LAS VEGAS-Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev dominated France’s Nadjib Mohammedi from the opening bell and ended it with a flourish to win by knockout and keep three light heavyweight world titles on Saturday.
In the boxing capital of the world, WBA, IBF and WBO champion Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 Kos) displayed his flashing fists and tremendous power in front of a Las Vegas crowd at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Mohammedi (38-4, 23 Kos) didn’t seem to stand a chance of winning at all.
Kovalev may be known for his power but let Mohammedi know that his buttery smooth boxing skills are an overlooked asset as he jabbed effectively in the first round and attacked the body sporadically in the first round. It was easy pickings for Krusher.
The second round saw Kovalev open up the artillery with some lightning right leads from his long right hand reach that seemed to stretch across the ring. Mohammedi seemed perplexed by the reach and the quickness of Kovalev’s blows. A sudden five-punch combination floored Mohammedi. Though he beat the count he was met with some heavy body shots and a final left hook at the end of the round. But somehow he survived.
“After the knockdown I knew I was in a fight. I started to catch him with shots,” Mohammedi said. “Kovalev is a skilled fighter and it takes time to figure him out. Unfortunately I got a thumb in the eye.”
In the third round Kovalev seemed to smell the end and launched another batch of long rights that had Mohammedi on his heels. The French fighter launched a left hook that connected but not enough to stop the oncoming avalanche. A right cross-left hook combination drilled Mohammedi and put him on the floor again. Referee Kenny Bayless looked at the fallen fighter and waved the fight over at 2:38 of the round.
“I wanted more rounds. I wanted him to look like clown. I wanted him to look foolish. I don’t even know how I knocked him down. I only wish I could have given the fans a longer fight,” said Kovalev. “I’m very happy I got the victory. I gave my best. I told him to stand up. It was a short show. I wanted to continue. I tried to continue longer this fight.”
It wasn’t to be. Kovalev was just too good for Mohammedi.
In a fierce light heavyweight battle Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 Kos) managed a close but unanimous decision win over Cuba’s Yuniesky Gonzalez (16-1, 12 Kos) after ten rounds. Fans booed and fans cheered.
Gonzalez wasted little time showing that he was trying to blow out Pascal. A big left hook drilled the former light heavyweight champion but that famous chin of his withstood the blow in the first round.
The second round saw both unleash the artillery with fierce exchanges. Gonzalez and Pascal unloaded mind-blowing bombs that each took with surprising ease. The blows kept launching and the bombs kept landing but neither fighter seemed fazed.
Pascal and Gonzalez went most of the 10 rounds in this fashion with neither fighter even close to going down. But the shocking sound of the blows reverberated throughout the arena. After the final furious round all three judges scored it the same 96-94 for Pascal.
The win sets up a possible rematch with Kovalev, who saw a few minutes of the fight.
“What I saw of the fight Gonzalez was much better. I want to fight this guy too. I’m ready for anybody. It is boxing,” said Kovalev.
Sullivan Barrera (16-0, 11 Kos) walked in the ring as the big favorite but France’s Hakim Zoulikha (21-8) was no joke and made the taller fighter earn every second to stay in the ring. After 10 turbulent rounds Sullivan was finally able to connect with a three punch combination on the seemingly invulnerable French light heavyweight. The end came at 1:34 of the eighth round with Barrera winning by knockout.
The two light heavyweights brawled for most of the fight with Zoulikha taking two or three blows to land his big overhand right bombs. They landed continuously but he was unable to connect with the one telling blow.
Sullivan floored Zoulikha with a right hand in the second round but for the next four rounds the two exchanged furiously with neither able to move the other backward. It was like watching Gene Fullmer battle Sugar Ray Robinson though Sullivan’s punches were a bit wide. In the end, a three punch combination by the taller Sullivan sent Zoulikha reeling across the ring. A short left hook drilled Zoulikha for a knockdown. He got up and was met with a barrage of punches including a right uppercut. Referee Russell Mora ended the fight at 1:34 of the eighth round.
A great fight while it lasted.
A junior welterweight clash between Joel Diaz (19-0, 15 Kos) of Palmdale, Calif. and Guadalajara’s Alejandro Rodriguez (24-18-1, 14 Kos) proved one-sided after the first round. Diaz cut down Rodriguez with a potent right counter that dropped the taller Mexican fighter twice in the second round. But he survived.
The end came in round four as Rodriguez tried using his longer reach and holding tactics to stop Diaz’s rushes. An exchange of punches saw Diaz connect with his right inside of Rodriguez’s wide left hook and down he went. Referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight at 39 seconds of the round.
Diaz trains in Big Bear at Abel Sanchez’s training camp.
In a heavyweight showdown between Californians it was Modesto’s Rodney Hernandez (8-2-1) defeating San Pedro’s Brice Ritani-Coe (4-4-1) by split decision that was more a sparring match than a fight. Ritani fired more punches but with little zest. Hernandez hit harder but seldom unleashed blows. Two judges saw it for Hernandez 58-56. 59-55 and one for Ritani-Coe 58-56.
In a second heavyweight match Cassius Chaney (3-0, 2 Kos) scored a first round knockout over Eduardo Ramirez (1-3) of Yuma, Arizona. The fight ended at 1:55 of the first round when Chaney connected with a left hook.