It all comes down to basics
It was another busy weekend of fights highlighted by the HBO tripleheader in Montreal, Quebec, Canada featuring Sergey Kovalev’s entertaining back-and-forth slugfest against Jean Pascal that further strengthened “Krusher’s” argument as light heavyweight ruler. There was also the debut of “Premier Boxing Champions’” “Lights Out” on Spike TV that became a memorable night at the Citizens Business Bank Center in Ontario, Calif. Here are some thoughts on what took place…
– For all the talk of Kovalev’s prodigious power – and there’s a reason he is dubbed the “Krusher” (and yes, we’ve all noticed his logo looks awfully similar to K-Mart’s) – his jab was really key in his latest victory. Early on, it set the table for his power punches and, later, as Pascal rallied valiantly from a third round knockdown and was saved by the bell, Kovalev’s stick steadied him and quelled the pesky Haitian-Canadian. For all the talk of his offensive prowess, his jab allowed him to control the action against the tricky Bernard Hopkins. This past weekend, it was the key in corralling the awkwardly athletic Pascal.
Pascal had advantages in speed and quickness but was technically outclassed by the well-rounded Kovalev. Roy Jones Jr. simply wasn’t able to help “The poor man’s RJ” with his deficiencies on this evening. Much like Gennady Golovkin, perhaps Kovalev’s fundamental acumen is overlooked because of his high knockout percentage (Kovalev’s stands at 92 percent, as he has scored 24 stoppages in 28 pro outings) but they both come from a deep amateur background and are well-schooled technicians who don’t just rely on raw power despite this stereotype.
What’s impressive about Kovalev’s jabs is not only how he employs them but their overall variety. It can be a power punch; he uses it as a range finder at times and it’s also been landed to the body. There were even a few times this past weekend in which he used it to blind Pascal and set up his curving right hand that came around Pascal’s guard on his left. That’s the very definition of an educated left hand.
– Since their aborted match-up last year, Kovalev and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson have gone in starkly divergent paths. While Kovalev had to settle for the likes of Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello to kick off 2014, he has since picked up significant Ws against Hopkins and now Pascal. On the flipside, Stevenson has basically weathered flotsam and jetsam having defeated Andrzej Fonfara, Dmitry Sukhotsky and now Sakio Bika (a career super middleweight with no real track record as a light heavyweight) on April 4. Stevenson is doing his usual barking about yearning for a showdown with Kovalev. Yeah, over Al Haymon’s dead body and PBC belt.
And speaking of which, yeah, Stevenson is the lineal champion in this division, which, to some, is the gospel. But it says here that Kovalev is putting in the best work and putting forth the most impressive performances. While Stevenson might be “the man who beat the man,” I’m having a hard time believing the Russian isn’t the world’s best light heavyweight. And besides, with how he sidestepped that fight last year, doesn’t Stevenson forfeit that claim? And the reality is Stevenson is on the other side of the fence – the one opposite HBO – which means a talk of a Stevenson-Kovalev fight as of this moment is a non-starter.
– I don’t think that was a good stoppage by referee Luis Pabon…I think it was a GREAT stoppage. Pascal was badly dazed, as he basically stumbled to the neutral corner after Kovalev slipped in his corner and as the action resumed, he was bashed by two right hands from the hard-charging Kovalev. Pabon stepped in before anymore damage could be done. At that juncture, the fight was only going in one direction – and that was downhill for Pascal. And it’s ironic; Pascal had made a reference to being Rocky Balboa to Kovalev’s Ivan Drago. Well, Pabon’s actions kept Pascal from ultimately becoming Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV.”
– One last thing about Kovalev: He’s gone to the UK to face Nathan Cleverly, faced Hopkins in Atlantic City and now Pascal in Canada. Yeah, have gloves and passport, will travel. He is boxing’s latest road warrior. Stephen Edwards, the trainer of junior middleweight contender Julian Williams said it best about Kovalev on Twitter (@BreadmanBoxing) shortly after this latest conquest:
“Krusher Kovalev is a fucking gun. He’s the killer of this era. A-side champion goes on road consistently and destroys. Never complains.”
“The Krusher doesn’t care about getting robbed etc etc…he takes things in his own hands. No court. Ring Justice.#killer”
“Great fighters who score career defining kos in opp hometowns have common killer traits. Kovalev, Azumah Nelson, [Marvelous Marvin] Hagler etc same ilk.”
