Sunday, November 09, 2014

Kovalev is too much for Hopkins

Bernard Hopkins - Photo courtesy of Mike Gladysz/Main Events

By John McMullen
jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com

ATLANTIC CITY (The Phanatic Magazine) - Krushers evidently don't care what's in their path, be it terrestrial or other worldly.

That was the lesson to take home on Saturday in Atlantic City as the unbeaten Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) stayed that way, outlasting the 49-year-old Bernard "The Alien" Hopkins (55-7-2) by unanimous decision en route to unifying the light-heavyweight title in front of a near-sellout crowd at Boardwalk Hall.

Kovalev, the WBO kingpin coming in, earned Hopkins' IBF and WBA belts as the seemingly ageless one finally succumbed to "Father Time" just two months shy of his 50th birthday.

"I'm very happy," Kovalev said after the win. "This victory was for my (newborn) son Aleksandr."

The Russian masher set the tone early, scoring with a hard right to the top of Hopkins' head in the first round, a blow that sent the veteran to the canvas and foreshadowed a quick night.

Hopkins had other ideas, though, and regrouped to show the skills that have made him one of the greatest defensive fighters of all-time.

Kovalev wobbled Hopkins again in the eighth round but when the bell rang it was official, the nearly half-century old pugilist had taken the Krusher farther than anyone else.

Hopkins once billed himself as "The Executioner" but that nickname really hadn't fit in over 10 years when a then-39-year-old B-Hop scored his last knockout against Oscar De La Hoya in September of 2004.

However, as the gift of power left Hopkins, the Philadelphia native simply relied on other strengths, namely his experience, guile and gamesmanship, to frustrate opponents. And "The Executioner" morphed into "The Alien" by winning 10 fights over the ensuing decade with triumphs over name fighters like Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones, Jr. and Jean Pascal.

The oldest champion in the history of the sport was just cheating the crippling effects of aging, however, he never really solved them. And unless B-Hop walked away on top (not his style), a younger, stronger fighter who didn't fall prey to Hopkins' defensive-oriented, often antagonistic
style of fighting was going to make him look like a 50-year-old man.

Enter Kovalev, the rising Russian star who is 18 years younger than Hopkins and knocks everybody out as evidenced by the fact 23 of his previous 26 pro fights have ended with his opponents glassy eyed.

While Hopkins has been taking 12 rounds to bedevil his foes, Kovalev hadn't gone more than seven rounds since October of 2010 and has never been forced to fight more than eight in his professional career.

Until tonight.

Round 9 was the magic number for Hopkins and a firm indication he was going to shock the world yet again except for the fact he wasn't.

Kovalev dominated the fight, cutting off the ring and stalking a weaker prey, pitching a shutout by winning all three scorecards, 120-107, 120-107 and 120-106.

Hopkins did actually daze Kovalev a bit in the 12th round but the Russian responded with another stinging right which hurt Hopkins. Instead of going down, however, Hopkins stuck out his tongue, a poor decision that antagonized Kovalev.

Hopkins got the worst beating of his life in the waning moments of the fight but stayed up and hung on, a proud warrior refusing to tap out.

The numbers were scary. Kovalev landed 38 punches in the final frame, the most by a Hopkins opponent in the 41 bouts Compubox has tracked. Overall, the Russian landed 166 punches to 65 for Hopkins. The power punches were even more lopsided with Kovalev having a 121 to 40 advantage.

The fight should have been stopped but wasn't. Hopefully Hopkins doesn't pay for that down the line.

Kovalev, meanwhile, earned the respect of a legend and showed he was no one-trick pony.

Hopkins proved something too, though. A 31-year-old B-Hop would have cleaned this Krusher's clock.

"I give him a lot of respect," said Hopkins. "We both would fight anyone and that's how we ended up here tonight. That's what brought us together. That's what the people want to see, one title, one belt, one champion."

JERSEY SHORE

Both Hopkins and Kovalev had a history of big fights in Atlantic City before Saturday night. This was B-Hop's 20th fight in the seaside resort and his sixth at Boardwalk Hall.

"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."

Kovalev, meanwhile, fought his only two previous American title defenses in Atlantic City, both of which were knockouts with the most recent coming against Blake Caparello at the now-shuttered Revel Casino back in August.

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

OLYMPIAN ALI TAKES A STEP UP IN CLASS

Emerging welterweight talent Sadam Ali, a 2008 U.S. Olympian, took a major step in his career by knocking out veteran slugger Carlos Abregu in the co-feature of the night.

The unbeaten Ali (21-0, 13 KOs), a Brooklyn native, is regarded as one of the top young stars in the division and sent a message against Abregu (36-2), a proven fighter with 29 career knockouts and a seven-fight winning streak coming in since suffering the lone previous loss of his career to Timothy
Bradley in 2010.

"This is the big fight I've been asking for," Ali said. "Abregu is a seasoned veteran. He hits hard and he comes to fight."

