Whilst fans in boxing are often very nationalistic there is something that can make any fighter popular, knock out power. There are very few true knockout punchers in the sport right now though one of them is Russian Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (24-0-1, 22) who once again demonstrated his destructive power as he successfully defended his WBO Light Heavyweight for the second time.
Kovalev, fighting against the previously unbeaten Cedric Agnew (26-1, 13), had come in to the contest with a series of early stoppages andhis power had put the division on alert. No one really wanted to fight Kovalev and it showed as Agnew got in the ring but hardly put up a fight.
Instead of fighting it was obvious that Agnew was more intent on surviving. This was clear in the opening round as Agnew put up his guard and retreated behind it in an uneventful opener that saw neither man landing much of note. In fact in the first 3 minutes Agnew's only notable shot was a low blow which sent Kovalev down to the canvas. It was the first of many fouls committed by Agnew.
Whilst the first round was very uneventful the second round saw Kovalev moving up a gear as he finally began to get to Agnew. Agnew's defence, to his credit, handled many of the shots Kovalev threw in his direction but enough got threw to drop Agnew at the end of the round. By now it was clear, the American wasn't going to try and fight a fight with Kovalev but instead mess him around, be negative and hope to frustrate the Russian puncher. The Russian however was having none of it and in round 3 the "Krusher" again hurt Agnew who was being systematically broken down by Kovalev's heavy shots. Even the guard of the challenger didn't help with shots breaking through the arms of the American.
In round 4 we saw a mostly controlled effort from Kovalev who looked for openings for the first half of the round, before a clash of heads, initiated by Agnew, seemed to throw Kovalev off his stride. Kovalev's composure seemed to go for the rest of the round as he tried to behead Agnew with every shot. At the end of the round it was clear why, the headclash had opened up a gash on the right eye brow of Kovalev, a cut that Max Kellerman of HBO suggested was the first Kovalev had suffered as a professional.
Agnew again fouled in round 5 where his highlight was a low blow that he was given a warning for. It was clear that he was being ground down and looking for any reprieve he could get. Unfortunate for him reprieves don't come easily against Kovalev who scored a second knock down early in round 6 before really going to work on the mid section of the challenger. It seemed that whilst Agnew didn't want to fight back, he also didn't want to just crumble and took his licks like a man through a calculated assault from Kovalev.
By the end of round 6 Kovalev had suffered a cut over his left eye, apparently from an elbow, whilst Agnew's face was looking like that of an attack victim. He was bloodied, swollen and appeared to be crumbling from the pasting he was receiving.
Although Agnew's face was wearing the scars of battle it was his body that was really feeling it and inside a minute of round 7 a body attack sent him down for the third time. This time he took the count and accepted his fate rather than prolong his own beating.
After the fight Kovalev was interviewed and asked his thoughts on Adonis Stevenson's departure from HBO to Showtime. His answer was simple as he called Stevenson a "piece of shit". It was harsh and scathing though shows his real opinion of a man who seemed to do all he could to avoid the Russian in what would have been a Light Heavyweight super fight. Stevenson has his reasons though we are expecting a fan backlash against him as the Kovalev fan base continues to swell due to his destructive power, aggressive mentality and "will fight anyone" mentality, something that isn't shared with Stevenson.
(Image courtesy of HBO)
The highlight of the boxing week took place earlier today at the legendary Korakuen Hall as Japan's very own Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) reclaimed the WBA Super Flyweight title that he lost to Liborio Solis less than a year ago.
Solis, of course, was stripped of the belt prior to his controversial fight with Daiki Kameda, and that had left the title vacant. The WBA had rightfully decided that the way to crown a new champion was to match the top two contenders and that's exactly what they did by matching Kono, #2, with Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (62-4-1, 26), who was himself ranked #1.
Of course the ranking's don't often tell you the real story of a fighters talent but these two were both bona fide world level fighters, both had been former world champions and both knew that this was their big chance to re-establish themselves on the world stage.
The fight started with both men looking to force their fight. This saw Kaovichit coming forward with a busier work rate, his intentions were clear, he was going to be trying to set a quick pace and rack up the rounds early, as he had done against Kono's compatriot and former rival Nobuo Nashiro last year. Kono however was playing the patient game looking to land his heavier right hands at rather than give away his power for speed. This combination of styles made for some very interesting rounds which could be scored either way depending on whether you preferred work rate or clean accurate punches.
