Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev 25-0-1(23KO) managed to bundle up three light heavyweight titles (WBA, IBF, & WBO) with his one-sided win over Bernard Hopkins at the Boardwalk Center, Atlantic City, N.J. The main point of interest, prior to the opening belt, was an expectation that sooner or later the experienced oldster Bernard “Alien” Hopkins 55-7-2 (32KO) would manage to set a trap. When the bait was taken, Hopkins would nail the Russia hard enough to start the ball rolling in his favor. After all, the Krusher, according to Hopkins, was a crude brawler, whose defense was porous, someone ready to be exploited.
The main reason or interest in the fight was Hopkins’ advanced age, and that carried through, even thought the ring action was one-sided. But, unlike other one-sided affairs, there remained the faint hope in the wily old fox. Might he once again shock the boxing world? The odds were against it. The likelihood of an upset grew even fainter when Philly’s own went down from a glancing right hand in the first round. The question of whether Krusher could hurt the veteran was answered.
Prior to the start of the main event, HBO’s Jim Lampley tried to make what he called “packing” of Kovalev’s gloves and issued. He offered his opinion, “Always there is intrigue” with packing of gloves. The point he attempted to make was Sergey Kovalev “packed” his gloves. The insinuation was that contributed to his knockout power. A live shot showed Kovalev warming up by first hitting his gloves together. Then he engaged in some stretching exercises, which involved placing one gloved fist on the floor for balance. Lampley ignored the stretching part, and concentrated on the glove. He described it as packing! Thankfully Roy Jones, Jr. and Max Kellerman didn’t voice much concern over the point Lampley was trying to make. Roy acknowledged certain activities involved packing, but seemed to feel it was just part of boxing Lampley’s kind of reasoning would handicap fighters.…..i.e. once gloves put on, no punch mitts, no punches again body padding, no striking mitts together, etc. would be allowed!
The surprise of the night was Kovalev’s ability to box. There weren’t many who thought he could prove the endurance or ability to box effectively for 12 rounds. When the shutout reached the middle rounds, the trio of Lampley, Kellerman and Jones, Jr. expected Hopkins to start coming on strong and take over the last half of the fight. After all, Kovalev had never been beyond 8 rounds. How was the miraculous feat supposed to be accomplished? Hopkins was to counter Kovalev and then move in close, so his superior in-fighting ability would allow him to sting Kovalev and turn things his way.
Hopkins’ stumbling block? Kovalev wasn’t taking the bait. When the Alien would try to sneak in a lead right, Kovalev would slip it to his left and continue moving out of range. Hopkins had to reset. He experienced the same kind of frustration he usually dealt out. Kovalev kept the fight at his range, using a long jab, much of the time delivered to the body. He kept Hopkins honest with his own lead right hands, a favorite of Hopkins.
Roy Jones, Jr. provided an exact pre-fight explanation of why Sergey Kovalev was going to be a tougher nut for Hopkins to crack. Roy explained that even though Bernard pulled off upsets against Kelly Pavlik and Felix Trinidad, he was going to have a tougher time with Kovalev, because Sergey had has faster hands and quicker feet than those fighters.
Kovalev carried out his game plan against the wily old bird. He found out Bernard is hard to stop, especially if Bernard’s main goal is to go the distance. Plus, Bernard Hopkins is one tough man. He wasn’t able to avoid all the Krusher’s bombs, but he took them and continued on. Lesser men would have folded, and then headed for the pay window, Hopkins isn’t made that way. There’s too much starch in the man. He’s stiff willed and determined. He takes deep pleasure and satisfaction in his achievements, and he isn’t about to do anything to tarnish his success.
Every aspect of the fight seemed to be controlled by Kovalev. He was the ring general. He dictated the pace with feints, leads, combinations, and good footwork. His power was frosting on the cake. Hopkins’ offense consisted of playing a little possum and then try to sneak in a punch. Kovalev wasn’t falling for it, He didn’t lose a round. Hopkins had a glimmer of hope here and there, but not enough to change the inevitable. The scales were tipped too much in favor of Kovalev. He was winning every round in convincing fashion.
When Kovalev’s hand was raised in victory, he took the opportunity to give Bernard a bit of advice. He suggested the Alien should hang it up and give younger fighters a chance. A quick moment later, he agreed Hopkins might have another chance at winning a belt by fighting Adonis Stevenson. Sergey is probably right on both counts. If Hopkins can get Adonis in the ring, then he should take the opportunity, but that’s the only one he should take. Anything short of that and he should hang it up and await induction into the Hall of Fame.