Sergey Kovalev has a mean streak.
The Russian light heavyweight has destructive, game changing power, and isn’t afraid to batter his opponents with it. He’s not afraid to taunt with it either, circling his right hand in the air as he jabs with his left, grinning like a cat as he takes your heart. He isn’t unhittiable–you can touch him, but mostly what will happen is he will nod to you and then continue his onslaught, thumping body shots and world-spinning punches right into your forehead.
After he’s beaten you, left you crumpled on the ground, or half-heartedly protesting the referee or corner who has stepped in to save years of your life from any additional beating, he’s still mean. He’s over there dancing on the other side, smiling, raising his arms to the crowd–even if it’s your crowd, booing and upset at your loss–and checking you off the list of victims. He’s a hardass, a Russian assassin, and he’s one of the five best fighters in the world today.
Fight Recap: Sergey Kolavev TKO8 Jean Pascal
Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KO), who holds three major light heavyweight belts, has continually increased his competition in a decent division and cleaned them out one by one. He’s beaten down hyped upstarts (Nathan Cleverly) and respected veterans (Bernard Hopkins), and last night he went up to Montreal to the backyard of tough contender Jean Pascal (28-3-1, 17 KO).
Pascal is a bit of an enigma, a talented fighter who is also a bit off his rocker and whose personal indosyncrasies match his in-ring strangeness. He goes through stretches of inactivity (both in the ring and out), is highly emotional and lets that get to him, and generally acts like a weirdo. He showed up to fight last night through, and may have made more fans in a TKO loss than in any of his previous wins.
Pascal has an awkward style, where he tends to shell up and not do much for stretches off a round, only to follow up by bullrushing quickly and winging hard right hands in sudden, jerky movements. It’s tough to time and combined with an iron chin (he had never even been down before last night) it made him a rough fighter to share a ring with. His strategy stayed the same through the first few entertaining rounds of this fight, and though Kovalev was outworking him and winning rounds, Pascal was giving a good account of himself. He wasn’t above getting dirty either–throughout the fight, Pascal was landing thudding shots just on or below Kovalev’s belt, shots the Russian really didn’t enjoy.
The first knockdown of Pascal’s career came at the end of the third round, when Kovalev hit him with a shuddering right hand that almost knocked Pascal out of the ring and through the ropes. Though he survived to the bell, the fourth round began with a vicious onslaught from the Russian as Pascal merely tried to cover up, survive and recover from the beating he’d been given.
Then–hope. Pascal began to land a few of his winging right hand shots and push Kovalev back, working the crowd into a frenzy and giving himself some daylight. Pascal took the 5th round and had an argument for the 6th.
The beating Pascal had been taking over the course of the fight came to roost n the 8th round, in what was (fittingly for a Pascal fight) one of the strangest finishes in recent memory. Kovalev had pushed Pascal into a corner and landed a hard, sharp shot to the left side of the Canadian’s head, screwing up Pascals equilibrium and almost dropping him. Pascal managed to somehow stay on his feet, but his eyes were glazed over and he was done. In the process of going for the kill, the hungry Kovalev tripped coming in and went down. Referee Luis Pabon separated the two fighters and moved to bring Sergey to a neutral corner to reset. Meanwhile, Pascal could barely stand–he stumbled his way to a neutral corner and looked in horrible shape. He was confused and barely knew where he was. Kovalev saw this and pointed it out to the referee and Pascal’s corner with his cheshire cat grin–as in “Stop worrying about me, look at this guy.”
Knowing it was over, once the referee allowed them to reset, Kovalev approached Pascal as Pascal awaited his fate in the corner, barely moving off of the corner post. Kovalev landed two hard shots and Pabon, having seen enough about the condition of Pascal, stepped in to stop it.
It was a performance of heart and grit from Pascal and a domination by Kovalev, a true destroyer. Kovalev has turned into must-see TV, in a sport that has few fighters who can be called appointment-viewing.
Fight Recap: Vyacheslav Glazkov UD12 Steve Cunningham
Sometime the Wolf Score: Glazkov 113 – 115 Cunningham
In what was a fight with no redeeming qualities, Ukranian Vyacheslav Glazkov (20-0-1, 12 KO) took a highly questionable and controversial unanimous decision over American Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KO), who has gotten the short end of the stick on decisions now a few times and frankly deserves better. Cunningham is a limited fighter at heavyweight, too small for the division and lacking stopping power, and we know what his ceiling is: he is a mid-to-high level contender who gets by on guts and heart, and always comes to fight.
Glazkov was the prospect here, the supposed contender in the making and undefeated fighter, but I continue to be unimpressed by him. He’s won a couple of undeserved decisions, he’s not active enough or gritty enough and his last few performances have been uninspiring to say the least. In what was a highly uninteresting fight, I found Cunningham to be racking up the rounds based on activity alone–Glazkov was just not doing enough. In a fight I had scored evenly through ten rounds, Cunningham took the last two rounds on my scorecard to take the fight.
Though there were a lot of close rounds throughout, the judge’s decision was a clear one–116-112 twice and 115-113 in favor of Glazkov. The fact that three judges can all turn in scores so different from what everybody else is seeing is a sham. In case you’re thinking of checking this one out in order to have an opinion on the scoring controversy–I’d advise against it. The fight had no action, energy or inspiration to start with, and the decision just made me upset at myself for sitting through the whole thing. There were no winners in this one.
Fight Recap: Isaac Chilemba UD10 Vasiliy Lepikhin
Sometime the Wolf score: Chilemba 99 – 91 Lepikhin
I won’t write much about this opener from last night’s HBO tripleheader, because it was terrible (praise be to Kovalev for saving last night’s card, seriously). Vasiliy Lepikhin (17-1, 9 KO) was an undefeated fighter coming into the ring taking a step up in competition against the veteran Isaac Chilemba (24-2-2, 10 KO), an experienced and tricky fighter. Lepikhin proceeded to completely shit the bed, showing zero heart, adjustments or skills in a one-sided beatdown in which Chilemba ran circles around the one-time prospect and in which Lepikhin spent long stretches cluelessly plastering his fists to the side of his own head and doing nothing else.
It was a horrendous performance, and we probably don’t need to see or speak of Lepikhin ever again in these parts.