Since whipping Nathan Cleverly for his WBO Light Heavyweight title a year ago, Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) has fought a trio of unheralded, unheard of 175-pounders that take a semi-extensive BoxRec search just to find out their in-ring bios. “Krusher,” as the 31-year-old Russian is properly known, took a combined nine rounds to dispose of Ismail Sillakh and Cedric Agnew, hoping to set up a showdown with the other division’s knockout mogul, Adonis Stevenson.
But Stevenson booked to Showtime just days before Kovalev’s defense with Agnew, setting up acts of vengeance from Kovalev’s camp. First, Kovalev called the Haitian-born a “piece of s—” following his seventh-round KO of Agnew, and his promoter Main Events sued Stevenson, his promoter, and advisor Al Haymon for backing out of a verbal agreement for the two to meet later in 2014.
From it sprung what was thought to be a new boxing epidemic called “Kovalev-itis,” in which top fighters refused to fight “Krusher” due to his crushing abilities. Nothing looked promising for Kovalev. Fight after fight, one of the most exciting fighters in boxing had to get in the ring with an opponent far below his caliber, and the Russian would pummel him, becoming his own worst enemy as to why he would never get a worthy fight.
However, last Friday a deal came out of nowhere to announce that Kovalev would battle Bernard Hopkins, as long as he won against little-known Australian Blake Caparello the following evening. Kovalev obviously destructed Caparello, but it was not without incident. The previously undefeated Aussie knocked down the champ in the first, before getting drilled with a right-hand to the body in the second, followed by two more knockdowns. Aside from the first three minutes, it was vintage Kovalev.
At first glance, the proposed fight seemed like a prank, and for one gaping reason not entitled “Kovalev-itis.” Golden Boy fighters — like Hopkins — hadn’t fought on HBO (Kovalev’s network) since the Executioner’s unanimous decision win over Tavoris Cloud in March of 2013. As for nutting up to face Kovalev, which looks to be slated for early November in Atlantic City with three 175-pound belts on the line, Hopkins (55-6-2) seemed to be the guy.
First and foremost, Hopkins needed to fight an opponent by last Friday afternoon or else the IBF would mandate an opponent for him. But also, throughout his career, the Jesse Tuck of boxing has been in the ring with a plethora of big-namers. In recent years, Hopkins has fought fighters in their primes such as Jean Pascal, Chad Dawson and Cloud.
Yet both fighters have flaws. Kovalev knocks the opposition out so quickly, he has never been to the eighth round. While Kovalev gets the job done right away, Hopkins is the king of going the distance, with his last knock out coming 16 fights and 10 years ago in a middleweight title bought against Oscar De La Hoya.
The best news of all to come of this is that maybe — just maybe — this end boxing’s “Cold War,” the ever-frustrating battle between broadcasting big-wigs HBO (and their stable of Top Rank fighters) and Showtime (and their crop of Golden Boy fighters). Former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who had a long scuffle with Top Rank’s Bob Arum, left in June, and De La Hoya, the head of Golden Boy, seems to be making amends to their old feuds.
Hopkins-Kovalev might be the precursor to more Golden Boy fighters coming back to HBO, and it is hard not to get riled up about the possibilities. Aside from Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Timothy Bradley, Golden Boy owns the junior welterweight to junior middleweight divisions.
Imagine the potential fights if Golden Boy and HBO got back together: Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, Danny Garcia and Tim Bradley, or Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillan, just to name a few. Or how about Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather? Okay, let’s not get that ahead of ourselves.
All in all, Hopkins-Kovalev will benefit the sport for making the best fights possible and for a possible emerging star. Kovalev finally gets to prove himself against the upper-echelon and should he win, he would have three of the four 175 pound belts. Anyone looking for a championship at that weight class would have to go through him, or the other titlist, Stevenson.