Posts Tagged With: Sergey Kovalev

The Big Re-Ward

After a flurry of fantastic fights, it would be easy to miss the context of the upcoming rematch between two of the sports biggest icons, Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward.  This weekend will cap off a series of exciting matches that have changed the rankings in almost every major division since the beginning of May.  Not long ago we saw Terence Crawford somewhat cruelly dismantle Felix Diaz.  Both fighters showed that they have long, successful careers ahead, but at distinctly different levels of the sport.  Being so dominant against an opponent of that level, Crawford eliminated any remaining doubt that he is now at the elite level for welterweight.

More recently, Errol Spence Jr. and Kell Brook squared off in an unlikely matchup between top prospects that neither fighter was obligated to take.  Brook had previously acquitted himself well against moving up in weight to face Golovkin, but understandably came away with his first loss.  Against Spence, I thought he was winning the majority of the rounds with superior speed, accuracy and ring generalship.  Spence seemed stronger and better at putting combinations together, but also frustrated at Brook’s speed and use of angles.  While I’m sure Golovkin-Brook was incredibly lucrative for Brook and a once-in-a-lifetime chance for exposure, the legacy of the fight could end up being a career-altering injury.  Early in the fight against Spence, Brook started to swell from glancing blows.  In the later rounds, Brook began throwing less, and when he did throw, he looked gun-shy.  By round 11, both eyes were swollen with one suddenly almost completely shut.  He took a knee about a minute into the round without taking much punishment.  At that point, he could probably tell he wasn’t going to be competitive.  Hopefully, Brook will take enough time to truly make a full recovery, so he doesn’t end up with problems in every fight the way the Plastered Bastard did.  Certainly, he has a lot more to lose than Antonio Margarito ever did.

Since then, Brandon Rios has come out of retirement, Regis Prograis has put up another dominant win, and then, out of the blue, Mayweather-McGregor was officially announced (I’ll have to get to that another time).

With the dust still settling from all this upheaval, there’s hardly been time to get ready for the second (and, if possible, even more tantalizing) showdown between Ward and Kovalev.  Historically, the technical fighter getting a rematch after a close fight with a brawler could only mean good things for him: think Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II, Ali-Frazier II.  In this case, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions.  Kovalev can make a stand here and solidify his position at the top of the sport, while Ward has been comfortably reclining in the luxury of stardom for years.  The motivational factor can’t be dismissed.  Even more significant might be that Ward was inactive during much of that time, negotiating a messy split with former Top Rank exec Dan Goosen.  Of course, the inactivity didn’t stop Ward from putting on an epic performance in the first fight, and that could mean a bigger discrepancy between his abilities and Kovalev’s in the rematch.  Part of the reason the inactivity didn’t affect the fight against Kovalev is that Ward had been consistently taking fights again for over a year at that point, and had fought twice already in 2016.  I still call attention to his “inactivity” and comfort because these fights were against a series of off-brand tomato cans.  The first, timid return came against Paul Smith, 35-5, who had just lost two consecutive fights to Arthur Abraham leading up to their contest.  The next two opponents weren’t much more impressive, so, in short, Ward hasn’t fought anyone like Kovalev since the Super Six tournament (except, of course, Kovalev).

If Ward’s inactivity doesn’t catch up with him, and he hasn’t underestimated Kovalev as much as he makes it seem, it could be a one-sided affair.  One of those classic matchups between a great fighter and a legendary one.  Roy Jones Jr. is probably more familiar with the concept than any other single fighter, having humiliated greats and legends alike in his early, more athletic years.  Ward has been quoted saying that he didn’t have “enough fun” in the first fight.  In taking on the larger Chad Dawson five years ago, Ward certainly did look like he was having fun, scoring one of the most dominant and yet exciting knockouts I’ve ever seen.  He may have worked out Kovalev’s habits enough to play puppet master the way he did with Chad Dawson, but don’t expect Kovalev to wilt under the pressure.  If Ward pushes himself harder than he has the capacity for, Kovalev will seize the opportunity.  Ward can take his punches all night as long as he can move effectively to take the impact off, but if he tires, is unable to clinch, and starts taking real punishment, Kovalev could pull the upset.

