Krushed in Atlantic City
Sergey Kovalev seemed to have things in control going into the seventh round of his bout against Eleider Alvarez. He was making the second defense of his WBO light heavyweight title in front of a capacity crowd, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, in Atlantic City. With a victory, it would set up a unification bout against WBA beltholder Dmitry Bivol, who had defeated Isaac Chilemba earlier in the evening.
But with one booming right hand – which looked awfully similar to the one Andre Ward hit him with in their rematch in June of last year, which hastened his ultimate demise – Alvarez sent “Krusher” to the canvas. And while Kovalev bounced back up rather quickly, this was no flash knockdown.
The bout continued but the competitive phase of this match-up was over, as Alvarez pressed his advantage, and sent the Russian to the canvas twice more before referee David Fields waved off the proceedings.
It wasn’t just a defeat for Kovalev; it felt like the end of an era.
This isn’t to bury the Krusher but praise an eventful and colorful reign. And no, this isn’t even a boxing obituary (chances are he’ll fight again, and he does hold a rematch clause with Alvarez) but, although there’s no definitive reason for his descent, it’s evident that Kovalev is no longer the guy he once was. However he did hint at retirement, during a post-fight Instagram message to his followers.
Kovalev is now 2-3 in his last five bouts (although that should come with an asterisk, as many believed he did enough to out-point Andre Ward in their first match-up in late-2016), and, going back to the rematch with Ward, he has been stopped in two of his last four bouts. After defeating Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin, Kovalev stepped back into deep waters in facing the solid and sturdy Alvarez, who was stepped-aside, time and time again, as the mandatory to WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
There was a time when Kovalev was as fearsome a fighter in the sport. Not only could he punch but each shot was laced with bad intentions and a mean streak. But his punch resistance (which, according to some, was never elite) isn’t getting any better. Once there was a certain cloak of invincibility associated with Kovalev, from the time he destroyed Nathan Cleverly in his backyard, in the summer of 2013, for his first world title. He had a quick ascension, and became one of the most accomplished fighters in the sport.
Now at age 35, he isn’t that guy anymore.
This is no crime. Father Time is basically undefeated in this game, and he’s an unforgiving foe. There have been many theories as to why Kovalev was stopped on Saturday night. Many armchair psychologists believe he never recovered mentally from the first Ward fight. Others believe it was a combination of a haphazard lifestyle and less-than-Spartan discipline that aged him prematurely. It says here that he got hit with a shot from a legitimate foe he never saw coming.
And what do they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? If Kovalev would’ve survived the oncoming “Storm” from Colombia, it would’ve set up a unification showdown against Bivol, who clearly out-pointed the crafty Chilemba over 12 rounds, in the opening bout on HBO.
Bivol started out strong, and it looked like he just might score an early stoppage of Chilemba, who, if anything, has a track record of going rounds with the division’s elite throughout the years. However as the fight settled into the middle rounds, Chilemba showed his veteran savvy (with the coaxing of Roy Jones Jr. in his corner), and began making things a bit more difficult for Bivol, showing that the highly regarded Russian still needs some refinement as a pro.
He’s very good from the outside and at utilizing his linear movement to land straight punches down the middle but it’s evident that he isn’t particularly adept at operating within the pocket and working consistently downstairs. There will be times in the future when Bivol (who only has 14 bouts under his belt) will have to muck his way through things, and stick his nose in a pile.
While he didn’t make quite the statement he wanted to coming in, Bivol gained some valuable seasoning. “At the end of the day, I think he really needed that experience for the next big fight,” said Vadim Kornilov, who manages Bivol.
Bivol will move on as a beltholder in a very interesting division. He is the present. Unfortunately for Kovalev, he is the past.
So what did Devon Alexander do to anger fight judges? For the second time in a row (this time versus Andre Berto), he got the short end of the stick in a dubious decision…It says here that Kovalev would’ve handled Marcus Browne (the original foe before his domestic issues came to light) much easier…The Ray Lewis Hall-of-Fame speech was everything you expected…Honestly Terrell Owens’ speech at his alma mater was really well done. It was quintessential TO…Can’t wait for the start of “Hard Knocks” on HBO…I can be reached at email@example.com 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.