Kovalev Drops And Dominates Hopkins Over 12 Rounds
By Robert Earle Stanton: As the bell rang for the 1st round for the IBF/WBA/WBO Light Heavyweight Unification you saw something abnormal in Bernard Hopkins (IBF/WBA Champion) going down by a right hand, at first not sure if it was a slip but yes, Bernard got dropped by WBO Champion Sergey Kovalev (only the 3rd man in history to drop him, however Hopkins has never lost to a man who dropped him) yet maybe that set the tone. Hopkins, would not only give away the 2nd but hardly threw any punches yet took some and by the end of the 3rd Hopkins was lucky the bell rang. Watching Philadelphia’s Hopkins over the years, now 49, a couple months shy of his 50th birthday, he has proved over and over again that his age held no bearing as we’ve heard “This is the end of Hopkins” before. I especially remember that being said before the Kelly Pavlik fight, as Pavlik was a big puncher yet Bernard would take the young undefeated Pavlik into the deep water and drown him with lateral movement.
For Kovalev had gone the distance only once prior to this, fighting to an 8 round win by Split Decision. Their resume’s much different as of late as Kovalev had one name in Cleverly in his past five fights picking up the WBO title and Hopkins has been fighting names such as Shumenov, Cloud, Dawson, and Pascal twice and picked up the WBA and IBF titles (he prior to that lost the WBC title he won and prior to that lost the “lineal” title he gained in his first Light Heavyweight fight vs Antonio Tarver as he’s a mulit time Light Heavyweight Champion).
By the 4th round the more educated ring general Hopkins would surely be figuring out Kovalev while giving away these rounds, or was it Kovalev looking great? He was cutting off the ring winning every second with hard shots, not slowing down, and dominating the fight. Would he run out of energy and would Hopkins take him into that deep water and drown him? Truth is Hopkins has never had a knockout at Light Heavyweight, even though having an amazing career there, his last KO came during his great tenure at Middleweight being the only person to ever knockout Oscar De La Hoya (who would stand by him in the post fight interview giving him a clap) during his ten year undefeated streak with 20 successful defenses however that was “The Executioner” – This is “The Alien” and by the 5th and 6th you could see that Hopkins was awake and the lights were on yet he was not throwing punches.
There was one thing that was undeniable and that was Kovalev showing us what we what we thought he may lack – he was not tiring, he was keeping distance and keeping the pace as ring generalship and effective aggression could never be so well played out in front of our eyes. It was as if Hopkins was just a spectator and shell of himself, not getting off at all until the 7th round where there was some hope but by the 8th Kovalev would take that spot of hope away. To trainer Naseem Richardon’s plea for more activiy it was not coming and didn’t look as if it were going to and if it did Bernard would have to now win every second of every round coming up and maybe need a knockdown also, which seemed improbable.
Bernard was tentative. He was letting Kovalev dictate the entire fight in every way and 8th and 9th rounds it seemed sometimes Kovalev could be throwing some arm punches – for who wouldn’t be tired as he was the only one throwing it seemed. Kovalev would get his second wind and continued to dominate the 10th and 11th rounds and this was a shutout. Hopkins had spots of great defense (and a great chin) in this fight yet did not capitalize on anything as he was kept at a distance and probably hesitance played a major part by the hard punching Kovalev.