Key to both fighters will be the jab, with even more urgency for Kovalev, who had great success with it in the first fight.  Next most important for both will be movement.  If Kovalev can improve his footwork, or if Ward falters with his own, Ward’s advantage will be significantly diminished.  Finally, the winner of the fight will be the one who was most active, either by taking punches while giving them or by throwing during every lull in the action.

We can get up our hopes for an epic conclusion or a worthy precursor to the final chapter.  Some fans feel Kovalev fought well enough to win the first time, but even if he didn’t, with 12 rounds of experience, maybe he really can beat Ward convincingly.  In that case, Kovalev would take the belts, have two unforgettable performances on his resume and he would have begun what would probably one of the great boxing trilogies.  Then again, with practice, maybe Ward can shut him out the way he has with other would-be conquerors (like Froch), solidifying his legacy and elevating him to supreme status.  Whoever wins receives possibly the greatest reward in the sport: an undeniable reign.

Categories: Thoughts On: | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Crawford, Spence Rising

A week from tomorrow Terence Crawford will take on Hank Lundy in the only significant match of the month.  Crawford will get another chance to put his talent on display, and poor Lundy is stuck being a stepping stone for yet another rising fighter.  Hammerin’ Hank has been an ESPN mainstay for years, and only provides action-packed fights, but does so competently.  He’s lost 5 fights at lightweight against 25 wins, but his record is deceptive;  he’s fought upper-level competition more consistently most fighters with 25 wins.  In what might be descending order, the opponents who have managed wins over Lundy include John Molina Jr., Mauricio Herrera, Raymundo Beltran, Victor Postol and Thomas Dulorme.

Next weekend Hammerin’ Hank proves once again that he’s willing to take on anyone.  There could be no better opponent to prove his conviction; Terence Crawford  has shown himself to be one of the most talented fighters in the sport, building his repertoire slowly and finally being forced to put it on full display when he beat the odds against Yuriorkis Gamboa.  Since then Crawford has worked the laundry list of former bests, including a couple of the the same men who came away victorious from fights with Lundy: Thomas Dulorme, Raymundo Beltran.  We can expect Hank to put on a good show and survive Crawford’s precise power better than most, and even offer substantial resistance at times, but he won’t have the speed, defense, or accuracy to be competitive throughout.  You count on Crawford’s power and precision becoming a problem by the third round, with Lundy looking worse for the wear by 8 or 9.  Crawford’s not a devastating puncher, so he’ll most likely take a unanimous decision.

On the horizon we have a showdown at light heavyweight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev granted they win their next fights respectively.  The match would showcase two of the best athletes in the sport with Kovalev being given a chance to prove he’s  more than just the best of the moment.

On April 16th we’ll get another tantalizing fight with the American Olympian Errol Spence Jr. taking on welterweight gatekeeper Chris Algieri.  Spence will have a tough task ahead of him as Algieri has proven himself to have a sturdy chin and formidable heart, as well as impressive skills.  The fight will go a long way in giving Spence the experience he’ll need to begin his reign at the top, where he should be.

Categories: Thoughts On: | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Age before Beauty

Bernard Hopkins takes on formidable slugger Sergey Kovalev tonight in what’s being hailed as the greatest fight Hopkins didn’t have to take. Kovalev’s performances have been, without exception, powerful and impressive. Racking up 23 KOs in only 25 fights, almost of all of his opponents have found his particular combination of offensive pressure and technique overwhelming. Hopkins has also had a run of impressive performances since his most recent loss to Chad Dawson, defeating Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov. Most impressively, in a fight that bored most of the fans in attendance out of the DC Armory before the conclusion, Hopkins scored a shocking knockdown in the 11th round against Shumenov with his signature overhand right.  Neither fighter is known for a particularly graceful technique, and make no mistake, aesthetic appeal is the last reason to watch this fight, but there’ll be more than enough to make up for that deficiency once these two get in the ring.

