A staredown immediately following a weigh-in has become standard industry practice, but for this particular promotion it turned out to be a big deal.
There was never any question that Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev—arguably the two best boxers in the world today (and ranked #1 and #2, respectively, on FightNights.com pound-for-pound list)—were going to make weight for Saturday's light heavyweight title rematch. What came as a welcomed moment was when the rivals finally came face-to-face moments after hitting the scale, a scenario that sadly has been some two months in the making.
Both combatants came in right at the light heavyweight limit of 175 pounds for their tension-filled rematch, which takes place Saturday evening at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. The HBO Pay-Per-View headliner (Saturday, 9:00pm ET, $64.95 SRP SD/HD) comes seven months after their action-packed first meet last November at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where Ward claimed a hotly contested 12-round decision to become a two-division world champion and snatching Kovalev's "0" along with the belts.
There was no love lost between either boxer heading into the first bout, and the level of hostility and genuine anger toward one another has only grown in the ensuing months. Gasoline was poured onto the flames when Ward elected to bail on a scheduled "Face Off" segment, a pre-fight hosted by HBO's Max Kellerman where participants in a big HBO-themed event sit across a table for roughly 15 minutes of airtime and let each other know just exactly how the other feels.
Ward apparently felt the matter wasn't worth his time. Nor did Kovalev seem to believe he needed to stick around any longer than his own time behind the mic at Thursday's final pre-fight press conference, bailing on the session the moment he was done speaking. The matter was met with comments of "classless" from Ward's side, including longtime manager James Prince and Roc Nation Sports President & Chief of Branding and Strategy Michael Yormark.
Both managed to share a stage on Friday, looking fit and trim for Saturday's battle and then sticking around long enough to offer a memorable staredown that lasted a solid minute or so, ending with both boxers turning away without shaking the other's hand.
The rest of the session was relatively nondescript, with all undercard boxers making weight.
In the evening's chief support, World super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux defends versus Moises Flores in a title consolidation bout between unbeaten boxers.
Rigondeaux (17-0, 11KOs) weighed 121.5 for what will mark the sixth defense of his lineal super bantamweight championship and eighth defense of at least one full version of an alphabet belt, the latter split over two separate reigns. Flores (25-0, 17KOs) weighed in right at the 122-pound divisional limit for his first fight in more than a year. The 30-year old from Mexico looks to upgrade the interim title he won two years ago as he will gain "WBA Regular" title—and lineal championship—status with a win on Saturday.
Hot light heavyweight talent Dmitry Bivol appears on his first HBO-distributed telecast, as he faces Cedric Agnew in a 10-round non-title fight. Both combatants weighed in right at the 175-pound divisional limit. Bivol owns a secondary version of the WBA title currently held by Ward, but by his own admission would like to wait at least a year before challenging the winner of the main event, as he is entering just his 11th pro fight (full story on Bivol to land on FightNights.com home page Saturday morning).
Opening the telecast is an intriguing middleweight crossroads battle between unbeaten Luis Arias and Arif Magomedov. Arias (17-0, 9KOs) came in right at 160 pounds, while Magomedov (18-1, 11KOs) was slightly lighter at 159.75 pounds.