Just a few years ago Sergey Kovalev (26-0-1, 23) was a relative unknown in boxing circles. Today he is the unified Light Heavyweight champion having added the WBA "super" and IBF titles to the WBO title he won last year when stopped Nathan Cleverly and announced himself on the world stage. The stoppage over Cleverly was Kovalev saying "look at me, I'm destructive" today however he impressed by boxing, using a great game plan and out-boxed boxing master boxer Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2-2, 32).
In more than 20 years nobody had really out boxed Hopkins. He had been beaten 6 previous times but they was usually down to faster fighters out working him not out boxing him, not dominating him and certainly not making him look lost in the ring. Those however were all adequate descriptions for what Kovalev did from the opening round to the final bell.
The fight started very slowly, it was at Hopkins's pace and tempo. Usually that spells failure for fighters as Hopkins slows bouts down and wins them on skill, timing and ring IQ. This time however Hopkins wasn't able to do what he usually did, the pace suited Kovalev who imposed himself with intelligent pressure, smart timing and very calculated offense which saw him dropping Hopkins in the opening round with a well timed right hand. Despite the bout being incredibly slow prior to the knockdown, it seemed to give Kovalev the belief that he could stop Hopkins and he went on the offensive in the final minute.
Having failed to put Hopkins away in round 1 Kovalev let the pace slow, continued to pressure Hopkins and seemed to "out Hopkins" Hopkins with patience, smart boxing and controlled work. There wasn't a lot of hard solid shots landed early on but plenty of body jabs got through from Kovalev who fought a very respectful fight knowing that Hopkins could be dangerous if he was given chances. When Kovalev did open up, notably at the end of round 3 and part way through round 4, he seemed to shake Hopkins who should true resiliency to remain up right despite the pressure.
By round 6 it was looking like a masterclass from Kovalev who was at total ease with the pace of the bout. There was no reason to rush, no reason to get reckless and no reason to even think about stepping up the pace. In many ways it seemed less like he was fighting Hopkins's tempo and more like he was fighting his own controlling everything about the contest.
Despite being in total control Kovalev was given a reminder that he had to keep his concentration up in round 7 when Hopkins landed a couple of clean shots. Sadly for Hopkins it really was just a couple of clean shows whilst he was out worked, out landed and completely shut down for the rest of the round. It was true that Hopkins landed the 2 best shots of the round but that was all he did in the fight's closest round. Sadly for the American legend he was punished in the next round as Kovalev detonated a monstrous right hand that had Hopkins shaken momentarily and left everyone wondering how he remained up right. The huge right wasn't the only notable connect from Kovalev in the round with the Russian landing some notable counters late in the round and it seemed like he was really breaking Hopkins down.
If the 8th had been bad for Hopkins then the 9th was worse as Kovalev seemed to put his foot on the gas and landed several eye catching and hurtful shots that would have seen off lesser fighters than Hopkins who took them amazingly well but seemed to be sent into survival mode by them. It was a time where a corner may have considered pulling their man out, after all Hopkins was needing a KO by that point and, apart from a single bit of success in round 7, it never really looked like he had what was needed to even rock the Russian.
Hopkins knew he was in a hole by the start of round 10 and seemed to show fire in his belly for the first time as he landed several big looking shots, unfortunately for him they bounced off Kovalev who landed far more shots than Hopkins and landed the more impressive shots. It was almost like seeing Kovalev go "I can do anything you can do, better than you".
Typically in a Hopkins fight we see some messy action, some wrestling, some holding and some spoiling. We didn't really see much of that until round 11 when both seemed happy to partake in some wrestling. The reason we saw so little of it was due to the fact that Kovalev was a stronger man than Hopkins and it was shown the few times they did clinch with Hopkins being the one who looked uncomfortable.
