The War Report: Square One (Week 47, 2017)
As the highlights of Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev’s unraveling of Vyacheslav “Slava” Shabranskyy closed Saturday night’s HBO telecast, Jim Lampley said something rather peculiar, as Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr. looked on before closing the show.
“And Roy Jones, momentarily – in that action – it looks almost as though the (Andre) Ward fights never happened,” he pointed out.
Having already scored three knockdowns in the first five minutes of action, Kovalev switched the focus of his right hand to Shabranskyy’s body to swiftly get him out of there. The leading power shots came consecutively against a hurt fighter and inevitably set-up a right hand to the head that forced referee Harvey Dock to step in in the final minute of the second round. You’d have to go back nearly two years since Kovalev logged a dominant performance like this and, although it was expected to play out this way, by most, Kovalev officially closed the chapter in his bitter rivalry with Andre Ward that went from corruption to explanation to revelation.
“Well, it looks as though they never happened,” Jones added. “Hopefully he learned a lot from those fights. Sometimes a guy has to beaten or knocked down off of that high horse, to go back and find out who he really is. What Kovalev has done is went back and showed us that he wanted to prove that he’s a better person than we saw in his last two outings. Those last two outings were not perfect. They were not good at all. They were not a good representation of what he wants us to know him as. So he went back, fixed the problems, came back and showed us tonight that the problems are fixed and he’s ready to take his career and move forward again.”
“I did it and worked very hard to get to champion status. My brain, mentally, my conditioning, my body – I’m back,” Kovalev said in the post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman.
Going back to square one, Kovalev, 31-2-1 (27), won the vacant WBO light heavyweight title with the win over Shabranskyy. (Thanks to Ward’s retirement in October, the belt was conveniently vacated after the fight was already signed.) It’s the same belt Kovalev won back in 2013 after stopping Nathan Cleverly in the U.K., starting an impressive run that had Kovalev go from an unknown Russian transplant to the unified IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion. With those other two titles also vacated, Dmitry Bivol (WBA) and Artur Beterbiev (IBF) join Kovalev in being a trio of Russian paper champs (though Bivol is originally from Kyrgyzstan) in a strong light heavyweight class.
“This makes boxing interesting,” Kovalev, 34, said about the light heavyweight landscape. “We can make good fights for boxing fans and make boxing history. Let’s who find out who is the best.”
Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, who’s held the WBC light heavyweight title since 2013, is, of course, another top player in determining the best in a world without Ward and Kovalev may have to rekindle the rivalry that probably should’ve happened in the first place, if he wants another big money fight.
“Yes, ‘Chickenson’ is on my list. This is very good for boxing. Let’s do it,” he said. “It’s my goal to be the best in this division. I am here. I love boxing. I love to make great fights.”
There’s plenty of reasons why a clash with Stevenson hasn’t happened already and, quite frankly, both sides can be blamed. Some of those reasons are still hurdles today but if there were ever proof in Kovalev’s yearning to make the great fights, it would be in taking on the challenge of Ward, when no one really even asked him too. There was no challenge for Kovalev on this night but him being and feeling like the Krusher again is a good narrative, as he looks to reclaim dominance in the ring. Having a rival in place already helps and a new chapter with Stevenson can certainly overshadow the previous one, given how long it’s been anticipated – all the way back when the light heavyweight class was a world without Andre Ward…