During the late seventies and the early eighties, the light heavyweight division was one of the baddest blocks in professional boxing.
No, that’s not the case circa mid-summer 2015. Actually, the division has a few fighters worth keeping an eye on: Adonis Stevenson 26-1 (21), who owns the WBC title and surging contender Artur Beterbiev 9-0 (9).
However, the alpha dog in the division is WBA/WBO/IBF title Sergey Kovalev 28-0-1 (25).
Until Stevenson proves otherwise.
This past weekend Kovalev fought an over-matched challenger and it was obvious from the onset of the bout. Sergey dispatched Nadjib Mohammedi 37-4 (23) at 2:38 of the third round in what was basically a spirited workout for him. Mohammedi had nothing at all in his arsenal to deter or even annoy Kovalev in the least….and after going down in the second and third rounds it was over. Some may rip Kovalev for taking a fight like this but I say you can’t blame him. The way boxing is set up today with so many faux organizations and belts, fringe contenders usually go onto become a mandatory challenger for one of the title holders at some point. At least Sergey did what elite fighters are supposed to do when confronting inferior opposition, that is get rid of the pretender dramatically and quickly.
Unfortunately for Kovalev, his division isn’t littered with challengers who make up a murderers row, like the killers Bob Foster and Michael Spinks had to deal with in order to capture and then defend the title against during their reigns as undisputed light heavyweight champion. With Mohammedi out of the way now, we can look forward to Sergey making mandatory defenses against Andrzej Fonfara 27-3 (16), Dominic Boesel 19-0 (6), along with the before mentioned Beterbiev. And of the three, the only match up that boxing fans would have the slightest interest in seeing is Kovalev vs Beterbiev, simply because Artur beat Sergey as an amateur, not that that means anything.
Henry Tillman beat Mike Tyson during the Olympic trials in 1984. Bob Foster and Jimmy Ellis beat Muhammad Ali as amateurs and Buster Mathis beat Joe Frazier during the 1964 Olympic trials. Everyone one of the fighters mentioned who won the amateur bout went on to be outclassed by the loser when they met as professionals.
What happened between Kovalev and Beterbiev in 2007 fighting for a trophy means nothing as to what will happen if they fight as pros. Ismayl Sillakh also beat Kovalev as an amateur. However when they fought as pros in 2013, Kovalev destroyed Sillakh (21-1) in two rounds. Beterbiev is very strong and aggressive but he hasn’t fought nearly the same level of opposition that Kovalev has. Being in the ring with Bernard Hopkins earned Kovalev a Bachelor’s degree. Add to that Kovalev won 35 out of 36 minutes against Hopkins through 12-rounds, you may as well say Kovalev received his Master’s degree in pugilism that night.
Obviously Kovalev will continue to stay active making mandatory defenses against over-matched challengers. Then again, it’s not like he has much of a choice. If Stevenson won’t face him, the next best thing is for him to remain active and compile victories while keeping his name in front of the public. With each passing defense Kovalev seems to become more confident and sure of himself. And it’s hard not to get the feeling if and when Kovalev and Stevenson finally do confront each other, Kovalev is the one who will be better prepared to handle the moment. I hate getting into the mind of world class fighters, but it’s impossible not to think Kovalev really does want to fight Stevenson because he legitimately wants to beat him up….whereas I get the feeling Stevensons wishes that somehow Kovalev would disappear without them confronting each other.
Kovalev did exactly what he should’ve against Mohammedi, he annihilated him. And once again served notice to Adonis Stevenson and the other fighters in the division as to who the fighter to beat at light heavyweight is.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com