Ali did respect Abregu's power early and was hesitant to engage, drawing jeers from a crowd desperate for action. The boos continued through the third round with the Corona ring girls serving as the only respite for the disinterested gathering.

A barely audible Ali chant picked up in Round 4 with the hopes of inspiring the fan favorite but it was quickly abandoned as each fighter seemed content to keep their distance.

Ali finally connected with a straight right hand that sent Abregu to the canvas in the sixth, the first round that wasn't serenaded with boos when it ended.

Ali gained confidence from there and realized he had a significant quickness advantage but he seemed content to run out the clock and play the counter game.

A desperate Abregu finally pushed the action in Round 9 and had Ali reeling and sitting on the ropes until Ali awakened and responded forcefully, knocking Abregu silly with a devastating right again later in the round. Abregu tried to regain his bearings from there but couldn't as things were waived off at 1:59 of the round.


UNDERCARD UNDERWHELMS

In the biggest mismatch of the night -- on paper and in the ring -- veteran cruiserweight Nadjib Mohammedi (36-3, 22 KOs), the WBA Continental and French champion at 175 pounds who is ranked number one in the world by the IBF, fourth by the WBA and eighth by the WBO, stopped Kansas City southpaw
Demetrius Walker (7-8-1) at 2:16 of the fist round.

Walker knew he was outclassed and looked like he was in this for a pay day, drawing boos when he collapsed a second time after some pedestrian blows from Mohammedi.

In the lone heavyweight bout of the night, up-and-coming Ukrainian contender Vyacheslav Glazkov (19-0-1, 12 KOs), a 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist who is currently ranked number two in the world by the IBF and number eight by the WBC, topped Miami's Darnell Wilson (25-18-3), a former world title
challenger at cruiserweight, in a lackluster affair.

The powerful Wilson had destroyed careers before, most notably ending the 36-0 run of David Rodriguez last December with a sixth-round knockout, and he was able to stun Glazkov with a hard right in the sixth round. The younger Glazkov was far better conditioned, however, enabling him to consistently pepper
Wilson to the point that the referee called things off after the seventh round. Glazkov was winning all three scorecards by lopsided margins (70-63, 70-61 and 70-63) at the time things were halted.

The undercard finished with former kickboxing world champion Vyacheslav Shabranskyy's first 10-round fight. Shabranskyy (11-0, 9 KOs) hardly needed any extra time, however, as he overwhelmed the heavy-handed Emil Gonzalez (11-9-1) in a light-heavyweight affair.

A native of Zhytomyr, Ukraine who now makes his home in Los Angeles, Shabranskyy systematically picked apart Gonzalez before things were called off after the second round.

PHILLY'S HUNTER WINS, BARRERA STAYS UNBEATEN

Philadelphia featherweight Eric Hunter (19-3, 10 KOs) scored his second straight impressive performance by stopping Los Angeles' Daniel Ramirez (11-2) by TKO at 1:23 of the sixth round. The 28-year-old Hunter, who once spoiled the perfect record of Jerry Belmontes, was coming off a 10-round decision win
over Yenifel Vicente in March that earned him the vacant USBA title at 126 pounds.

Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (14-0, 9 KOs) continued to make up for a late start in boxing, moving a step closer to title contention by dismissing of Florida's Rowland Bryant (18-4) by TKO after the 35-year-old Bryant failed to answer the bell for Round 5. Already ranked in the top 15 by the WBA, Barrera has now won four times in 2014, including knockouts of Lee Campbell, Eric Watkins and now Bryant.

Russian super middleweight Andrey Sirotkin (5-0, 1 KO) kept his record unblemished by dominating journeyman Michael Mitchell (3-5-2), who fights out of Paterson, New Jersey, in a six-round unanimous decision. Sirotkin cruised on all three scorecards, 60-53, 59-54 and 59-54.

Lightweight prospect Ryan Martin (9-0, 5 KOs) remained unbeaten by upending Isaac Gonzalez (17-4) by TKO at 1:38 of the second round in the opening bout of the night.

ALL HAIL HOPKINS

A loss shouldn't diminish Hopkins' brilliance or his legendary staying power.

The superstar was born on Jan. 15, 1965 and if you take a look at some of the other notable athletes born that year, B-Hop's amazing run starts to come into focus.

Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was born a little less than nine months after Hopkins and last fought professionally in 2003 when he stopped Vitali Klitschko.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson was born about two months after Hopkins and hung up his cleats for good in 2003 after a 16-year career. Meanwhile, another HOFer, former Eagles and Vikings star Cris Carter, was born in November of '65 and called it quits in 2002 after 15 star-studded seasons.

Over in baseball, 3,000-hit star Craig Biggio was born in December of '65 and played his last season in 2007.

"The Admiral" David Robinson and Scottie Pippen were the two biggest basketball stars who started their journey the same year as Hopkins and Robinson retired in 2003 while Scottie lasted until 2008.

Finally, one of the greatest hockey players of all-time, Mario Lemieux, was born in '65 and stopped skating by 2006.
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