Kovalev Stumbled, Then Humbled

By Marc Livitz on August 5, 2018
Kovalev Stumbled, Then Humbled
Has Sergey truly advanced past the two back-to-back losses? (Ed Mulholland/HBO Boxing)

The point here may just be that we don’t get enough shockers like this, at least not at the highest level in this sport…

Slow and steady wins the race. We’ve all heard that before. For those of us who grew up in the 1980’s, the Beastie Boys reminded us, “slow and low, that is the tempo.” How likely is it that newly minted WBO world light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez was grooving to “License to Ill” in his dressing room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on Saturday evening? He seemed beyond content to absorb the best of what Sergey Kovalev could throw at him through six rounds in the first high profile fight in “A.C.” in nearly four years.

The last time such a contest took place in the seaside New Jersey getaway destination, it was Kovalev who applied a powerful index finger to begin the closing of the career book of Bernard Hopkins. Did we just witness “Storm” Alvarez essentially do the same?

Internet boards will be alight and opinions will undoubtedly flow as to whether or not Sergey (32-3-1, 38 KO’s) has truly advanced past the two back-to-back losses he suffered to Andre Ward in 2016 and 2017. Regardless, this is why we watch and it’s also why so many of us are eternally in love with boxing. How nice would it be, at least for the purposes of conversation and heated debate, if either Gennady Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez were pummeled into submission in the same fashion next month as Kovalev was on Saturday night?

The point here may just be that we don’t get enough shockers like this, at least not at the highest level in this sport. Some of us may indeed now be judged guilty of getting ahead of ourselves. Before Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KO’s) caused Kovalev’s veil of potential destruction to slowly evaporate, we were treated to a co-main event starring a compatriot of the “Krusher” in Dmitry Bivol.

An all-Russian showdown was in the think tank of much of the boxing landscape which would put Kovalev in the crosshairs of Bivol (14-0, 11 KO’s). Almost thirty years ago, the handlers of Mike Tyson made a similar mistake. Not to compare Kovalev potentially facing Bivol to Tyson’s first real shot at Evander Holyfield in the early 90’s, but much like James “Buster” Douglas in 1990, Eleider Alvarez didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to just lay down and die.

In late 2016, Kovalev squared off against Andre Ward in Las Vegas in a wonderfully matched light heavyweight championship showdown that truly delivered. In the second round, Ward was dropped by Sergey, but he managed to regain his footing and fight magnificently from then onward, as did his Russian opponent. Very little separated the two men and the outcome, a one-point, unanimous decision win for Ward was razor thin. Still, one had to wonder if any cracks had begun to surface in the previously indestructible armor of Kovalev.

In June of 2017, matters were settled differently in their rematch. Ward won by seventh round knockout and of course, it wasn’t without further controversy. Was the winning punch indeed a low blow? That depends on who is asked and through what lens one cares to look. It doesn’t matter as much now, and it’s not due to Andre Ward’s retirement last year. Eleider Alvarez not only weathered the storm, so to speak. He also held up a lightning rod and took the biggest surge that Serg could throw at him.

Then, the storm calmed the storm. Did he stand up to the bully or was the word already out that the bully had lost his edge? The boxer became the puncher, as evidenced by three quick knockdowns in the seventh round. Kovalev looked as though he’d not seen the ‘wet floor’ sign when he went down for the first time. Things got progressively worse. The night was over with around fifteen seconds left in the seventh round of a fight he was winning.

What does Sergey Kovalev do now? Continue or count his victories as well as losses and call it a day? It’s quite difficult to imagine the killer instinct and marauding approach of the “Krusher” ever returning. Congratulations, Eleider Alvarez. Colombia as well as Canada can rejoice. You not only beat one of the most feared fighters in the sport, you also beat him up. It’s not a good night for the wrong reasons. Sergey Kovalev’s not a bad guy. Yet, things have changed. Winds have faltered. Perhaps even greater still, Adonis Stevenson looks much worse now.

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  1. ceylon mooney 04:53pm, 08/05/2018

    uh…alvarez wasnt supposed to lay down and die. he was not a buster douglas. alvarez been in the top 5 for a few years and was paid a fortune to not fight stevenson.

    this was two of the top guys fighting in what was, on paper, the most competitive fight at 175 since kovalev faced ward.