The discomfort Hopkins felt in the clinch was nothing in comparison to the discomfort he felt through much of the final round. Hopkins began the round well and appeared to rock Kovalev early in the round. The Russian must have felt disrespected by Hopkins hitting him and the Russian went on an all out offensive onslaught rocking Hopkins time and time again. It was as if Kovalev had said to himself that he wanted to stop Hopkins and really unloaded shots that bounced Hopkins around the ring. It seemed both were tired but Kovalev wanted the stoppage regardless. Sadly the Russian was against the clock and the clock won with Hopkins just seeing out the round. Had their been another minute left we suspect the referee would have had to have saved Hopkins.
Although the bout went the distance there was no real question as to who won and for once the judges all got it right scoring the bout 120-107, 120-107 and 120-106, presumably scoring the final round a 10-8 round.
For Kovalev this is a win that gives him a fantastic claim to being the best Light Heavyweight on the planet. It's clear that Adonis Stevenson is the "linear" champion but Stevenson has shown no inclination to get in the ring with the Russian and with that in mind, and with this performance in the bag, there is no real argument against having Kovalev as the #1 Light Heavyweight out there. For Hopkins this loss probably spells retirement. Aged 49 this was likely the last time Hopkins will fight as a professional boxer and although he lost here he showed what a tough son of a gun he was, whether you like him or not it's hard not to respect him for what he's managed to do in a long and impressive career
Just a day after agreeing terms to fight Bernard Hopkins in November we saw Russian power puncher Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23) successfully retain his WBO Light Heavyweight, despite being dropped in the opening round, very unexpectedly.
Kovalev was fighting against the unbeaten and somewhat tricky Blake Caparello (19-1-1, 6) who looked confident in the opening by using his jab well as Kovalev stalked. Surprisingly, though as mentioned above, Kovalev did go down in the opening round, though on replay it was clear that Kovalev had his foot stood on causing him to lose balance before the shot was landed by Caparello.
Although Kovalev looked frustrated times in the opening round he appeared to be settling in to his rhythm prior to the bell.
As we all know when Kovalev is in the groove he is destructive and we saw it here as he dropped Caparello with a clean body early in round 2. From then on it was a case of just how long Caparello could survive.
It turned out that Caparello's survival instincts weren't great and instead of holding, moving or doing anything to survive he stood in the corner, waved in Kovalev and acted as if he had no idea how to survive in the ring. Kovalev obliged the willing victim and went on the offensive with very calculated pressure and picked his shots excellently sending Caparello down again...and then again as the referee, Sparkle Lee, was forced to wave off the bout.
With such a quick victory it will likely be a quick return to the gym for "Krusher" who will working with his team to put together a gameplan to defeat Hopkins who was ringside for the bout.
(Image courtesy of Main Event)
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)
Not every fighter is blessed with true lights out power. The thing is when one such fighter comes along we do instantly take a liking to them. There is just something special about a fighter who can destroy the senses of another with a single punch.
It's that single trait that has made Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21) such an exciting and must watch fighter. At the moment we know he's going to connect and when he does we know his opponent is going to down and down hard.
We saw Kovalev showing off that power once again as he made the first defense of the WBO Light Heavyweight title he won when he defeated Welshman Nathan Cleverly.
Fighting against talented Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh (21-2, 17) it appeared that Kovalev may have been getting a test. This looked the case through the opening round which saw Sillakh moving excellently, establishing his jab and controlling the range. It seemed that if Sillakh could do that for 12 rounds then Kovalev would never get a chance to land his thunderous power shots.
Unfortunately for the challenger he lacked the power on his jab to get Kovalev's respect and the Russian began round 2 by immediately cutting the distance. No longer was he standing at the end of Sillakh's range but instead he was getting to mid-distance, his danger range.
At mid range Kovalev is lethal and it showed as he dropped Sillakh hard very early in the round. Other fighters would have stayed down but Sillakh, to his credit did get to his feet. Unfortunately for the challenger he didn't have time to recover his senses and just seconds later Kovalev had connected with a huge shot that sent Sillakh down hard. This time there was no chance Sillakh was going to get back up.
