Kathy Duva states her case for Sergey Kovalev
It happens every year as a boxing scribe. As soon as we get to the first few weeks of December, emails and texts arrive from various publicists and other entities who start giving hints or strongly suggest that a boxer they represent should be considered for “Fighter of the Year” honors.
Basically it’s propaganda dressed up as “Seasons Greetings” wishes.
(For the record, I’m not part of the Boxing Writers Association of America so I don’t get a vote but I still receive these missives.)
That said, Kathy Duva still wants to state her case on behalf of Sergey Kovalev to me. And well, quite frankly, I need stuff to write about as the year winds down, so, Ms. Duva, the stage is yours. In your admittedly very biased opinion, why should the “Krusher” take home this award for 2014”
“In my very biased opinion, I think that he had a better year than he had last year,” she said, chuckling. In 2014, Kovalev notched three victories. “Big win over [Bernard] Hopkins, he was very close to ‘Fighter of the Year’ last year. It’s coming down in most people’s minds to Kovalev or Terence Crawford or [Gennady] Golovkin. I don’t know what Golovkin’s done – not to take anything away from him but really he had a couple of fights against OK opponents.”
(OK, it never fails; when someone utters “Not to take anything away from”…that’s exactly what he or she intends to do. But for the record, Golovkin, who had a trio of wins over Osumanu Adama, Daniel Geale and Marco Antonio Rubio, didn’t have that one definitive victory to really put him in the running for these honors or the sheer volume of the year before, when he fought four times. He will be hurt by the strength-of-schedule or lack thereof.)
Duva continues, “I think when you get to Crawford and Sergey, look, it wasn’t that he beat Hopkins, it’s the way he beat Hopkins, dominating every single round, outboxing the guy who was supposed to outbox him, banging with him to the point where it was clear that if Sergey hadn’t been saving up to find out what 12 rounds was going to feel like, he probably would’ve stopped him. The fact is he was waiting until that 12th round because he had never been there before but he showed he had a gear that nobody knew was there.
“Very few people suspected it and I understand Crawford won some nice fights. He won fights against people he was generally expected to beat and who come right at him, who walked right to him.”
In 2014, Crawford defeated Ricky Burns soundly in Burns’ backyard to take the WBO lightweight title, was the first to beat Yuriorkis Gamboa and then decisioned Ray Beltran. Through this process, Crawford became a legitimate draw in his hometown of Omaha. But Duva maintains that “Bud” was the beneficiary of astute matchmaking from Top Rank Promotions.
“Where as Sergey is doing with people, first of all, in two fights, he was expected to win – one fight not-so-much – a lot of people were picking Hopkins to win. But I think the thing that really sets him apart is that look at the people he fought. Whether you want to criticize them – say they were minor fighters – well, you had [Cedric] Agnew who was undefeated; nobody knows how good he is or could’ve been,” Duva opines. “But we do know he’s a boxer; he’s that guy people avoid because they’re afraid they’re going to look bad with him.
“And you can say the same thing about Blake Caparello and you could certainly say the same thing about Hopkins. Sergey didn’t just beat them – he looked good doing it. He was dominant doing so and in all of that, he maybe lost one round and that was the round where [Caparello] stepped on his foot to get a cheap knockdown. So I think when you look at the way [Kovalev] won the fights and the fact that he’s always being asked he take on these boxers, guys who knows how to survive, the guys who know how to make you look bad. He keeps making them look terrible.”
Duva is just getting started here…
“I think that sets him apart from Crawford who had a good year, had some nice wins, no doubt, but I didn’t see him dominating in those wins,” she states. “He fought a guy in Burns who basically got beaten by Beltran and then he fought him and he beat him but he didn’t blow anybody out of the ring the way Sergey did and they were guys he should’ve beaten and they were guys who quite frankly were very easy to look good with and that’s not taking anything away from him,” – uh…here we go again – “but when you’re looking at the razor’s edge and you’re saying, ‘Well, which is it?’ Yeah, Kovalev had that big signature win but the other two opponents weren’t world-beaters and Crawford kinda had middle-range guys. I think people are letting their hearts think rather than their heads when it comes to Beltran, who’s great but I call him a journeyman – and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word, not in a negative way – that’s basically what he is and I don’t think Beltran is any better than that because I thought he beat Burns.
“So I really think the level of competition isn’t that far different,”she continued. “So I would give it to Sergey just because of the way he dominated everybody and dominated the guy who was supposed to outbox him, the master.”
OK, Ms. Main Events makes a lot of valid points. Hopkins, by far, is the best fighter of the six whom both Kovalev and Crawford faced in 2014. However, it can be argued that Agnew and Caparello were the two least accomplished of the fighters on that list. You can see both sides of the coin here. Duva is doing her job as a promoter. She has never claimed she was unbiased in all this; she certainly has a horse in this race.
But it has to be asked: Is any of this really all that important? We know that in other sports like baseball, football or basketball that MVP awards and “Rookie of the Year” honors are not only prestigious and sometimes are tied into contracts in the form of incentive clauses. In boxing, how much are they really worth?
Duva says, “Y’know, I hear it come up in negotiations; I think it makes my job a lot easier. I think that it’s a recognition Sergey earned. I mean, again, I know you only take into account what he did this year; think about how far this guy has come. He was unknown two years ago and look at where he is and on top of that, if you want one more thing to push it over the edge, during this year, he agreed to fight the toughest guy he could find in Jean Pascal and go to Canada to do it – which he doesn’t have to do.
“He’s the champion; he has three belts but he’ll go there because that’s where the money is. That’s where the fight belongs; that’s where the fight makes the most sense.”
There she goes, already campaigning for the 2015 “Fighter of the Year” award.
What about Adonis Stevenson, the 2013 “Fighter of the Year,” who was this year’s punchline after eschewing a highly anticipated bout with Kovalev on HBO to sign with Al Haymon and take lesser fights on Showtime?
Well, the WBC just recently ruled that the winner of Kovalev-Pascal will be entitled to a 50/50 split as the mandatory challenger to Stevenson when that fight comes up. Stevenson, who beat Dmitry Sukhotsky last Friday night in Quebec City is talking about facing Kovalev sometime next year.
“I find it hilarious,” said Duva, “I hope he means what he’s saying. I mean, our plan was to put him in a corner and guess who’s there?”
Again, I don’t have an official vote but if I had one, I’d have to say that despite Duva’s compelling arguments, I would tab Crawford as my “Fighter of the Year” based on the overall quality across the board of his foes in 2014.
And my gut feeling is Crawford will win this honor.
Here’s the latest episode of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
I think Roman Gonzalez deserves some consideration for “Fighter of the Year” also. He fought four times and picked up a world title in another weight class (flyweight)…Duva says Karl Dargan will headline the Jan. 30 edition of “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN2 against Tony Luis…Middleweight prospect Ievgen Khytrov will face Aaron Coley on the Jan. 9 edition of “ShoBox”…RIP to Dan Ramirez (@danram70) who passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 23. He was a friend to many through Twitter, a great boxing fan and truly devoted father. He will be missed…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.