Kovalev Is A Beast With Two Legacy Fights In Front Of Him

BY Frank Lotierzo ON February 05, 2016
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A lot of professional fighters sport gaudy undefeated records littered with recognizable names and the inflated numbers impress many. However, authentic greatness is really defined by who a fighter fought and defeated during the signature bouts of his career. In boxing it's never about how many you beat, it's all about who you beat. And Sergey Kovalev has an opportunity to enhance his stature and legacy more so than perhaps any other active fighter because he has two very formidable opponents in front of him who will soon be challenging for his three title straps. 

Fresh off WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight title holder Sergey Kovalev's seven round beat-down of former title holder Jean Pascal, everybody is hoping to see him finally face lineal/WBC title holder Adonis Stevenson -- especially after Kovalev referred to Stevenson as "Chickenson" at center ring while being interviewed by Max Kellerman on HBO after beating Pascal. It was during that interview in which Stevenson 27-1 (22) charged into the ring and said "I'm the real champ" and feigned trying to get at Kovalev 29-0-1 (26) to settle things between them.

If Kovalev and Stevenson were to fight this year, it can be argued that a matchup between them would be the most anticipated light heavyweight title bout since the Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver rematch back in May of 2004. In 58 professional bouts between Kovalev and Stevenson, they've scored a collective 48 knockouts. Moreover, they seem to genuinely dislike each other and although most give the edge to Kovalev, Stevenson certainly isn't a no-hope opponent. Adonis can really punch with his left hand from his southpaw stance and Kovalev isn't the hardest guy in the world to find and he has been down a few times as a pro.

Hopefully, HBO, which is aligned with Kovalev and Showtime, which is affiliated with Stevenson, can iron out the particulars and come together and make the fight the way they did the past two pay-per-view monstrosities between Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao last May and Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson in 2002. As of now the fight is dead because an agreement couldn't be reached between the two premier cable giants. Although one must believe that eventually the fight will come to fruition, especially on behalf of Stevenson who is 38 years old and needs to cash in soon.

Unlike Stevenson, who only has Sergey on his radar regarding a marquee bout on the horizon, Kovalev is tentatively in line to fight one of the best and most complete boxers on the planet, former super-middleweight champ Andre Ward 28-0 (15). A bout with Ward would be even more anticipated than fighting Stevenson.

Ward is a master technician and he's great at exploiting an opponent’s weakness while neutralizing their strength. Andre has never come close to losing in the ring and has a boxing aptitude that rivals Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather; that's how cerebral he is during ring combat. Ward also has the same kind of confidence that Muhammad Ali exuded, in other words it's not manufactured, and he just believes he's going to win. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that Ward is the physically stronger of the two, and if that proves to be true, Sergey could be in trouble because Andre is clearly the more fluid fighter. Ward is also capable of doing something Bernard Hopkins was only moderately successful doing when he fought Kovalev, and that's rough-housing him on the inside trying to unsettle him. Ward is also very hard to predict offensively, he mixes orthodox punches and nasty tactics once he's inside and he's a very hard guy to hit flush, and Kovalev has never been in with anyone like that.

Based on the above I almost sold myself on thinking Ward will win...but I'm not so sure.

Kovalev is a tough guy to game-plan for. I don't believe a fighter can be manufactured in the gym to beat him - it's almost as if you have to have been born to beat him, and Ward may very well be that fighter. What makes Sergey so tough, as you saw when he fought Bernard Hopkins was, Bernard couldn't get to Kovalev when he tried pressing him nor could he get him to come inside and mix it up that much. And the reason for that was Sergey's left jab. He was successful hitting Hopkins with it from long range and that set up the right hands that followed behind them. Adding to the problem was Kovalev's power. You could see that if Hopkins wasn't hurting all that bad after being hit, the sting of the punch sure kept him from taking any liberties with Kovalev as he looked for the perfect shot in an attempt to stabilize Kovalev's aggression. Hopkins, like so many other opponents was unable to take away Kovalev's jab, or at the least somewhat blunt it, and that was a huge factor as to why Bernard was back pedaling all night as he was searching for an answer he never found.

