Kovalev Returns—Leave It Where the Goats Can Get It

By Marc Livitz on November 24, 2017
Kovalev Returns—Leave It Where the Goats Can Get It
Many felt it would take some time to help the cult of Kovalev grow across sporting circles.

Kovalev will have to keep on doing what he does best. The savage knockout has the best chance of bringing crowds back, again and again…

Three years ago this month, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev entered the ring to face a surefire legend in Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Although he did his best to knock out his iconic Philadelphia adversary, Kovalev had to settle for a wide unanimous decision win. The upside, however, was that he left the squared circle with two more light heavyweight titles than he originally brought with him. Hopkins succeeded where others had failed, if there is such a tangible statistic. Yes, he lost the contest, yet he was able to take Kovalev into deep waters. Prior to that November night on the boardwalk, Sergey had not been troubled to go past eight rounds with any of his prior opponents. It was a bit surprising to some, as he possessed a staggering 92% knockout ratio at the time of their contest with a record of 23 knockouts in 25 contests in his five years as a professional fighter.

Many of us had a feeling that it would take an ample amount of time to help the cult of Kovalev grow across sporting circles. There are still, to this day, so many mainstream sports fans who attest that they’ve not watched much boxing since Mike Tyson left the arena. Of course, what drew multitudes of people to the television or ticket office at the time were not only the savage knockouts almost guaranteed by “Iron” Mike, but his always interesting personality as well. So, the fact that Sergey Kovalev had to his credit punching power which rivaled one of the greatest nemeses of the silver screen in Ivan Drago didn’t seem to matter. Not many seemed to care that ‘whatever he hits, he destroys’ and that he was also from Russia as well. He remained a hard sell, save for true fans of boxing.

Three successive knockout wins followed his humbling of Bernard Hopkins from March of 2015 though the following January. Each contest followed the trends of the past. None ventured past round eight. By early 2016, fans began to clamor for a showdown with undefeated light heavyweight newbie Andre Ward, who’d made the jump to the division after achieving superstardom as a super middleweight, yet had endured an unfortunate layoff due to promotional disagreements.

Not until a July of 2016 contest against Isaac Chilemba did Kovalev look a pinch more human than mere knockout machine. Of course and by his own admission, Sergey made a mistake by returning to his native Mother Russia for a homecoming contest. “It’s important for me to spend all of my time here in America until I finish my boxing career,” said Kovalev during an international media conference call. “When I’m done, I can go back to Russia because when I’m there, I don’t have time to do anything.”

That particular July evening in Ekaterinburg, Kovalev won a wash, however not a walkover against Chilemba in the same city where Czarist Russia came to an end in July of 1918. We’d get the fight with Andre Ward and not the back and forth drama of previous years whenever so much was made to stand in the way of so little to be done in regards to high profile matchups.

Just over one year ago this very week, Kovalev gave Ward all he could handle across twelve, well fought championship rounds in Las Vegas. There was one knockdown in the contest, which itself was razor close. We were treated to a bout that showcased two of the best fighters on the planet, yet the term ‘we’ is rather loosely based. Not many cared to watch the bout, as its paltry 165,000 pay-per-view buys tally would suggest. Ward won by a single point that night by unanimous decision. It’s an ending which is still hotly disputed as well as defended to this day.

They’d have a rematch this past summer, of course. That one didn’t go twelve rounds, yet many felt Ward went below six o’clock on Kovalev’s vital region en route to an eighth round stoppage win. There seemed to be a bit more that separated Ward and Kovalev this time, even before the alleged low blows thrown by Andre stopped the contest. There would be no talk of a third fight and Ward officially retired in September of this year. Incidentally, even fewer seemed to care about this contest. Thirty thousand fewer buys on on pay TV and more crickets than chanting at the bout itself inside of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The entire buildup was like a morgue. Why? The two men are among the absolute best in the game, yet light heavyweights aren’t the glamour division right now. Either that or the respective personalities of each competitor weren’t enough to make people care. There’s no “big drama show” or anomalous redhead. There’s no retired ‘TBE’ taking on a crossover star from a different fighting discipline. There’s no mainstream attention from those who know less about boxing than most of us do about thermodynamics.

There’s not much of a change this Thanksgiving week as we inch closer to 34-year-old Kovalev’s (30-2-1, 26 KO’s) return to the ring against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KO’s) for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, which Sergey lost to Ward last year. What can be done for Kovalev to gain more attention in a sport which is not much more than a three-headed monster? It seems all he can do is stay the course and win by knockout.

He can call out 40-year-old WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, if he so chooses. He’ll need a convincing win at The Theater of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan to gain any ground lost. He parted ways with longtime trainer John David Jackson and enlisted the help of Abror Tursunpulatov of Uzbekistan.

It’s funny how professional boxing works sometimes, isn’t it? At times, we’re eager to let newcomers into our pugilistic brother and sisterhoods, yet we still take minor offense when someone tells us why the sport either no longer or never appealed to them. Still, they’ll pack a friend’s living room to watch a retired former world champion take on a long-shot who made the jump from the octagon to the ring.

Image still sells. Canelo Alvarez does little in the way of words to sell his fights. It doesn’t matter that he may need to be checked for a pulse during interviews as long as he fights hard for a boxing crazed nation and has the advantage of a difference in appearance from the majority of his fellow boxing countrymen. That’s just the way it is, as some love to say.

Sergey Kovalev and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy will meet this Saturday in New York City on an HBO televised card. The telecast of World Championship Boxing begins at 10PM ET/PT. Kovalev will have to keep on doing what he does best. The savage knockout has the best chance of bringing crowds back, again and again. He’ll have to put it plainly enough for all to understand. A stoppage win and no less. He’ll have to leave it low enough so the goats can get it.

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  1. Your Name 08:54am, 11/27/2017

    The relative inexperience of all the challengers that some on this thread are gloating about (and I don’t care how hard they punch) tells me Kov will own the LHW division once again. The handicap of haters is their emotional approach to their “expertise” at commentating. LOL!!

  2. Lucas McCain 02:25pm, 11/25/2017

      It’s too bad about the lightheavies.  Great fighters like Conn, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore, Bob Foster, Michael Spinks (and you might add in Floyd Patterson) had to go up and fight the big bruisers to make the real dough.  Roy Jones seemed to do alright, though I don’t know his purses or his current bank account.
      I don’t read any Ukrainian, but I wonder about the double-y at the end of Shabranskyy’s name.  An extra male chromosome, perhaps?

  3. Bruno Schleinstein 12:57pm, 11/25/2017

    At this point there could be a half dozen fighters better than him at Light Heavy. Bivol, Gvozdyk, Beterbiev and on and on! Still…..since he won’t get another shot at Ward and even if he can manage to beat some of these other guys….the only thing that can open that window that was slammed shut by Ward’s crunching shots to his vodka ravaged nutz is a KO win over Adonis…..nothing else will suffice.

  4. Bruno Schleinstein 12:55pm, 11/24/2017

    He had an epiphany and is drinking more water and less Beluga now! More than likely a little more and a little less! This is a get well setup because they think they can land the right on Shabransky like Barrera did and get the stoppage! Mismatches suk…..comeback gimmies suk….and get well fights suk hard! They all mean that someone gets beat up so some asshat can get back on tracK! Let’s hope that Shabransky doesn’t cooperate and goes hard to the body hard tomorrow night! Let’s get real here…if he is all that…. he would be in there with Marcus Browne ....no problem… for the Krusher!

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