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Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward offers up a mouthwatering clash of styles that will be well worth the wait

It’s pound-for-pound time, the winner claiming bragging rights and a place in the boxing pantheon.

This is the biggest test in the careers of two unbeaten fighters – East meets West; crushing power versus the thinking man’s technician; Sergey Kovalev v Andre Ward.

Only 10 months apart, with almost identical records, fate has been calling the Russian hammer and American stylist together since boxing’s last superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

While that one came too late for both, this one brings together two fighters at their peaks, or close to it.

There is a suggestion that Ward might have lost a little of his speed. He has fought only five times since beating Carl Froch five years ago, a spell that included 20 months of inactivity.

Andre Ward celebrates after Paul Smith's team threw in the towel

Ward will be looking to maintain his unbeaten record…

Sergey Kovalev of Russia reacts after defeating Jean Pascal of Canada

… as will Kovalev

Tune-up fights this year against Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand saw Ward go through the motions as if holding fire for this clash.

Kovalev knows only one way and, if Ward is anything less than 100 per cent focused, I have no doubt the Crusher will make that chilling power tell.

That said, if Ward is at his disruptive best, my money is on him to edge a gripping contest on points.

This is why we love the game – two warriors going at it in a contest that defines the sport, a classic clash of styles, the boxer against the brawler.

Except that is a little too simplistic in this case since Ward is no safety-first runner while Kovalev is more than a big right hand.

Andre Ward celebrates after winning the fight

Barry is backing Ward in the big fight

Ward won’t want to make this a barnburner because that will simply play to his opponent’s strengths.

But that does not mean he won’t take the fight to Kovalev. He will, but in his own unique way.

You can expect a big 24ft ring and Ward to use every inch of it. He will walk straight out to meet Kovalev, get that jab off, beat him to the punch, and try to control the pace from the centre of the ring.

He will want to slow the pace and trade only if he has to. The way to beat a power hitter is to throw two or three punches, take two steps back and then off to the side.

Kovalev must come forward against Ward

The only way Kovalev can win is by coming forward so Ward’s objective is to be disruptive, throwing no more than two or three punches then be on the move so he is not there to be hit.

If you occupy the same space for just one second against this fella, Kovalev can hit you with two punches, and they don’t have to be clean to hurt.

It’s another late one in Las Vegas, but worth the wait. Here’s to a long night.

Follow Barry on Twitter at @ClonesCyclone

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