When WBO light heavyweight title hold Sergey Kovalev 24-0-1 (22) defends his title this Saturday night in Atlantic City against Blake Caparello 19-0-1 (6), he’ll be fighting two opponents at the same time. In the ring he’ll be looking to take Caparello out as quickly as possible, and in the eyes of boxing fans, his performance will be compared to middleweight Gennady Golovkin’s signature win last weekend, when he stopped challenger Daniel Geale in the third round.
Kovalev, like Golovkin, has an impressive knockout record and can really punch. In fact, along with Golovkin, Kovalev is one of the top five best punchers in boxing today. Sergey is one of the most exciting and highly touted fighters in the world and is looking for that marquee fight to convince boxing observers that he is truly the real deal. Kovalev isn’t as polished or refined as Golovkin technically, but he fights even more aggressively and brings a mean streak and attitude to the ring every time he fights. It’s easy to glean from his demeanor that he truly doesn’t give a damn about anybody he fights once the bell rings. He has the utmost confidence in his ability and power to hurt his opponent and as former great “Smokin” Joe Frazier used to say, “Get the job done.”
Golovkin looked terrific last week and its doubtful Kovalev will stop Caparello with a beautiful counter right or as efficiently as Golovkin did Geale. However, while he may not look as sophisticated in ending the fight as Gennady, he’s every bit as destructive and dangerous. And that’s what he has to be against Caparello, destructive. With Golovkin looking so precise and powerful in getting rid of Geale, he’s become the new flavor of the month in professional boxing. Only, Golovkin is no flavor of the month fighter and will probably be the main man in the middleweight division for the near future.
Based on the notoriety and attention that Golovkin has garnered in less than a week, it’s another layer of proof in how much boxing fans love to watch punchers. Floyd Mayweather, who is a great technician and boxer, turned pro in 1996. But he never participated in a fight that fans really cared about until he fought a declining and washed up Oscar De La Hoya 11 years later. Guillermo Rigondeaux just might be the best combination of speed, style and class in professional boxing today, but all you hear about him is he isn’t exciting because he doesn’t tear guys apart like a prime Manny Pacquiao used to do.
Punchers don’t have to be smooth and quick as long as they end fights in a memorable fashion. Most fans don’t appreciate the genius or greatness of a Rigondeaux, and it took them 11 plus years to care about and appreciate Mayweather. When fans see a fighter down or concussed it doesn’t take much of a boxing aptitude to understand what happened. They like dramatic endings that aren’t tarnished by inept scorecards submitted by a few boxing judges.
Right now Golovkin is winning the perception battle between the two “catch n kill” style attackers. It’s doubtful that Kovalev can surpass him regardless of how he looks in taking Caparello apart Saturday night. That being said, Kovalev is probably in the better position of the two of them to earn some impressive signature wins down the road. Granted, the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions aren’t loaded with a plethora of outstanding opponents for either of them to face. But at least the light heavyweight division has two in Bernard Hopkins 55-6-2 (32) and Adonis Stevenson 24-1 (20). And that would be two more credible foes for Kovalev to solidify his stature against than Golovkin has at middleweight. If Kovalev can win impressively this weekend, hopefully there will be enough eyes watching that it will put some heat on both Hopkins and Stevenson to step up and fight him. I think it’s fair to say that Stevenson, to this point, has been reluctant to make the fight with Kovalev. And I haven’t seen Hopkins, who attends all the big fights, jumping in the ring to challenge Kovalev after his fights have ended. And Kovalev is fighting in Bernard’s back yard, Atlantic City, this weekend. Let’s see if Hopkins shows up and starts issuing challenges to Sergey. Remember, it was Hopkins who strongly urged Shane Mosley to jump in the ring and challenge Floyd Mayweather after he beat Juan Manuel Marquez. The ploy worked and Mosley ended up being Mayweather’s next opponent.
If Kovalev were to fight Hopkins, who at nearly age 50 has never been beaten up or stopped, and stopped him, Golovkin couldn’t buy that kind of credibility unless he moved up and stopped Andre Ward. And if Kovalev beat Hopkins, how big would a fight be between him and Stevenson? It would be huge and receive monumental attention.
Sure, Miguel Cotto is the lineal middleweight champ, but he’s a former junior welterweight title holder who was defeated conclusively by former featherweight champ Manny Pacquiao five years ago. Beating Cotto in four rounds would look good on Golovkin’s record but nobody is going to be declaring his greatness afterward. Or should I say nobody that knows anything worth knowing about boxing will. That leaves Mayweather, but he’d have to cut off his arm to make a fight with him a reality, so forget that.
Alvarez has said that he’d fight Golovkin, but I bet he fights Cotto first. And Golovkin beating Alvarez, or Carl Froch or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. won’t eclipse Kovalev if he goes through Hopkins and Stevenson fighting at his natural weight.
Right now, Golovkin is winning the perception contest and is ahead of Kovalev in the eyes of most fans. But we don’t know if he really is the better and more dominant fighter and puncher. Neither has yet faced a special opponent. However, Hopkins is out there for Kovalev and he’s much more than special. And if Sergey beat Stevenson, who is a legitimate ox and puncher at 175, that would be even sweeter icing on the cake for Kovalev. In addition to Hopkins and Stevenson, Kovalev has the potential options of fighting Ward and Froch (both those guys definitely will be moving up). That gives him more meaningful –meaningful in a purely fistic sense–opportunities than are available for Golovkin. Kovalev has four “must see” fights in front of him for purists. I’m not sure that Golovkin has more than one or, at most, two.
Boxing fans should be thankful that we have a few years in front of us to watch two “catch n kill” attackers like Golovkin and Kovalev fight other contenders and challengers, as they keep their eye on each other in trying to one up the other for fan acceptance and stature.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com