For prizefighters, the proverbial “end of the road” is usually reached sooner than expected; harshly, abruptly often brutally. In that vein, this was about as appropriate an exit as could be drawn up for Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KO’s), former 175-pound badass, who left a trail of destruction in his wake for the better part of the last decade. Kovalev fought well, was leading on all scorecards, yet stopped dramatically after seven spirited rounds by Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KO’s). HBO’s World Championship Boxing broadcasted live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ., Saturday night, August 4th.
Alvarez’s career has been all about opportunity, or lack thereof. He’s been a mandatory for Adonis Stevenson’s WBC Light heavyweight title for quite some time, but the sanctioning body, Stevenson’s noted lack of ambition and the fact Yvon Michel promotes both men has conspired to leave Alvarez on the outside looking in. So, when 2012 U.S. Olympian, Marcus Browne, was scratched from his scheduled challenge of Kovalev’s WBO laurels, Alvarez didn’t hesitate to step up. “Carpe diem” as they say, and Alvarez made the most of it.
As always, Kovalev came out aggressively, stalking Alvarez, firing jabs and right crosses. Alvarez’s jab proved to be slightly better though, snapping Kovalev’s head, timing and thwarting degrees of the Russian’s vaunted offense as the bout progressed. Round 4 would prove to be the Colombian’s moment of truth; buckled by a series of right hands, absorbing big left hooks and lead rights from one of the biggest single shot bangers in the business. Body/head left hooks knocked Alvarez to the ropes and chopping rights accentuated Kovalev’s control of the stanza. But just prior to the bell, the game Alvarez snuck in a solid lead right, a reminder he was still very much in the fight.
Kovalev rode momentum into the 7th, where HBO’s on-air judge, Harold Lederman, had the “Krusher” winning 5-1. Seemed more like a 4-2 or 3-3 affair either way, to these eye’s. After a hard jab, Alvarez fired a 1-2, missed the jab, but landed a long, looping right cross. Kovalev stutter stepped and fell right on his ass. On very wobbly legs, Kovalev beat the count, Alvarez pounced, connected with another head snapping jab and huge hooks with both hands. A badly hurt Kovalev fell to his left, unable to brace his fall, arm underneath him. Disoriented but not discouraged, Kovalev bravely rose yet again but another salvo of dual handed hooks resulted in a third knockdown and a stoppage to the fight.
Hard to imagine where Sergey Kovalev goes from here. Contractually speaking, he has a rematch clause, but what could he do differently? Kovalev hurled hand grenades at Alvarez in the 4th, the most Alvarez has ever been landed upon with power shots, per Compu-Box punch stats, no less. Yet it didn’t matter.
Sadly, it seems Andre Ward cracked Kovalev’s code, put enough doubt in his mind to where he’s never quite the same again. Think Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield, “Sugar” Shane Mosley-Vernon Forrest or Roy Jones-Antonio Tarver. It remains to be seen if this is it for Kovalev, that’s for him to decide. But as a viable, elite level pugilist, it’s safe to say he’s at the end of his road.