America's Ward will defend the WBA, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles against Russia's Kovalev, the previous holder of those belts, at 2am on Sunday morning live on Sky Sports 1 HD from Las Vegas.
Yet it was Kovalev who landed the first fight's most decisive punch, sending Ward to the canvas in the second round, only to see the judges unanimously favour the American. Kovalev's unbeaten streak went up in smoke but his reputation remained firmly intact and, seven months later, he has an opportunity to avenge his only loss.
"I don't like this guy [Ward] and I want to punish him," Kovalev said in the build-up to this weekend's rematch. "He knows that he lost.
For me, he is not a champion, he's a fake champion. He lives right now with this status; he's a fake champion.
"For me, he is not a champion, he's a fake champion. He lives right now with this status; he's a fake champion."
Ward hit back: "Get mad. I want you to get as mad as you can get. Because it's going to get worse and worse and worse, round by round. I don't mind his anger or any of that. I welcome it. He's going to make mistakes and run into something."
I don't mind his anger or any of that. I welcome it. He's going to make mistakes and run into something.
The addition of genuine rivalry caused by the scoring of their first meeting has made a virtually perfect fight even better.
The brains of the American against the brawn of the Russian, each boasting 30 wins and zero defeats with genuine claims to be the world's pound-for-pound best meant the first fight was difficult to improve upon. Yet animosity, the ingredient that can make even the finest boxing match more appealing, has now been added.
Paul Smith will attempt to become a world super-middleweight champion for the third time on Saturday night in Germany against Tyron Zeuge.
Smith's latest tilt at the sport's top prize is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 9pm, with the WBA 'regular' title on the line.
The Liverpudlian has twice fallen short to Arthur Abraham, and also lost out to Andre Ward, but remains resolute. He said: "If anyone's going to be struck by lightning it's me. If anyone's going to win the PowerBall in America it's me. That's my attitude in life: I could do that.
"It's all I've wanted to do since I put on a pair of boxing gloves. It's always been my sport, my passion, my hobby, always been my life. It's all I've ever done since school and it's all I've ever wanted to do.
I can win a world title, I've always said that. People have written me off and said 'you've had your chance', but I've got another chance.
"There's no reason that can't come to fruition [this Saturday night]. I can win a world title, I've always said that. People have written me off and said 'you've had your chance', but I've got another chance".
Paul Smith vs Tyron Zeuge is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 9pm on Saturday, then Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev II is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 2am on Sunday morning.