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Sergey Kovalev & This Week in Boxing

Michael McCarthy is here to discuss the main talking points from this weekend’s boxing action, where Sergey Kovalev was his usual effective self.

Perhaps the most significant fight of the weekend took place on Saturday night in Atlantic City as Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev defended his WBO light-heavyweight title against unbeaten Australian, Blake Caparello.

Despite his unbeaten record, Caparello was something of an unknown at this level but this fight was given added significance by the announcement on Friday that IBF champion Bernard Hopkins had agreed a deal to face Kovalev in a winter unification showdown.

This was significant for a number of reasons; Hopkins had been expected to face Adonis Stevenson in a bout that would have continued the Golden Boy/Al Haymon/ Showtime alliance. Instead, Hopkins (who owns a small percentage of Golden Boy Promotions) will face Kovalev on HBO, the first time since March 2013 that a Golden Boy fighter will appear on the network.

Aside from the boxing politics aspect of the announcement, there is the incredible fact that Hopkins will begin his attempt to clean out the light-heavyweight division in November, just 2 months shy of his 50th birthday.

Of course, everything hinged on Kovalev delivering a win on Saturday night. “Krusher” has been ploughing through the light-heavyweight division, putting together a string of consecutive knockout wins that stretches back almost four years. Caparello was expected to be little more than a speed bump for Kovalev on his road to a showdown with Hopkins. However, it initially appeared that Caparello hadn’t read the script.

In the opening round, he stunned the crowd by scoring a knockdown. A body shot, followed by an over-hand left caused Kovalev to touch a glove to the canvas, temporarily reducing the suspicions that Kovalev is, in fact, a cyborg.

The Russian looked more embarrassed than hurt and Caparello would pay for his moment of success in the second round. A straight right hand to the body from Kovalev sent the Australian to one knee. “Krusher” would follow that up by trapping the challenger in the corner and unleashing a sustained barrage of punches that dropped the Aussie for the second time.

When Caparello was once again trapped and eating more punches, the gloriously-named referee Sparkle Lee had no choice but to step in and call a halt to the contest. The focus of the light-heavyweight division immediately switches to November for a showdown between a seemingly irresistible force in Kovalev and an ageless wonder in Hopkins.

The busy weekend of action had kicked off on Friday night at the Civic Hall on Wolverhampton. The star attractions were both unbeaten prospects; heavyweight Lucas Browne and Birmingham welterweight Frankie Gavin. Both men are being groomed for future world title challenges.

The big punching Aussie, Browne was up first. His opponent was fellow unbeaten heavyweight, Ukrainian Andriy Rudenko. Brown survived some scares and cuts to both eyes to claim a unanimous win in what was a very close and entertaining fight. The fight was a real tough test for Browne and showed he still has some way to go before he can be considered ready for a title tilt but he did get the win and keeps his momentum on track.

Gavin was not so fortunate. Although a late comer to the professional ranks, Gavin’s opponent, the 39 year old Leonard Bundu carried an unbeaten record into the fight. Last December he came to London and stopped former British champion, Lee Purdy. The fight with Gavin proved to be just as entertaining. The middle rounds provided the key moments of the fight. In the 6th, a perfectly placed body shot from Bundu put Gavin down for only the second time in his career. Gavin was badly hurt and did incredibly well to survive both the count and the round. He remained in survival mode for the 7th round.  Frankie showed enormous heart to come storming back in the later rounds but the damage was done in those two rounds as Bundu claimed a one point win on two of the three scorecards.

In Las Vegas on Saturday night, the meeting of welterweights Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves had the potential to be a fight of the year candidate. Rios is not overly familiar with concepts like head movement, footwork and defence, whilst Diego Chaves had claimed 19 of his 23 wins by knockout. Fireworks were expected but unfortunately the fight devolved into an ugly mess. The opening two rounds were actually as advertised but by the third round, the holding and grappling began to take over the fight. A sign of a good refereeing performance is often that it goes unnoticed. Unfortunately, in this case, referee Vic Drakulich stole the headlines.

Drakulich took a point from Chaves in the third round for excessive holding – a sign of things to come. In the 5th round it was Rios’ turn to lose a point as Drakulich decided to penalise him for throwing Chaves to the canvas. Another tangle in the 6th round had Drakulich threatening both fighters with the prospect of disqualification. Another ugly encounter in the 8th round saw Chaves lose a second point, this time for punching on the break.

In the 9th round, a bout of grappling ended with both fighters tumbling across the ring to the canvas. Drakulich’s patience was finally wearing out. Following yet another clinch, Chaves was disqualified with referee Drakulich citing repeated violations. It was an unsatisfactory ending to a fight that failed to spark.

Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.

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