Then the was the 12th where Hopkins had his shot and came out and hurt Kovalev, astonishingly, as we waited for this after 11 one-sided rounds yet it would only entice Kovalev to hit back harder and more often – Hopkins would stick his tongue out one last time for the reason being it may the the last time he would get to do it at a profession he’s been so good at and then it got ugly as Hopkins got hit hard and Kovalev went for the 12th round knockout and Hopkins was hurt and there was 30 seconds left and he was taking a beating and it looked as if this could be the first time Hopkins could be stopped in his career as it got worse looking and it was almost Rocky-esque in that the aspect of going the distance – the difference was that this wasn’t Rocky Balboa – this was Bernard Hopkins, WBA and/IBF Light Heavyweight Champion, a legendary figure young fight fans still hear folklore about and he would in fact make it to the final bell which I believe was the right call by the referee, he earned that dignity and respect, for if there has been one man to stand out on his own and do it his way it’s been B-Hops. In 2001, after winning the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy by knocking out heavily favored undefeated knockout artist Felix “Tito” Trinidad (whose name was engraved on the trophy prior to the fight) it was Hopkins who schooled him and knocked him out in the 12th unifing the WBA/IBF and WBC titles. He would turn down a rematch with Roy Jones because of Jones’ demand at a 60/40 purse during the famous HBO interview “60/40 I’ll kick your ass” said Jones and Hopkins was called stupid for not taking 6 million dollars yet when he got over 10 to fight Oscar De La Hoya he said, “Does that sound like a stupid guy or a man who knows his worth?”
The ending to this fight would be completely different and not a sad ending at all for a man who will soon be 50 years old, former unified Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Lineal Champion now 55-7-2 for a kid who at 17 walked into a maximum security Graterford Prison for a 5 year bid and said, “I needed those years” to lose his first professional fight (in yes, 1988) to go on to be what he became, what more could one do? He went out of his way to fight the now 26-0-1 (23 KO) Kovalev who is 31 years old and for the first time under the huge lights and on the big stage of PPV beat a man who is not just some old legend, but someone who has proved more worth at Light Heavyweight prior to this fight than Kovalev has so don’t get the story mixed up with age as this was not the story of a young man beating an old man for Kovalev was defending and fighting for Hopkins’ two legitimate titles in the division and Hopkins has never looked worse and has never been dominated as he was by Kovalev who has shown his worth in every way, proved he could go 12 rounds and not gas and show how he could dictate the pace and not get psyched out by the master psychic and unify three titles out of four in his division. As with every ending there is a new beginning and I believe this fight made Kovalev better. He rose to the occasion. This is time for celebration for both men. True warriors in their own right and one was the better man tonight and that was the winner by wide margins of 120-107 twice and 120-106 yes, it was that definitive. Even if old school rules still existed as a Hopkins would remember when he was active you had to take someone’s titles – Kovalev definitely did that.
After the fight Hopkins gave all praise to the new champion and when asked why he didn’t hold on at the ending of the 12th and took shots from the division’s heaviest hands it took him less than a second to reason, “Because I’m crazy.” When Kovalev was asked of his future he did not call out any names yet called on his promoter as Hopkins added that boxing’s “Cold War is over” and I will say there is one fight we’d love to see and that is Kovalev taking on the most enticing thing at Light Heavyweight which is Adonis Stevenson, WBC and “Ring” recognized Champion. If that fight doens’t happen I would believe that Kovalev’s three titles, and this victory outweigh what Stevenson has done. Adonis Stevenson looked liked his nickname “Superman” when he jumped up to Light Heavyweight in 2013 and won the WBC title from “The guy who took it from Hopkins” in Chad Dawson in a first round KO and then beat Cloud (who had one loss, losing his strap to Hopkins prior by UD) by stoppage. He then stopped Bellow yet his performance versus Fonfara left a lot to be desired as does his choice in next opponent which is 22-2 Dmitry Sukhotsky. The only other name in the Light Heavyweight Division that could be interesting would be Jean Pascal, who like Stevenson, has a match coming up in Canada, where they both hail. You could also look at undefeated Super Middleweight Champion and P4P ranked 2 (maybe at the time only for certain reasons he is not number 1) Gold medalist Andre Ward who already had a taste of someone who beat Hopkins at Light Heavyweight in Dawson and he was right there to meet him at a catchweight and make him say the one thing you don’t say or do in boxing, which is “quit.” Ward is also having problems finding an opponent as of late for a “Big Fight” and the stage couldn’t be set any higher.
Kovalev is only 31 now and the world is his, as is the future. The fight may not have been great yet historic in a real passing of the torch, an end to a historic career if there ever was one and a major statement for Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.