Andre Ward is much fresher than Hopkins was when he fought Kovalev. But he's never faced a fighter who he had to be so concerned with from long range the way he will be when he fights Kovalev. On top of that, Ward hasn't fought three times or more in a calendar year since 2009, and that's something that cannot be overlooked.

As of February 2016, Sergey Kovalev may be on his way to becoming, if he's not already, the most exciting and must-see fighter in boxing. And what really makes following him fun is how he's one of the few outstanding fighters in the sport with two legitimate legacy fights out there for him. Again, when it comes to rating and ranking fighters, it comes down to whom did they have in front of them and did they win? The Mayweather effect has pushed fighters of the current generation into thinking more about being undefeated than risking a loss against upper-tier opponents. Sure, he's fooled some into thinking it's all about the zero but it's really more about who you beat as world champion that wasn't washed up or on the decline.

Sergey Kovalev has one outstanding opponent, Adonis Stevenson, to match his skills against, and one great opponent in Andre Ward to measure himself against. If he goes 2-0 against them he'll probably have the deepest resume among active fighters in regards to who he fought and beat. And that will set him apart from the next best guy, whoever that may be. If he can post convincing wins over Stevenson and Ward, to go along with his win over Hopkins, it can be argued that he just may have compiled the best body of work of any light heavyweight title-holder in a decade.    

 Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

 

Comment on this article

Radam G says:

If the Krusher does what is in the last paragraph of F-Lo's awesome copy, the Krusher will be my pick for "The pug of the Decade." Holla!

teaser says:

Ward /Kovalev ...yup if he can Krush Ward that would put him up there with the greats ...but yes i have the feeling Ward will somehow find the kryptonite to "Ward " off the krusher ...he's the one guy who can adapt to pretty well any style ...can see him getting to krusher left side body to get some respect on the inside ...like you said unorthodox punching and ability to change on the fly will frustrate Kovalev like a prime time Hopkins plus ...expect kovalev to fight the way he fought Hopkins...careful behind the jab and try not to get drawn in ...slipping that jab can ward get in there in spurts? gonna love it

DaveB says:

No doubt, if Kovalev can beat these two guys he is the Fighter of the Decade. My opinion is that he beats Stevenson, probably by knockout, and loses to Ward. Of course Ward has to not have lost anything in the interim. He needs at least two fights before getting in there. With only one fight I will be doubtful of him overcoming Kovalev. I will be surprised if the Stevenson fight comes off but I hope it does. Stranger things have happened.

Kid Blast says:

Indeed

brownsugar says:

I remember like it was yesterday when Ward stepped out of the shadows of a low profile underacheived, 7 year career, ....Ward was going nowhere fast ......his career was mared by frequent injuries and bouts of inactivity.

We sat on the edges of our seats when Ward finally got a shot at the brazen Panamanian spoiler Edison Miranda.

I remember twitching anxiously when even the breeze from Miranda's crushing haymakers came in contact with Ward's chin. Especially since I had pegged Ward to eventually become tops in the division.

But Ward made it past Miranda in dominant fashion... the same way he made it past Kessler, Abraham, and Froch in the Supersix.

Now a days Ward is expected to breeze through opponents as if he's chopping up a cord of balsa wood. Due to his consistent domination of the opposition.

Ward reminds me a little of the 49'ers Legendary Quarterback Steve Young. For a while Young and his team were unbeatable.

Young was held together by titanium pins and pain-killers which had to require a lot of adjustment to work through but he always found a way to thread the needle at crunch time... one of the most domineering quarterbacks ever. It was almost as if Young did his best work when he was hurt the most.

Speaking of being hurt, it seemed as though the often injured Andre Ward was still favoring his right shoulder during his last two fights against Edwin Rodruigez and Paul Smith. Ward beat both of those guys by almost exclusively using his jab and choosing to utilize the right hand as little as possible.

If Ward was favoring his twice injured knee it was hard to tell because he was stepping toward his opponent rather than lounging forward or pivoting very much.