Fighting with an 18-year age advantage, Kovalev’s intimidation factor and physicality have convinced most fans to predict a rough loss for Hopkins. As his moniker implies, however, “The Alien” defies traditional standards for age and ability, performing well against title holders after absorbing isolated losses at several points in his long career. The most significant draw of the fight, as I mentioned earlier, is that fans have become accustomed in recent years to fighters carefully managing fights to minimize vulnerabilities. In this case, Hopkins is seen as vulnerable as any fighter, not quite to the half-century mark, but only two months from it, he’ll be out to take the ultimate test tonight. While Hopkins may live to regret the decision, it’s one you have to respect, and admire. Kovalev truly does scare most fighters in his division, the same people who take Hopkins lightly because of his age and his deceptively formidable ability. This refreshing change of pace guarantees fans an interesting outcome, even if it means watching Hopkins feign his way through a few more technically legal maneuvers that most fighters are too proud to attempt.

For these reasons, I’d like to lay out my prediction for this fight with a more quantitative description than I typically do, by rating specific aspects of each fighter’s abilities, relative to weight class:

Power: 7
Speed: 7
Precision: 9
Endurance: 7
Defense: 9
Offense: 7
Effective Movement: 8
Chin: 9

Power: 9
Speed: 6
Precision: 7
Endurance: 7 (yet to be tested)
Defense: 7
Offense: 9
Effective Movement: 6
Chin: 6

Before anyone gets up in arms about it, I use this format intentionally to be both more provocative and more subjective than my usual predictions. Assigning numbers to specific aspects of a fighter’s ability is always easy to criticize, but I think it provides some basis for the end product.  I always welcome comments.

I see Kovalev’s pressure and power being too much for Hopkins in the middle rounds. Hopkins may even take some early rounds based on his defensive ability and frustrating style, but unless he lands the perfect shot, or Kovalev’s endurance is much worse than we could have predicted, his experience and slickness won’t save him from the onslaught. Kovalev, by stoppage, round 6.

That being said, Hopkins has the reach and height advantages.  This could be a very interesting fight.  Don’t walk away before the end like the DC Armory crowd.

Finally, let’s not overlook the historical significance of this fight in boxing, and in the broader universe of sports and athletics.  If Hopkins loses this fight, he loses approximately at the age of fifty, to the man who is undeniably the toughest opponent in the division, after already earning the distinction of oldest boxer to win a title, and against seasoned, legitimate opponents.  If Hopkins wins this fight, though, it’ll be a spectacle of human achievement the likes of which the world has not yet seen.

Categories: Thoughts On: | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Competition Curbing

In a streak of recent mismatches, boxing fans have borne witness to an assortment of talented fighters dominating their opponents simply because they had taken easy fights.  On the positive side, each fight amounted to a showcase for the marquee fighter’s talent and because they were all successful in these less competitive matches, their future bouts of consequence are assured. Fans at least have those to look forward to, and considering the number of well-known fighters who competed in August, it was a good month for boxing overall.

