Sergey Kovalev Is Bernard Hopkins' Worst Nightmare

BY Kelsey McCarson ON August 27, 2014
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Sergey-Kovalev

Light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev isn’t the type of fighter an almost 50-year-old former middleweight should be fighting, no matter how much an all-time great he is. Kovalev is not the man to mess around with. He’s naturally larger than Hopkins, a devastating puncher and possesses a wealth of solid amateur experience.

In short, Kovalev is Hopkins’ worst nightmare, at least when he’s 31 and Hopkins is 49. He’s an offensive juggernaught in his physical prime who fights lean and mean and has never tasted defeat.

Kovalev demolished Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello in his last two fights just like most experts predicted. The first bout was supposed to be a showcase fight to help drive up interest in a then-expected showdown between Kovalev and Transnational, Ring and WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. But that fight went up in smoke when Stevenson headed over to Showtime while Kovalev remained at HBO.

Kovalev and Stevenson would have been an interesting matchup. Kovalev fights with a steady-handed aggression that borders on sheer rage at times. He turns over his punches quickly, accurately and with great force, and possesses a special kind of power in both hands that keeps his opponents on edge. Kovalev is skilled, but he uses his technical ability to stand in front of his opponents and dare them to trade with him. He doesn’t believe anyone can stand up to his offensive onslaught and so far he’s been right.

Stevenson, though, has one-punch knockout power and is a competent boxer-puncher. Whatever he detonates on explodes. That’s just how it works. But Stevenson, who’s 36 years old, has joined Al Haymon’s bevy of stars over at Showtime, so rather than face Kovalev, he’ll look elsewhere for now.

Let’s get one thing straight: Stevenson is the legit light heavyweight champion of the word, something that comes with being the TBRB champ. He earned the distinction last year when he knocked out Chad Dawson with one punch. But let’s get another thing straight, too. This is the age of Kovalev. He is the future of the light heavyweight division. He’s younger than Stevenson, an easier sell and will be fighting in front of a larger boxing audience on HBO over the next year or so while Stevenson fights on Showtime.

Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, and his manager, Egis Klimas, have already done the hard work of getting Kovalev into position at the right place at the right time. Hopkins will either be the most shrewd move they’ve made or the least. Hopkins has a fantastic history of ruining young fighters who appeared on their way to bigger and better things before getting taken apart by one of boxing’s best.

Hopkins vs. Kovalev is a 12-round unification bout for the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles. The bout will take place on November 8 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It will be televised by HBO. Hopkins is the IBF and WBA champion. Kovalev is the WBO titleholder.

In a video interview with RingTV.com, Hopkins said Kovalev was as good as advertised.

“He’s the real deal,” said Hopkins.

But Hopkins also said he expects to win the fight. In fact, Hopkins considers himself the most underrated defensive fighter in the game today as well as the most underrated champion overall.

“They’re still some hardheads out there,” said Hopkins of those who still doubt his ability.

Kovalev knows what he’s up against. Hopkins is as technically sound as anyone he’s ever faced, and he’s made a living overcoming long odds and doubters. Hopkins has basically had two careers. First was his long reign as middleweight champion. Next came his endeavors at light heavyweight. Both might be considered Hall of Fame worthy on their own merits. Together, he might just have the best resume of his era. He’s just that good.

Both fighters are happy with the venue.

"I’m happy to be back in Atlantic City," said Kovalev via press release. "This is my third time fighting there, but this is the most special because this time I am facing the legendary Bernard Hopkins."

Kovalev has made his last two WBO title defenses in Atlantic City. Both wins came by knockout. But Hopkins has history there, too.

"Atlantic City is a second home to me," said Hopkins. "Some of my most memorable victories and greatest accomplishments of my career have taken place there including my fights against Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik. I expect Philly to represent and come out to Boardwalk Hall to see me make history once again."

Hopkins is wise to remember his wins over Tarver and Pavlik. In both fights, he was the prohibitive underdog. In both, he was facing younger fighters who seemed to be headed where Hopkins used to be. But in both fights, Hopkins dominated.

If Hopkins dominates Kovalev, it will be the biggest win of his illustrious career. Kovalev is legit. He’s a terrifyingly accurate stalker who knows how to run opponents into his punches. He’s at his best right now, and while Hopkins has maintained a level of excellence into his old age, he’s not nearly as formidable as he used to be.

Kovalev is just all kinds of wrong for Hopkins, but here’s where Hopkins has excelled in the past. Because Hopkins has made his name taking guys who were supposed to be his worst nightmare and running them through the ringer.