– Isaac Chilemba boxed impressively in easily outpointing Vasily Lepikhin, who seemed to run out of ideas early and mentally capitulated halfway through this 10-rounder. Chilemba has really good tools and can box well; it’ll be interesting to see if he can hit that middle ground his trainer, Buddy McGirt wants in sitting down on his punches just a bit more. The South African is with Main Events, so a future bout with Kovalev is certainly a possibility but he’s going to have to wait in line as Kovalev must fulfill his IBF mandatory next against Nadjib Mohammedi.
– Yeah, the less said about Vyacheslav GlaZZZZZkov the better, right? But seriously, this is about the third time this heavyweight has gotten his hands raised in a fight in which many believe he did not win. Personally, I thought Steve Cunningham banked enough early rounds to win this fight by a couple of points.
– I think it can be a conflict of interest and problematic when an active boxer is employed by a network to provide color commentary but I thought Bernard Hopkins did an excellent job providing analysis and insight, especially during Kovalev-Pascal. Yeah, his syntax and diction aren’t perfect but the bottom line is he understands the sport and, just as importantly, knows how to convey it. I’d like to see “B-Hop” get a few more opportunities at this gig and see how far he can grow as a broadcaster. Yes, his association with Golden Boy Promotions might be a problem but I liked what I heard from him.
– Speaking of which, I thought Antonio Tarver was really good on Spike TV on Friday. Seems like he hasn’t skipped a beat since his days ringside for Showtime. Something I’ve never understood: Why was he just outright fired by the network after his failed drug test for the Lateef Kayode fight in 2012? I can understand him being suspended for a few months but just cast aside completely? I mean, wasn’t Showtime the same network that actually aired a fight with Erik Morales, knowing he had tested positive for a banned substance prior to his rematch with Danny Garcia? That punishment seemed a tad punitive and ironically, harsher than what most commissions hand out in terms of discipline. Regardless, Showtime’s loss is Spike’s gain.
– By the way, I thought the Spike broadcast flowed much better than NBC’s. It was far less cluttered and the announce team was solid. For a guy who’s never done this before, Scott Hanson did a very nice job as the blow-by-blow and Dana Jacobson played her role well. As for Thomas Hearns…uh, yeah, y’know…but really, the fights made this night. All three bouts provided action and the crowd (which was once again papered like it was in Las Vegas) got into it and it made for a fun night. That’s the point here: You can have all the bells and whistles you want but if you don’t have good action inside the ring, none of that really matters.
– Chris Arreola’s wild eight-round victory over Curtis Harper (which wasn’t even scheduled for the broadcast on Friday night) was the best “bad fight” I can recall in recent memory. As the perennially undisciplined Arreola weighed in at a plump 262, his own camp didn’t want him televised, given his condition. It seemed like all would end well as he scored an early knockdown in the first but something funny happened that probably wasn’t in the script – Harper not only got up but he fought back gamely and repeatedly thumped Arreola in the middle innings. It became a donnybrook and Arreola had to dig down deep over the last two rounds to basically salvage his career as a relevant prizefighter.
What was alarming about Arreola – other than the poundage, of course – is that his reaction time to oncoming punches was non-existent. Yeah, perhaps his physical conditioning played a part in that but you’ve never seen him tagged so repeatedly by that caliber of opponent. At this point in his career, regardless of how much he tips the scales, there is a physical erosion from a long, hard, tough career and a less-than-Spartan lifestyle that seems to be really catching up to him.
His handlers are talking about putting him on the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Fonfara undercard on April 18 even with the punishment he took on Friday night. Bottom line, they want him right back in camp and looking forward to another payday or risk having him come back bigger than Vince Wilfork (whose job requires him to be that large). I believe the thinking from the brain trust here is to cash him out as quickly as they can by getting him into the ring against the PBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder.
I think both Jerry Odom and Antoine Douglas – who won on “ShoBox” on Friday night – have some upside…There were some eye-opening KOs on Telemundo on Friday evening…A junior welterweight bout between Humberto Soto and Frankie Gomez is very close to becoming a reality for May 9 in Houston as the HBO opener before Canelo Alvarez-James Kirkland…OK, I didn’t watch one complete college basketball game this season, so I’m not even filling out a bracket but I’ll go out on a limb and say Kentucky goes all the way and completes a historic year…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.