I love that Andre Ward is taking a tune-up fight before the Kovalev matchup. He has earned the right to do so, with all he has accomplished in the ring. This also gives Kovalev a chance to prove longevity, have a hometown fight, and gather anticipation, because there actually is a deadline for the fight. This also gives Stevenson, Beterbiev, as well as the other couple of Haymon light heavies a chance to maybe face each other (fat chance) and develop a number one contender for the winner. More than likely the time will make it easier to forget Haymon's stable, but he will have no one to blame but himself for wasting everyone's time. Either way, the buildup for Ward-Kovalev is being handled perfectly... assuming the fight comes off, of course.
Canelo, on the other hand, just had his tune-up. Amir Khan is a very good fighter, but two divisions below, and with exactly the correct weaknesses to make sure Canelo was guaranteed a victory. Canelo was becoming a modern fighter in his activity (2x a year), but a throwback in that he took a lot of risky fights. That all goes out the window if he avoids GGG. He truly has nothing to lose. he has a good enough chin to not be embarrassed by GGG... and he can go back down and try to clean out 14 again, or stay at 160, when GGG moves up. However, GGG is already in talks with 168lb-ers like Ramirez and Eubank. If that happens, the potential for matches below that limit start to dry up. Oscar himself said it would be a tragedy is this fight does not happen.
Speaking of tragedy, I wrote a full blog post on Muhammad Ali's passing, but to add a wrinkle here... most of the time when we lose a legendary boxer, it happens quickly, or after a brief illness. we also lose many more of them than the general population, due to tragedy. Maybe that is due to the impoverished conditions most of them came from (and sadly often return to), as well as the dangers of the sport itself. However, the death of the original GOAT was something in the making for 35 years. We saw him regressing before he even retired. Parkinson's does not kill your higher faculties, so Ali was the same man inside until the day he died... but I am not sure if that was worse. A man with his gifts of eloquence, not being able to express them, had to be difficult.
Speaking of difficulty, while Rigo and Ward are some of the most difficult fighters to fight, and GGG and Kovalev are two of the scariest, Rances Barthelemy might be the most frustrating... he gives nearly every quality opponent the feeling that they are in the fight, or close to landing a punch. he attacks squared up, or boxes off the back foot with his weight shifted badly. It keeps looking like you should be able to hit him, beat him, hell, even win rounds, but round after round, he finds a way to make it all his own way. Talent that dominates is one thing. Talent that keeps tricking you into thinking you have a chance is another.