Will Hopkins be able to do that again? Or will Kovalev be the one risk Hopkins should not have been brave enough to take?

Yes, Kovalev is Hopkins’ worst nightmare. But so were other guys he’s taken care of along the way, so it will be interesting to see how the nightmare unfolds on fight night.

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Comment on this article

Radam G says:

All of these guys have been younger than B-Hop in chronological age, but older in health and stealth age.

The old cat, know as the "Alien" was be a nightmare for Kovalev. In dat squared jungle, Kovalev is going to have a skill block,while being brain f*****. Holla!

Froggy says:

Nobody can argue that Hopkins is a first ballot hall of famer and still fights like one at 49 or 50, but tell me Radam, is he going to grow old in the ring all of a sudden or are people going to spot the decline in the gym ? Or maybe nobody will ever see it if he retires at the right time !

oubobcat says:

After Hopkins schooled Pavlik in 2008, I swore for however longer he fought that I'd never pick against Hopkins again.

Leading up to the Pavlik fight, Hopkins was coming off the loss to Calzaghe and it appeared father time might finally be catching up to him. The emphasis on that sentence is might because he proved in that Pavlik fight that he still near the top of his game at 43 in 2008.

I was in Vegas when that fight took place and Hopkins was a 4.5 to 1 underdog when the opening bell rang. I went up to the window to bet Hopkins, asked for the odds and for whatever reason decided to take a step back and think about it some. I said to myself I'd probably have more fun blowing the $100 on slots or blackjack then on a fight I can't even see (I could not for the life of me find a place in Vegas to watch that fight).

Well blow the $100 I did and quickly...and when I got the result later that evening on the fight made the pronouncement to myself to always pick Hopkins going forward no matter how old he was or who he was fighting.

That was 2008...And I havn't picked against him since.

And for this fight...I am picking Kovalev. Probably, will regret doing this too especially since my brother has offered to lay a few buck on Hopkins for me in Vegas.

I still think Hopkins is a great fighter and at 49 potential pound for pound entrant. But this is more about how I feel that Kovalev is the real deal. I think Kovalev is going to be a star in this sport. More so than I thought about Pavlik six years ago.

Kovalev is committed to boxing and has so much natural talent. He is so fluid in the ring. Everything he does seems to come naturally. His timing is impeccable. He knows how to use footwork and work behind a stiff jab to get the best angles to land his power punches often times in combination. And that power, in my opinion is pound for pound the hardest puncher in the sport at the moment.

Hopkins won't make it easy for Kovalev and will use his trick. He will have his moments. But I think Kovalev is just going to be too much for Hopkins at this point in time of their respective careers.

That said, I have been wrong before on Hopkins.

michigan400 says:

Hopkins will dominate and make him look like an amateur. If Tarver barely layed a glove on him, SK hasn't a farts chance in the wind. He's going from elementary school straight to MIT. He will be lost and confused and give up around round 6 or 7 then it's all down hill from there.

Radam G says:

Nobody can argue that Hopkins is a first ballot hall of famer and still fights like one at 49 or 50, but tell me Radam, is he going to grow old in the ring all of a sudden or are people going to spot the decline in the gym ? Or maybe nobody will ever see it if he retires at the right time !


His decline (or more like inability to do da d@mn thang [sic] anymore) will be notice and straight-up, without a bit of fright, told to him by his trusted trainer and brother-in-faith "Genie" Naazim Richardson.

B-Hop is the REAL DEAL! Even more than was Evander Holyfield. And ev'ybodee and dey momma around the "Alien" know when to kneel.

All at sudden once, one day, he will say to the world: "Now it is over. My body can no longer recover."

When that time is coming, I don't know. But in the meantime, we are all declining every single iota of a second. That comes with living.

The wise one always gets around decline. The double heck if he is going to pay that fine. For so is the sun way up there in the sky is on decline. But shining, it keeps giving. Holla!

Froggy says:

I am starting to think this might be the time B hop comes to the conclusion it is time to call it a day ! Good luck to him !

amayseng says:

Hopkins at 49 challenging the best lhw in the world besides himself, a killer at that. All respect to Hopkins.

If Bhop's legs are good enough I can see him keeping SK at far enough distance to slow down his rhythm and offense to where Bhop can control the pace, be active when he wants and score and win rounds.

I have no prediction for this one.

SouthPawFlo says:

I'm not going against B-Hop until he's KO'd and the Ref counts to 10...


