're so good, the fighters earn each other's respect. Some fights are so great that the fighters earn each other's disrespect. I'll let all of you decide which one this is.
"I think that what we've seen over the past few months is people arguing more and more about who actually won that fight. Again, the credit is to the fighters because every second of the first fight, they were there to compete. Every second of this rematch, they're going to be there again. There is too much at stake, in terms of legacy and in terms of pound stature, in terms of this moment and the future. What we know to expect is that on June 17, the stuff of HBO PPV legend gets made. Sergey Kovalev and champion Andre Ward are going to do everything in their power to bring home the belt."