LAS VEGAS • American boxer Andre Ward kept his IBF (International Boxing Federation), WBA (World Boxing Association) and WBO (World Boxing Organisation) titles by stopping Russian brawler Sergey Kovalev in the eighth round of their light heavyweight rematch on Saturday.
The unbeaten Ward hurt Kovalev with a right hand that buckled the Russian's knees and finished him off on the ropes 30 seconds later with a series of body shots around the mid-section at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
"He's a great fighter, not a lot of people are going to beat him," Ward said.
"But when you are facing a great fighter you have to raise your game to the next level. I hurt him with a head shot and I just had to get the right shot in to finish him."
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Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight with 31 seconds left in the eighth round with Kovalev kneeling down from what he said was a low blow.
Ward improved to 32-0 with 16 knockouts as he held onto three of the four major boxing belts that he snatched from Kovalev by winning their first fight in November by a slim unanimous decision.
Andre Ward's unbeaten career record as he retained his IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
The 33-year-old needed this victory to validate his first win as many felt Kovalev won that fight and that Ward had been given a gift decision by the three judges.
Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 knockouts) sent Ward to the canvas in the first fight, and, while he landed several big shots in the rematch, he once again failed to close the deal.
"I cannot explain," the 34-year-old said.
He added that he wants an "immediate" rematch because he felt he got hit with a series of low blows in the eighth round.
"It was a low blow," he said as he watched a replay of the stoppage.
"We are boxers. I could still continue. Why stop the fight?"