So now Ward comes back .....for a 2016 -title run after a lenthy spell of inactivity to take on a formidable opponent from the vaunted Cuban School, in a weightclass that he hasn't even fought at before. Sullivan Barerra.

And the whole time, Ward has been speaking the "GOOD-NEWS BOXING GOSPEL" to a nation of discouraged fans, who have been downtrodden by mismatches disquised to look like pay - per - view marque events.

Ward delivers a hopeful message in these dark times,..." I want Kovalev because nobody else does,... that's why I want him ".
Not something you hear everyday.

Nearly three years ago right here on the pages of the TSS I said Kovalez would ascend to the top of the lightheavyweight division.
After watching the relentless, remorseless Kovalev run roughshod over his hapless opponent in the most merciless fashion on one of NBC's pre-PBC showcase cards, I knew that this beast from the east wouldn't be showing signs of repentence of his winning ways anytime soon.

Kovalez learned his trade from the efficient, practicle and respected Eastern Block amateur system which emphasizes fundamentals over flash and conditioning over cuteness.

It amazes me how easily Kovalev gets his punches onto his his targets. He isnt that fast and doesn't throw combinations nearly as fast as Michael Spinks did but the champ rarely misses and usually makes the administration of a beatdown look as easy as pouring a cup of tea.
This is a testament to the skill, timing and experience of Kovalev, that he makes it all appear to be so routine.

But remember that Kovalev has been dumped on his keister twice recently by two non-descript opponents, however he did arise unhurt to stop both men within a round of going down if my memory is correct.

Its also ironic that both Ward and Kovalev were both put to the task by "Spoiler Supreme" Darnell Boone. Boone is rarely televised and as a point of reference he should be considered " The most dangerous Motha-Fu@#er you have never seen,.... Boone dropped Ward hard in Ward's 7th fight, he forced Kovalev to scramble for his 11th win by split decision,... and Boone nearly put Superman (Adonis Stevenson) into a coma for a knockout win.

Most recently Darnell halted the progress of another rising contender by the name of Phillip "The Real-Deal" JacksonBensen on 4/15/15.... well they're not real unless they can survive Darnell Boone.


-The immediate priority is...

Can Ward get past Sullivan Barerra without aggrevating another old injury?, and if he can,... can he jab Kovalev repeatedly from the outside on a bum knee?....or can Ward do his signature inside mauling while avoiding the Krushers bodyshotsz? Or maybe a combination of both.

Ward is a stylistic nightmare for Kovalev, while Kovalev is a precise enough puncher to at least land a half dozen good shots on Ward during the course of the fight, will Ward be able to withstand it?

Never has there been a more compelling matchup between two skilled and confident boxers since May and Pac... ... I hope we can get the fight.

stormcentre says:

Whilst I am interested in Ward V Kovalev; I'm much more interested in seeing either Ward V Beterbiyev or Kovalev V Beterbiyev.

Or both.

brownsugar says:

Whilst I am interested in Ward V Kovalev; I'm much more interested in seeing either Ward V Beterbiyev or Kovalev V Beterbiyev.

Or both.



All of the above would fill the bill nicely.

stormcentre says:

Yep, in my view Artur Beterbiyev potentially holds more promise than all of them at light heavyweight.

Not quite sure, but (given the difference between the top light heavies Ward has fought and Beterbiyev's skill-set) possibly even Ward.

Thing with Beterbiyev is that he knows where his feet/balance are at all times/distances (especially in close).

Plus, he knows how to anticipate incoming fire and can also vary his punches' speed/power so as to land with not only accuracy and strength - but also deception.

Those attributes represent things that you need to beat Ward.

Take a look at some of the positioning and shots he executed against Campillo and Johnson, particularly the medium/close range hooks that were stance agnostic.

And yes I agree those guys are not Ward or Sergey.

Nonetheless you can't get in position and precision-punch like that unless you're really good; even against mediocre opposition.

Therefore Beterbiyev's performances reek of a very well pedigreed and techniqued fighter of the likes that the light heavyweight scene has not seen for a while; even Holyfield - as brilliant as he was - didn't have some of the traits the Beterbiyev exhibits.