With this win under his belt and another eye catching and impressive stoppage on his record Kovalev's stock will have risen even more. Sure he did what he was supposed to here but that doesn't mean he anything but impressive.
In a post fight interview Kovalev did call out, when prompted, Adonis Stevenson. Stevenson, an equally big puncher, is pretty the dream fight in the Light Heavyweight division and one that every fan seems to be calling for. A fight between the two in 2014 seems almost inevitable right now and is the sort of fight the sport needs. It's hard to see anyone else giving Kovalev any real problems right now.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
It's not that often that a Russian fighter gets to make a real impact on world boxing in front of the Western media but Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20) has been afforded that opportunity in recent years. He has been based in American, his fights with both Gabriel Campillo and Cornelius White were big television bouts stateside and he had been creating a genuine buzz.
Although Kovalev had been getting attention he was still seen as a bit of a prospect. A hard punching fighter but one who needed to take the next step up, one who needed to fight a world champion.
Following his victory over White earlier this year Kovalev knew he opened the doors to world title contention. Originally it was expected that he'd fight Bernard Hopkins for the IBF Light Heavyweight title, instead however he had to make do with unbeaten Welshman Nathan Cleverly (26-1, 12), the WBO champion.
Cleverly, who had boasted an unbeaten record, had been the WBO champion for well over 2 and a half years. He had been considered by some as one of the most under-rated champions in boxing, though others felt he had been defended with soft match making by his promoter Frank Warren.
It appeared that this was a step up for both men a real litmus test for both and their first real bout.
Unfortunately for Cleverly things didn't go as he expected and Kovalev started fast using his jab to spear the face of the defending champion from the opening round. The supposed hand speed advantage of Cleverly really wasn't as pronounced as expected and Kovalev was managing to counter his jab almost at will.
The opening round, whilst clearly a Kovalev round, was a calculated round from the Russian. He was set on preventing Cleverly from getting in to a rhythm and was using his jab to open up the rest of his arsenal including a booming right hand that although rarely landing was showing his intention.
After taking the opening round Kovalev just maintain his busy work landing the occasional body shot as he left Cleverly feeling pain both upstairs and downstairs. Although Cleverly himself landed several punches of note he simply being out worked, out landed, out powered and generally broken down by a powerful guy who had traveled to Wales with the intention of winning.
Kovalev's attack, which had been constant in the opening two rounds, finally broke through in the third round when he staggered Cleverly. Kovalev, rather than rushing in and wasting the opportunity took his time and showed a very calm head before hunting for the punches to put Cleverly away.
The chance came quickly and Kovalev pounced dropping Cleverly hard, the first knockdown against Cleverly in his career. The Welshman managed to regain his feet but was still clearly shaken as Kovalev pounced again dropping Cleverly for a second time soon afterwards. Again he rose but it seemed almost a forgone conclusion that the referee was going to have to wave off the bout before Cleverly took further damage but amazingly Terry O'Connor waited and waited with Cleverly looking completely out on his feet.
With the bell going before O'Connor's hand was forced the referee appeared to carry Cleverly to his corner and sit him on his stool before the Welshman's corner, including his own father saw to him. Unfortunately Cleverly's father didn't seem to realise the state his own son was in and instead of saving him he sent him out for another round.
Kovalev, knowing perfectly well that Cleverly wasn't with it, went straight on the offensive and attacked from the off before forcing Terry O'Connor to save the Welshman before any lasting damage could be done. Thankfully it appeared O'Connor came to his senses before Cleverly lost all of his.
With Kovalev now clearly seated as one of the players in the Light Heavyweight division it appears almost certain that we are going to have some really fun fights in the near future. A fight between Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson appears to be at the top of every fight fans list of dream fights, though Kovalev against the likes of Bernard Hopkins would also be incredibly interesting.
No matter who Kovalev fights next, one thing is for sure, many fans will be tuning in to see the destructive Russian in action.
World Title Results
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