In round 4 the power of Kono was finally felt as he landed a beautiful counter right that dropped Kaovichit hard. The Thai had effectively walked on to the shot, which was one that Kono had been practising through out his training camp. To his credit Kaovichit got to his feet, he was still visibly hurt though had the where with all to see out the round and make his way to the bell.
Despite the knockdown in round 4 Kaovichit did incredibly well in the proceeding rounds seemingly winning both round 5 and round 7 as Kono patiently waited for another chance to land his right hand. There was no sense of urgency in Kono's work just the belief that he was going to get a chance to connect with another big right hand at some point. Though in round 6 the Japanese fighter did land some crisp shots taking advantage of the fact Kaovichit was becoming awfully predictable at times.
Having seemingly known he was up on the cards entering the second half of the fight Kono then took round 7 off. He allowed Kaovichit to do as he wished with little really thrown back in anger. It was a big change from round 6 though it seemed to set up Kaovichit for the fall that was to hit the following round as the Thai was smashed by a stunning right hand that laid him down in round 8. This time the shot was enough to see off the Thai whose career must be all but finished.
Whilst this may be the end for Kaovichit it seems likely to re-ignite Kono's career and a fight with former 3 weight world champion Koki Kameda is looking very likely later this year. Although the Kameda's haven't got a Japanese license right now it's expected that Koki will agree to sign on with another gym for his chance to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion on the flipside though Koki will know that he won't be given the "promotional protection" that has helped in some of his more recent bouts. In fact if anything he'll have to fight on a Watanabe show, with Kono being the "home fighter".
(Photo courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
When a fighter travels across the world the one thing that many fear is that the judging will go against them when a crowd roars on a local fighter. Sometimes however the judges aren't needed and rather than relying on them make a decision the home fighter looks to avoid controversy.
We had no real controversy this past Saturday when Filipino fighter Merlito Sabillo (23-1-1, 12) had his WBO Minimumweight ripped from him by talented and hard hitting Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr (14-2, 10).
Sabillo, who won the title last year in Colombia, was widely expected to know too much and be too good for the Mexican challenger. Instead we found out that the Mexican was too big, too strong, too powerful and too aggressive for the usually tough Filipino.
The Mexican's power and strength were clear from the opening round and by the end of round 2 Sabillo had already been knocked down and wrestled down. It was clear that Sabillo would be forced to dig deep just to survive never mind win.
Having gotten off to a perfect start Rodriguez seemed to quickly grow in confidence and kept up an intense pressure, non stop offensive work and a vicious body attack. Sabillo, to his credit, tried to answer back but it was simply too much, Rodriguez wasn't going to be denied no matter what Sabillo did and round after round you could see Sabillo wilting having his resistance chipped away at.
Sabillo's fate was effectively sealed in round 4, his best round. The Filipino managed to land some solid shots that seemed to just bounce off the challenger. It was as if Rodriguez was saying "you can hit me, but you can't hurt me" and if Sabillo still had any belief in himself it then vanished.
No matter what Sabillo did the challenger just kept coming with wave after wave of attacks, he was hell bent on stopping the Filipino and in rounds 8 and 9 things were beginning to get painful to watch. Sabillo was beginning to get genuinely battered and it looked like it was going to continue to the end of the fight. Thankfully though Sabillo's trainer seemed to know that his man was done and mid way through round 10 he signalled to referee Eddie Claudio to finish the contest, saving Sabillo before too much damage was done physically.
With this loss the Philippines are left with just 2 world champions, Donnie Nietes and Johnriel Casimero but of who now have the hopes of the Philippines on their shoulder with their up coming title defenses.
(Photo courtesy of Zanfer promociones)
One of the things that is, unfortunately, universal in boxing are bad decisions. We often see these in high profile fights in the UK, US and Germany who all have a reputation for such things. Sadly however they do happen around the world and today we saw the latest addition to the ever growing list of questionable decisions as Japan's Takuya Kogawa (22-4, 13), pictures, was controversially denied the WBA interim Flyweight title.
Kogawa travelled to Thailand, a country that has been less than friendly to championship level Japanese fighters in the past, and gave his all in a thoroughly compelling contest with Thailand's very own Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (34-2, 20). It was an effort that should have seen Kogawa claim the belt but some how the judges denied him.
The Japanese challenger started fast. He used his natural hand speed and movement to simply out work Yodmongkol who plodded along with his guard up and. Whilst much of Kogawa's work was blocked enough had gotten through for him to win the round with out much debate. The same also applied in round 2, even though Yodmongkol did manage to find himself landing more than he had in the opening round.