Beterbiyev is also a very confident puncher/fighter, and whilst his defence is not superlative (even aside from the fact that it's not poor) that may not matter so much with Ward at light heavyweight if they ever fought.

Artur - in my opinion - just needs a few more fights at the top level to ensure/prove he can bring all his skills into that arena and operate at the same level Sergery is.

And if that happens and he passes the test(s), well . . . then we will probably have a new Gorilla in the light heavyweight jungle, and one that I can't imagine Segey Kovalev will personally/privately be too excited to face.

Particularly given that Beterbiyev was probably one of reasons Kov's turned pro and left the amateur scene.

SuperLight says:

Yep, in my view Artur Beterbiyev potentially holds more promise than all of them at light heavyweight.

Not quite sure, but (given the difference between the top light heavies Ward has fought and Beterbiyev's skill-set) possibly even Ward.

Thing with Beterbiyev is that he knows where his feet/balance are at all times/distances (especially in close).

Plus, he knows how to anticipate incoming fire and can also vary his punches' speed/power so as to land with not only accuracy and strength - but also deception.

Those attributes represent things that you need to beat Ward.

Take a look at some of the positioning and shots he executed against Campillo and Johnson, particularly the medium/close range hooks that were stance agnostic.

And yes I agree those guys are not Ward or Sergey.

Nonetheless you can't get in position and precision-punch like that unless you're really good; even against mediocre opposition.

Therefore Beterbiyev's performances reek of a very well pedigreed and techniqued fighter of the likes that the light heavyweight scene has not seen for a while; even Holyfield - as brilliant as he was - didn't have some of the traits the Beterbiyev exhibits.

Beterbiyev is also a very confident puncher/fighter, and whilst his defence is not superlative (even aside from the fact that it's not poor) that may not matter so much with Ward at light heavyweight if they ever fought.

Artur - in my opinion - just needs a few more fights at the top level to ensure/prove he can bring all his skills into that arena and operate at the same level Sergery is.

And if that happens and he passes the test(s), well . . . then we will probably have a new Gorilla in the light heavyweight jungle, and one that I can't imagine Segey Kovalev will personally/privately be too excited to face.

Particularly given that Beterbiyev was probably one of reasons Kov's turned pro and left the amateur scene.



Yes, the impression I get watching Beterbiev is "solid". In his upper body posture, and his feet and balance, as you mentioned. His close, compact shots certainly did the trick on Cloud too.

I'd still like to see Ward fight either Kovalev or Beterbiev because he's a hell of a fighter, and hope he finds his groove when he comes back next month. Lee Wylie's analysis of Ward was pretty cool - "Like Water".

stormcentre says:

Actually, Beterbiyev V Barrera is also a good fight.

And, if Beterbiyev is fully recovered and fit then based on what I have seen of Sullivan Barrera (which, I must admit that whilst good, is still slightly less spectacular than its reviews) I think Beterbiyev will hurt him and win.

This could be a good fight for Beterbiyev (and also Sullivan) regardless of whether Sullivan Barrera wins or loses against Ward.


brownsugar says:

I like everything about Beiterbiyev Storm.... except the man looks like he has less than 6% body fat, he's a former cruiser weight, and He's still relatively young. I honestly don't know how long he's going to last at 175lbs.
I hope he can find a way and do it in a healthy fashion.

stormcentre says:

Yes, that's a good observation BS and one of the reasons why I stated . . .

"Beterbiyev is also a very confident puncher/fighter, and whilst his defence is not superlative (even aside from the fact that it's not poor) that may not matter so much with Ward at light heavyweight if they ever fought"

In post #9.

If Beterbiyev's amateur pedigree, experience, and other fighting skills allow him to - neuron (pound) for neuron (pound) - transcend through the pro ranks as much as Ward and Kovalev's have allowed them, then Beterbiyev V Ward and/or Kovalev will be a reality.

And for that prize I think Beterbiyev will do what's necessary to stay at light heavyweight.

It's been a long time since I have seen a light heavyweight control distance, tempo, and timing, and punch as beautifully as Beterbiyev.

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