Utter domination, it was, from the singing of the National Anthem onward.
Yep, he “Krushed” it, did 31-year-old Sergey Kovalev, nailing down the win as TSS Fighter of the Year when he overwhelmingly, completely, most thoroughly handled the living legend that is Bernard Hopkins on November 8, 2014 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
It was a bout that saw experts split about 50-50 on who’d have their hand raised in a classic Legend vs. Upstart clash which screened on HBO, and it will be, arguably, the most enduring takeaway from the year in boxing when one is looking back at this 12 month span and assessing the pros, the cons and the accomplishments during that time-span.
Kovalev had a quarter of my vote when he clanged a right hand of the noggin of the man who has forgotten more fistic wizardry than the masses of campaigners today have learned, and sent the no-longer-ageless wonder to the mat. Notice was served then, and then cemented over the remainder of the 12 round light heavyweight consolidation bash that the Russian-born fighter who’d had to cold-call promoters from coast to coast to secure himself a backer who would take a flyer on him, that Sergey Kovalev was king of the division.
The man dislodged from the throne acknowledged as much after he’d had the brutal truth that a younger, stronger pugilist had his number on this late fall evening tattoed into his temple, chin and torso. Hopkins, a bottomless well of pride not prone to conceding any damned thing easily, gave it up for Kovalev, who who branded a brand of pugilist on this night.
TSS reached out to the now California-based boxer, who seeks to continue his momentum surge in his next outing, on March 14, against ex champion Jean Pascal, and informed him he is our 2014 Fighter of the Year. “Thank you for choosing me, and believing in me,” Kovalev said. “Happy New Year and I wish you good reporting in 2015!”
In case you don’t know, the fighter is a good egg; he’s been knee-deep in diaper duty since son Aleksander was born right before the Hopkins changing-of-the-guard effort, and all of us who cover him are genuinely happy for the fighter, whose dimples betray a soft side which is utterly absent when he does his thing in ring. Thus, it makes me, personally, pleased to bestow the fighter with this honor, after consulting with the TSS staff and our publisher. Indeed, when the victor who receives the spoils also happens to be a good soul, there is something that much more right in this world.
Promoter Kathy Duva, of Main Events, who listened when manager Egis Klimas told her he was working with a future champion and could use a hand-up from a promotional entity, was also pumped when told that TSS was tapping Kovalev as FOY.
“Awesome,” enthused the New Jersey based dealmaker. “Of course he deserves it! And I will be happy to tell you why. During 2014 Sergey displayed all of the qualities that should distinguish the Fighter of the Year. First of all, he consistently pursued the best opposition. Think about it. During 2014 Sergey agreed to fight Adonis Stevenson (although Stevenson ultimately pulled out), Bernard Hopkins and now Jean Pascal. After Sergey, they are the three top fighters in the division. Sergey not only defeated all of his opponents, he dominated them, losing a total of one round in three fights. That round was lost when Blake Caparello stepped on his foot to score a cheap knock down. You saw what happened to Blake in the second round! And to cap it off, Sergey outboxed a legendary boxer in Bernard Hopkins. As I have said to everyone who is willing to listen, is not just that Sergey defeated a great world champion who half the media expected to win, winning two more titles in the process, it was the way that Sergey did it–displaying levels to his game that he had not shown us before.”
To be sure, the choice didn’t come without considerable debate and thought. Our man Kelsey McCarson weighs in with some light dissent, and food for thought on others who merited the top slot. “By far the most important award in boxing given every year by those who do such things is Fighter of the Year,” says McCarson, who himself had a helluva year in his realm, as he raised over $10,000 for the medical expenses of a Texas boy battling cancer, little Corbin Glasscock, when he engaged in a sparring match with contender Jermell Charlo last month. “This year’s candidates include light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, lightweight Terence Crawford, welterweight Manny Pacquiao, middleweight Andy Lee and flyweight Roman Gonzalez. While I can make a pretty decent case for every one of those guys (in fact, I voted for Kovalev in Bleacher Report’s year-end awards because we were asked to do so before all fighters had their 2014 fights in the books), the truth of the matter is that no one really stands out head and shoulders above the rest. The field is a close, competitive bunch of excellent fighters who all had fine years. To that end, Japan’s Naoya Inoue should also be considered for the honor. This Japanese junior flyweight is a monster puncher with superb skills. He’s fast, exciting and perhaps the future of boxing in Japan and maybe even the entire world. Inoue, age 21, won the WBC junior flyweight title against Adrian Hernandez in just his sixth professional fight. He defended it versus Samartlek Kokietgym, then jumped up two weight classes to knock out the best junior bantamweight in the world, Omar Narvaez, for that division’s WBO belt to close out the year, on Tuesday. All three wins for Inoue came by knockout, and he stands above his peers as a young up-and-comer who both says he wants to fight the very best and actually does so. “
Well reasoned, Kelsey, and for that reason, we’re naming Inoue as first runner up in the category of TSS Fighter of the Year.
Kovalev manager Klimas seemed content with our choice of his guy over Inoue as FOY. “I am very glad you are voting for Sergey as a Fighter of the Year and I strongly believe he deserved it, as it was good year for him,” Klimas said. “Especially since he showed on November 8th that he is not just a puncher, but also that he knows how to box, destroying each round the legendary Bernard Hopkins!”
Congrats Sergey, and thank you for your service to your craft, and for providing us with so much entertainment value this boxing season.