There was a rare moment of unity in the boxing business at the end of Saturday's fight in Las Vegas when all three judges agreed on the score and both boxers demanded a rematch.
Andre Ward won three light-heavyweight world title belts from Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev, but in his long battle for the hearts and pockets of boxing fans it is probably still a close fight. Ward is brilliant, a master in the boxing arts and has never received the respect his skills demand from the boxing public. He is not always slick on the eye, seldom gets a knockout in big fights and is just too darned nice.
Ward survived a clean knockdown in round two when Kovalev found a rare hole in the Californian boxer's brilliant defence; Ward went down heavy, smiled and jumped up quick. "I smiled to say, OK, now the fight can start," said Ward.
It was a fight of two very separate parts, seemingly divided equally between the two boxers; Kovalev won the first half and Ward the last six rounds. At the end the three identical scores of 114-113 were in Ward's favour, he had swept rounds seven through twelve.
Kovalev was desolate: "I lost maybe three rounds. I want the rematch." Ward maintained his calm, his battered face a bruised accompaniment to his low-key victory speech: "I had to get dirty to win and I did. I would have a rematch, sure."
It is rare in a fight that divides ringside and television opinion for the judges to totally agree. It is odd, given the fact that only one point separated the pair, that people are screaming and hollering about a robbery. It was close, hard and Ward probably just deserved it. Kovalev certainly faded after six, a victim of the pace he set, Ward's wrestling and possibly the years of shrinking his big body into the light-heavyweight limit have now become a real drain.
Ward was in trouble in the first, down in the second and struggling in the first half of the fight. It has been a long time since Ward had a test in front of him, a long time since he dominated at super-middleweight with masterclasses against the division's best Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. He has been inactive, unimpressive and should have probably taken a hard warm-up instead of Kovalev, who had made the light-heavyweight division his personal playground since 2013.
Kovalev and his promoter, Kathy Duva, went long into the night moaning about the mix of judges, the referee, some undisclosed issues Kovalev had, Ward's holding. It was a familiar worn list from the lips of most first-time losers; if one of the judges had scored it wide in Ward's favour their claims would have some validity. A rematch makes sense.
Ward and Virgil Hunter, the man who has guided him for decades, praised the right people, complimented the deserving and slipped away. Ward made no bold claims about how clearly he had won the struggle. "It's professional boxing, it's not always going to be cute. I got up off the canvas and won ugly," said Ward. A rematch will mean big money, even more than the five million Ward was paid. Kovalev walked away with two million dollars. Both their reputations improved.
They will probably do it again and when it happens Ward will be in better fight condition and Kovalev will know not to slip into Ward's clutches. If they are both going to be better, it makes their second fight a genuine modern classic. It will still be tight, trust me.