I picked Tito to win Against him
I picked Oscar to win
I picked K. Pavlik
I even picked Tarver because he was a southpaw...


Never again

DaveB says:

I'll go with Hopkins all day long on this one. I like Kovalev as a person and fighter. I like him because he will fight anyone and he seems to be a likable guy. He has devastating power no doubt but like most power punchers he is overrated as far as boxing skills. He will come up against something he isn't prepared for. He always has a punchers chance but Hopkins already has him over thinking. He said I'm not looking for the knockout. And that is a good thing because Hopkins will psychologically destroy him like he did the others. Defensively Bernard will have an easy task and he knows not to underestimate. Hopkins has problems with volume punchers. This guy is just a puncher, puncher. The mind games will start shortly and Hopkins is a master at that. He would reduce Mayweather to a crying brat so Kovalev is in way over his head. Hopkins is Kovalev's worst nightmare except this will not be a dream. Hard for me to see Kovalev knocking him out or getting an honest decision over him.

BFF says:

I am going out on a limb here and my money is on the krusher. I personally think his boxing skills are way underrated, because he does have plenty of it, and has the power to back it up, which usually over shadows those subtle boxing skills he utilizes to set up his power shots....

amayseng says:

I agree BFF, I have said for months that KK has fantastic timing, spacing, he does not load up, his balance is always solid and he is consistent in going to the body and head mixing it up. His Defense is solid as well, he uses a good jab and has a full arsenal of punches at his disposal. He is as well rounded as I can expect from a killer.

If he has any deficiencies it would be his foot agility. However, the only test he has been given of recent was of Sillah, who has quick feet and agility and KK timed him and got him out of there impressively.

This is a great matchup.

Scar says:

I'm picking Hopkins to dominate Kovalev. The only way I see Hopkins losing this is if Kovalev forces him to look his age and Kovalev lacks the tools to be able to do that. Sure he has power but how many fighters with proven power has Hopkins already dominated?. Kovalev is nothing new to Hopkins while Hopkins is something completely new to Kovalev and his biggest step-up to date. Of course, a one punch KO shouldn't be ruled out because anything is possible in our sport but I simply can't see it happening, especially not from Kovalev who's vastly overrated.

Radam G says:

I'm picking Hopkins to dominate Kovalev. The only way I see Hopkins losing this is if Kovalev forces him to look his age and Kovalev lacks the tools to be able to do that. Sure he has power but how many fighters with proven power has Hopkins already dominated?. Kovalev is nothing new to Hopkins while Hopkins is something completely new to Kovalev and his biggest step-up to date. Of course, a one punch KO shouldn't be ruled out because anything is possible in our sport but I simply can't see it happening, especially not from Kovalev who's vastly overrated.


Ditto! I'm riding shotgun with cha! Holla!

oubobcat says:

One of the many reasons I like this fight so much is that there are so many varying opinions amongst those who know the sport as to who will win and how it will play it out in the ring. There are many different possibilities as to which direction this fight will take when that opening bell rings. We are going to have a lot of discussion on this in the next couple months and I for one can't wait until November 8th.

stormcentre says:

Short of an unexpected KO at the hands of Kovalev as a result of Hopkins gassing and/or not being able to play the system, rules and referee for a break and/or more time (I think it’s a fair caveat considering Bernard’s reputation and age); I’m not going to be surprised to see Hopkins baffle and frustrate Sergey in order to win on points.

Kovalev’s never faced a guy that’s as hard to time and hit cleanly like Hopkins – let alone one that’s not only a (influential) part of the promotion – but one that will also (and perhaps with impunity) easily and happily both foul and disrupt Kovalev’s rhythm.

Whereas for Hopkins, Kovalev represents nothing he hasn’t seen before. I am not even sure if Kovalev has fought a guy that will deliberately send him mixed messages and screw around with his ability to (try and) understand his opponent’s timing; like Hopkins will do to Sergey.

All B-Hop has to do is control the tempo of the fight and the rest will fall in place; including the dismantling of Sergery’s biggest singular asset – his power.

And to do that Hopkins has his above-mentioned skills, plus his elusiveness, defence and, of course, that “Old Skool” Philly style.

Carmine Cas says:

What some of you alluded to is the fact Kovalev is just a power puncher and also not a volume puncher. I think the latter will be his undoing against Hopkins. Although he does rely on skill to set up his power punches, unless he develops another layer to his game; his style will not serve him well against Hopkins. I'm going with BHop in this one but I Kovalev is a live dog.

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