Following the great start of the champion things had began to get interesting and Kogawa was being caught more frequently with some classy punches from Yodmongkol. Whilst the champion was beginning to land the better punches it again seemed to be the work rate of Kogawa that left the lasting impression and not the occasional, albeit heavier, shots of the Thai. It seemed that every time Yodmongkol would land something Kogawa would fire back in a short little flurry of punches that continued to catch the eye.
Through the middle rounds the fight began to change slightly. For the first 4 rounds it was all about Kogawa's high out put against Yodmongkol's heavier though less frequent shots. Kogawa was boxing on the move, creating space with his feet and firing off combinations whilst Yodmongkol applied constant though somewhat ineffective pressure. In round 5 though that pressure began to get him closer to the challenger and the crowd began to encourage their man.
Although behind at the mid way point Yodmongkol seemed a lot fresher than the challenger and in round 7 he began to force his fight on Kogawa. This saw the two men enjoying several exchanges as the fight began to represent more of a toe-to-toe battle than anything else. It was clear that this was what Yodmongkol was going to prefer and what was going to really help him if he was to turn the fight around. Surprisingly however Kogawa's hand speed kept him very much in these exchanges and on numerous occasions he was the one forcing Yodmongkol on to the back foot.
It was clear the pace had increased in round 7 and that Yodmongkol knew he his title was slipping away if things had remained as they were in the first 6 rounds. The Thai continued to up the pace in round 8 and it finally seemed that he was beginning to get the upper hand in the exchanges with the commentators becoming hugely excited at one point with Kogawa forced to take shots. Amazingly though Kogawa recovered and seemed to be on the front foot by the end of the round.
Round 7 and 8 had been great though things were just getting better and in round 9 the pace increased again. This round saw Yodmongkol landing 3 flush shots one after the other and it seemed Kogawa was in trouble for a moment though the Japanese fighter recovered swiftly and fired back in an attempt to say “I've still got more fight in me”. It was a brave effort from Kogawa though one that was probably futile in attempting to win the round even though he did more than just see it out.
Kogawa's work rate was always going to catch up with him eventually and that seemed to happen in round 10 as Yodmongkol came on really strong and Kogawa began to look weary. The sharp combinations from earlier in the fight were starting to look ragged, the footwork was becoming sloppy and the shots that Yodmongkol was landing seemed to hurt Kogawa for the first time. It was a clear Yodmongkol round and it seemed like the beginning of the end for Kogawa who looked like he was on his last legs.
The success of the champion in round 10 was repeated again in round 11 as the Thai continued to come on strong. It was obvious by now that Yodmongkol thought his title was slipping away and that he might even need a stoppage to retain the title. A Japanese fighter's spirit however is hard to break and the round finished with both guys trading shots to the bell as Kogawa summoned up some energy from somewhere.
We have no idea how Kogawa had the gas to finish round 11 so well but he found extra reserves in an amazing round 12. From the opening bell to the final bell Kogawa threw relentlessly his combinations just rained down on Yodmongkol who seemed to have his guard pinned up as a result of the relentless, albeit inaccurate, maelstrom of punches coming from the challenger. For the previous 2 rounds Kogawa had looked spent, like he was running on fumes but in round 12 he looked like the energizer bunny. Yodmongkol did attempt to fire back occasionally and landed some solid shots of his own though they were infrequent and seemed to cause Kogawa to bite down on his gum shield and just unload more shots. It was crazy from the Japanese fighter who was showing his will to win was still there as he went all in.
By the time the final bell came Kogawa must have thrown well in excess of 100 punches in the final round.
Sadly when you fight on foreign soil against the champion you sometimes need a KO for the draw and that seemed to be the case here with Yodmongkol receiving a majority decision win with scores of 114-114, 115-114, 116-113. For purposes of interest, we had it 116-112 Kogawa.
The Japanese fighter had every right to be aggrieved though he seemed too exhausted to even think about complaining. He had put everything in to the fight only to have the judges deny him of a belt he had rightfully deserved. As for Yodmongkol he showed his class and seemed to look like a man who was relieved more than happy. There was little celebration from the champion who went through the formalities and probably thanked his lucky stars for a very debatable and controversial decision.
We know we thought Yodmongkol would retain and we knew the fight would be exciting but we didn't think that Yodmongkol would be so lucky or that the fight would be THIS good. If you missed it, you missed a thriller.
(Picture courtesy of Miyata Gym)
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.