The first event in the World Series of Sad came at the beginning of August when Sergey Kovalev trounced formerly undefeated Blake Caparello by second round TKO.  Initially the contest appeared to have potential when Caparello landed a straight right that caused an off-balance Kovalev to touch the canvas with a glove, but he quickly recovered and scored three knockdowns in the next three minutes.  Next, Daniel Jacobs realized a dream and achieved a legitimate accomplishment by winning a vacant middleweight title by beating Jarrod Fletcher after surviving bone cancer.  Fletcher fought well despite being obviously outmatched from the beginning, maintaining his form and working to stay in the fight, but Jacobs was sharper and stronger, and eventually scored a serious knockdown that left Fletcher open for a wild flurry that ended the fight in the fifth round.  The co-feature bouts on the card showcased Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia.  Peterson scored a late-round TKO against Edgar Santana, whose experience included no one of consequence, after racking up points in every round.  This would be an understandable opponent if Peterson had just come off his recent loss to powerhouse Lucas Mathysse, who has since been dethroned, but he successfully handled a legitimate challenge against Dierry Jean months ago, so the choice was somewhat less appropriate.  Similarly, Garcia took a pass with the fairly inexperienced Rod Salka. Just a year ago Salka was taking on Osnel Charles at lightweight, whose record at the time was an unenviable 9-5-1, but 15 months later, Salka’s got a match with one of the top junior welterweights in boxing.  Finally, in an ironic twist of fate, Deontay Wilder’s first competitive fight was scheduled against Bermane Stiverne, which would have been a great matchup for both fighters, had Stiverne not pulled out, leaving an overweight Jason Gavern to fill in by being pummeled around the ring until he had had enough, capitulating between rounds four and five.

It seems silly to us that these fighters are on premium cable putting on an exhibition as if it were any other day at the gym, but we should also appreciate the possibilities that are now more likely to become reality as a result of these fights.  First, Hopkins watched critically as Kovalev pounded his way to an early victory and accepted a fight with the formidable slugger on the condition that he won that night.  Hopkins has performed miracles in the ring in recent years, beating legitimate opponents comprehensively who were half his age, but defeating a lion like Kovalev would be truly remarkable and set him apart from every other active fighter. While an unlikely scenario, the competitive spirit and historic potential behind the fight make it tantalizing.  Daniel Jacobs called out Peter Quillin, whose recent success has brought him into the spotlight.  Both fighters are active punchers in the ring, with considerable power to accompany their developing technique.  While less of a main event than some of the other potential matches, it would definitely be one to watch.  While analysts tell us Al Haymon isn’t any more likely to make the Garcia-Peterson match now that they’ve completed their “stay active” fights, neither fighter necessarily has the luxury of fighting unknowns for very long if he wants to maintain a fan base.  Garcia-Peterson would be great to watch.  Wilder might be persuaded to make another attempt at the Stiverne fight, and if he did, we’d probably see the first exciting heavyweight match I can remember in recent years.

Speaking of bad fights leading to good things, the Anthony Dirrell-Sakio Bika rematch wasn’t so bad, really.  The fight itself was dreadful and dirty, but referee Jack Reiss made it worthwhile with classic instructions such as “Stop complaining, dude!”  If you haven’t seen it, check it out and turn up the volume so you can hear the part that’s worth your time.

Categories: Thoughts On: | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pac’d Up

Manny Pacquiao performed pretty much as expected against Brandon Rios, dominating the entire fight and giving his heartbroken and cataclysm-ravaged countrymen a hero to exalt.  I did expect Rios to threaten the inevitability of Pacquiao’s win a little bit more during the course of the fight, but the final result was exactly as I predicted.  Rios did stand up to Pacquiao’s firepower better than many challengers, and he even offered more range of technique than most.  Pacquiao may have had a comparably easy night, when juxtaposed with fights like the one with Cotto, or Tim Bradley, but he struggled to mount an overwhelming offensive attack the way he was able to do against other opponents.  Rios enjoyed the privilege of mounting his own offense from time to time for about six or seven full rounds.  The late rounds surprised me in the degree to which Rios conceded the loss, but he was still impressive in his stamina and durability. 

Two significant bouts in the light heavyweight division this past weekend saw great victories for Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson.  Both have marquee-name power and more technical prowess than many of the athletes who comprised the division in recent years.  The card was set to draw attention to a looming showdown between the two fighters who seem to be reaching their peak performance levels, and based on their success, I would say it has done so.

Categories: Thoughts On: | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at