By Tom Donelson / Member Boxing Writers Association of America
Sergey Kovalev faced Andrew Yarde but it also appears that he was facing Father Time as an opponent for at 36, he has been involved in a few wars recently and in the eighth round, he nearly saw his boxing career ended. The eighth round was the dramatic round of the fight as Kovalev came within a punch or two as former champion and Andre Ward observed from being stopped. Yarde dominated the round and hurt Kovalev with a series of punches including body shots.
Kovalev used his jab effectively in the beginning of the fight but as the fight wore on, Yarde used a body shot, a strategy that worked for Ward in his two fights against Kovalev, and started to make an impact.
The eighth round looked like a repeat of his first fight with Eleider Alvarez who won by a stoppage in their first bout, but Kovalev survived the round. Buddy McGirt told his fighter, either show signs of life in the next round or he stops the fight. Kovalev went on the attack and it was the older fighter who started to wear out the younger challenger as a left jab in the eleventh round stopped Yarde. From the ninth to the end, Kovalev looked like the Kovalev of old, using his jab to set up punches and it was a slam hammer left jab that ended the fight.
Now Kovalev faces a tough decision since he supposedly has been offered a big fight with Canelo Alvarez, but he also expressed an interest in uniting the light heavyweight titles. Alvarez is looking for a late fall, early winter bout and this could be Kovalev’s defining fight in a long and excellent career. Andre Ward summed up Kovalev’s dilemma, “How much does he have left in the tank? He showed again that he does not do well when he gets hit to the body, when somebody presses him and is not enamored with the power and can take the power. So, I think he’s in that tricky spot in his career where, if you have a cash out situation, meaning you can say hey, I’ve got enough in the bank to walk away, you should take that.”
It was reported that Kovalev turned down an eight figure offer to face Canelo to have this bout in his hometown, but it nearly proved disastrous. Now if the offer is still on the table, maybe Kovalev ought to reconsider. Canelo is offering the chance of a lifetime, a chance to make big bucks and maybe add the one luster to his career.
The two big fights that Kovalev is noted for in his career was his two bouts with Ward. The first bout was a close decision that Kovalev felt he won and with good justification, but the second fight ended with him on the canvas as Ward won his last fight before retiring for good to be in the broadcast booth.
Kovalev over the years has proven to be not just a tough fighter but a good defensive fighter as his two fights with Ward proved. Kovalev forced Ward to fight on the inside and turned the bout into a brawl, something that before these bouts, Ward wasn’t noted for. Ward was unable to use is boxing skills as Kovalev’s jab and power kept him at bay in the early part of the first fight, but Ward adjusted to hitting the body which slowed Kovalev down.
Kovalev has shown signs of age over the past couple of years but also showed the ability to adjust as he defeated Alvarez in their second bout and found a way to defeat Yarde. Alvarez’s challenge to Kovalev is his hand speed and left hook to the body but he does have the jab that is piston like and can force Alvarez on his heels. The other advantage is that he is a natural light heavyweight and Alvarez will be coming up in weight. The possibility exists that Alvarez may try to negotiate a catch up lower than 175 pounds and he will have all the leverage in the negotiations.
Alvarez will be the younger and quicker fighter but as Golovkin showed in their two fights, his defensive skills and power gave Alvarez trouble and Kovalev is a similar fighter to Triple G. So, this might be an entertaining fight and Kovalev may be the underdog, but he is capable of defeating Alvarez.