Photo courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions.
Ringside Report by John Archibald, Resolution Sports
Many questions surrounded an intriguing main event that pitted the young striker against the ageless tactician at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night. The two players in the match-up were IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) and WBA/WBO Titleholder Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), with Russian slugger Kovalev eventually leaving with the three belts after bettering Hopkins over a 12-round affair.
"He was a really tough opponent,” Kovalev said of Hopkins. “He is very good at keeping distance. I really respect him for the fight, but he needs to stop his career, I think, because he's already done a lot in the boxing world and he needs to give an opportunity to younger fighters to be champions. I'm next.”
Hopkins would be the last man to use his age as an excuse or define something as a moral victory, but this man two months shorts of his 50th birthday stepped up and showed the type of initiative to create a situation seen very little in boxing – the best fighting the best. Kovalev is an extreme puncher (who we also found out is a great boxer on Saturday night), and he had never heard the bell for the ninth round in his 26-bout career. The circumstances were very dangerous and had been avoided by most, including WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson, who has seemingly done everything he can to avoid Kovalev.
In the ring on Saturday night, Kovalev made a statement early. Hopkins jumped head-first into confrontation in the opening frame like he is known to do, but the difference this time was Kovalev timed his advance perfectly and dropped him with a sharp counter right before he could get out. Already, we had gotten a glimpse of his power, but we also started to get some early doses of his boxing pedigree. Honestly, we had not really gotten the opportunity to see it in his recent past because the powerful Russian has disposed of his opponents so quickly.
Throughout this contest, the hard-hitting Kovalev stalked Hopkins and did not allow the crafty Philadelphian to dictate the pace. Hopkins was never able to find any kind of rhythm, and none of his tricks seemed to be working. Defensively, he was pretty sound during this bout, but the aggression of Kovalev simply gave him no room to work.
The 12th round of this one was certainly a Round of the Year candidate, with both fighters going for broke. Kovalev wanted to be the first man to ever stop the crafty veteran, while Hopkins was looking to find that one perfect shot that could turn the boxing world upside down. It was Kovalev who got the better of the exchanges, but somehow, some way, Hopkins was able to battle back and make it to the final bell. The fact that he was able to survive that type of onslaught really does provide further evidence that this man may indeed be from another planet.
"I give him a lot of respect," Hopkins stated. "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."
What is next for these two fighters remains to be seen, but both seem headed in opposite directions. Hopkins did not rule out retirement, but Golden Boy boss Oscar De La Hoya said at the post-fight press conference that he does not see Hopkins retiring. He suggested a drop down to 168 pounds to fight the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., or Gennady Golovkin.
Kovalev let it be known that he wanted Stevenson next so he could completely unify the light heavyweight division. However, Main Events CEO Katy Duva made it clear what her focus was for him the next time he fought.
“I would like it to be the best deal,” she remarked. “This one was for the glory. Next time, we’re fighting for money.”
The final totals for Kovalev were the widest in Hopkins’ illustrious career, as the Russian was able to pitch a shutout by counts of 120-107 (twice) and 120-106.