One of the most eagerly anticipated contests of 2014 takes place in Atlantic City on Saturday evening.
Sergey Kovalev faces Bernard Hopkins and the Russian attempts to make history by becoming the first man to knock out “The Alien”.
Krusher (25-0: 23 KO’s) enters the contest as the favourite – but we have been here countless times with Hopkins (55-6: 32 KO’s) as the underdog; just ask Kelly Pavlik and Felix Trinidad.
Fans and experts alike have written Hopkins off but he has grazed on the under-dog status for over 25 years inside the ring.
Hopkins is old school – he came from the street and was sentenced to 18 yrs incarceration for nine felonies – but served only five of his sentence.
He is a ready-made Hollywood movie storyline.
With a CV that contains 20 Middleweight Title defences; 2001 he became undisputed Middleweight Champion unifying 3 divisions, the longest-ever reigning Middleweight Champion; the oldest fighter in history to hold the Middleweight title at 40 – and at 46 he became the oldest to win a major world title.
The Alien is from an era where the best fought the best. A species that in 2014 are becoming extinct. Yes there was politics back in the ’90’s but that was put to one side for the good of the sport.
He famously declared upon announcement of the Kovalev fight that he was “running to this fight, not away from it”. A clear dig at division rival Adonis Stevenson who rumour has it changed broadcaster from HBO to ShoTime so he didn’t have to face Kovalev.
“Suddenly, after I beat him, Kovalev was never dangerous. No, he hasn’t fought anyone of my caliber, but that still doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous. This guy killed someone [Roman Simakov on Dec. 5, 2010].” Source Ring Magazine.
What makes this bout fascinating is Kovalev is the complete opposite to Hopkins in so many ways. He is new-school, one of the pioneers of the Eastern European invasion in America.
Names such as Gennady Golovkin, Vasyl Lomachenko, Ruslan Provodnikov and the new kid on the block Artur Beterbiev (who holds an amateur victory over Kovalev). All huge punchers, all making tsunami-size waves in their respective divisions & all win with an unnerving smile.
I still struggle to get my head round how Hopkins is not only lacing his gloves up but is still competing at elite level. The man continues to defy not only the odds but father-time.
As the decades have passed, the 49-year-old has made adjustments to his training regime. The introduction of yoga & pilates is a common theme for elder boxers. Further conservation tactics entail Hopkins refraining from bag work – opting to shadow box countless hours with his arms underwater in the pool.
The Alien’s last KO came against Oscar De La Hoya just over 10 years ago and we would all keel over if he managed to stop the Russian.
Kovalev has a 90% KO ratio and is a lethal foe for Hopkins. Some believe this is a step too far for the rugged veteran and an expected late stoppage or decision appears to be the common belief. When the fight was originally announced I was part of the herd but the more I have studied both styles, I’ve changed my mind.
Hopkins will excuse the pun adopt prison-yard tactics in the first few rounds – leaning in with the head, using elbows, low-blows with the sole purpose of unsettling Krusher.
The power Kovalev possesses is obvious and the fact he is a 175lb puncher is the heaviest The Alien has ever encountered. Felix Trinidad was heavy-handed but at a lower weight division.
I do feel however that the 31 year’s old lack of lateral movement will be a huge advantage to Hopkins who historically has struggled with speed. I feel there is a reason Hopkins fancied the Kovalev fight – he has seen some chinks in the armour that he can exploit.
Visually this won’t be the most attractive fight as I expect plenty of clinches from Hopkins as he looks to frustrate. Kovalev will need to be patient, methodical and let his hands go when he has windows of opportunity.
I’ve written Hopkins off before but I think he will out-hustle Krusher down the stretch in an ugly, scrappy affair taking a split decision.
The winner will hold three out of the four Light-Heavyweight titles with the IBF, WBO and WBA titles at stake on Saturday.
Surely a unification fight for the victor against WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson in Spring 2015 has to be on the cards.
Imagine a 50 yr old man unifying a division for a second time in his career.
Only a human would put it past him…