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Dmitry Bivol Iced the Cake at an Eastern European Soiree in Atlantic City

Bernard Fernandez

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – If ever there was proof that life sometimes imitates art, consider what took place here Saturday night in the Mark G. Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The eight-bout card was a veritable smorgasbord of Eastern  European boxing talent, the centerpiece of which was WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol’s wide and efficient unanimous decision over shopworn but still reasonably dangerous former WBC light heavy titlist Jean Pascal. It was a historic occasion, in light of the fact that that it was the final telecast for HBO World Championship Boxing, ending the premium-cable network’s signature affiliation with boxing after a run of 45 years. But there was historical context of another sort, perhaps missed by spectators in the half-filled arena and HBO viewers.

Calling the action at ringside was the HBO broadcast crew of veteran blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley and commentators Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr., all of whom played themselves in Creed II, the eighth film in the iconic Rocky franchise, which opened nationwide just three days earlier. The fairly standard revenge plot is an outgrowth of 1985’s Rocky IV, which introduced audiences to Ivan Drago, the remorseless Russian Olympic champion who is his country’s first professional boxer. Drago fatally bludgeons former heavyweight titlist Apollo Creed in the ring and tries his best to more or less do the same to Rocky Balboa in a climactic slugfest in Moscow. Thirty-three years after the original East-meets-West storyline, Creed II has Apollo’s son mixing it up with Ivan Drago’s remorseless, intimidating son in a matchup that no longer seems unique because Russian pros – really, quality fighters from throughout Eastern Europe – are now commonplace in America and just about everywhere else where punching for pay is allowed.

Asked about the post-Iron Curtain makeup of the card, which included three fighters from Russia, three from Uzbekistan, four from Mexico, four from the U.S., one from Uganda and one from Canada by way of his native Haiti (Pascal), Bivol said it was a natural progression after a new generation of fighters from the former Soviet Union discovered the joys of capitalism and freedom of movement previously denied to their forebears.

“Before it wasn’t (possible) because we had USSR,” said Bivol, who was born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and now resides in St. Petersburg, Russia, in explaining the ever-increasing presence of highly skilled Eastern European fighters in bouts staged around the globe. “When there was USSR (which fragmented in 1991), there was no professional boxing, only amateur. Now it has kind of opened up with a lot of opportunities for these good amateurs to come out and fight in the world. They have really good backgrounds and they are showing it in the professional ring.”

After his turn at the post-fight podium, Bivol – whose English is surprisingly good, if heavily accented – posed for a sort of class picture with heavyweights Evgeny Tischenko and Sergey Kuzmin (both Russia), welterweight Shakhram Giyasov (Uzbekistan) and super bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev (Uzbekistan), all of whom won their bouts in impressive fashion.

But make no mistake, the star of the show was Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) who is too polite and a bit too light at 174.4 pounds to conjure thoughts of Drago the Terrible. Presumably just entering his prime at 27 (he turns 28 on Dec. 18), Bivol is a boxer-puncher who goes into every fight thinking knockout but is not displeased if his path to victory is more readily achieved with basic fundamentals and tactical superiority. There were moments in the methodical disassembly of Pascal – which one ringside observer described as “a competitive ass-kicking” – when it appeared that Bivol could conclude matters early and with a flourish, but his reticence in pressing his advantage owed at least in part to sparring sessions he had with Pascal two years earlier.

“When I sparred with Jean Pascal two years ago I felt his power,” Bivol said. “He is a really strong guy. He looks like Cross-Fit man.”

Impressive musculature or not, it soon became apparent that the 36-year-old Pascal is on the downhill side of a nice career and did not have enough weapons to seriously jeopardize Bivol’s hoped-for rise to the very top of the 175-pound weight class. After being semi-shellacked in the seventh round, Pascal –- chastised in the corner by his trainer, Stephan Larouche – came out in desperation mode to start round eight, winging wide and wild shots that Bivol easily stepped away from until the challenger’s furious assault gave way to fatigue.

The official scorecards – judges Carlos Ortiz and Lynne Carter each had it 119-109 for Bivol, with Henry Grant a bit more generous to Pascal at 117-111 – were reflective of the punch statistics tabulated by CompuBox, which showed Bivol connecting on 217 of 678, 32 percent, to 60 of 357 (16.8 percent) for Pascal, who chose not to convey his thoughts to the inquiring minds at the post-fight press conference. Pascal, a resident of the Montreal suburb of Laval, Quebec, had mentioned in the lead-up to the fight that he was on his “farewell tour,” a journey that appears to be accelerating to its conclusion, if it hasn’t arrived there already.

To his credit, Bivol is both a realist and as humble as most fighters of his stature ever get. He wants the kind of marquee fights his rising stock suggests are in his immediate future, but it takes two to tangle, as his consolation-prize pairing with Pascal demonstrated. Had he had his way, Bivol would have instead squared off in a unification bout with WBO champion Eleider “Storm” Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs), but Alvarez instead elected to defend that title in a rematch against the man from whom he took the title, Russia’s Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1, 28), which will take place on Feb. 2 at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.

“Every time I say to my team I want big fights,” Bivol said. “I want big names. I want belts. (But) if you can’t get me unification fights in my division, maybe I can go down a weight class. I want to make it big in boxing. I am ready. I have one belt and of course I want more.”

Which is Bivol’s way of saying that he does not have a strong enough argument to make a compelling case for being recognized as the indisputably best light heavyweight around, not with Alvarez, IBF champ Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) and WBC ruler Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs) all claimants to that designation. And don’t go to sleep on Kovalev, who might still have enough gas left in the tank at 35 to turn the tables on Alvarez, who knocked him out in seven rounds on Aug. 4, also at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City.

Those big fights to which Bivol refers are plentiful, at least in theory. In addition to the other titleholders against whom he’d love to test himself, there are Oleksandr Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs), Badou Jack (22-1-3, 13 KOs), Marcus Browne (22-0, 16 KOs) and Joe Smith Jr. (24-2, 20 KOs). It should be noted that Beterbiev is a Montreal-based Russian and Gvozdyk a Ukrainian, making for even more Eastern Europeans splashing around in the deep end of the light heavyweight pool.

“These guys are the best,” he said in the sort of nod to other light heavyweight titlists that goes against the grain of the standard braggadocio found in boxing at the highest levels. “I am not the best in light heavyweight division. I am only one of four. We should make fights to understand who is the best.”

Should his preferred targets at 175 pounds prove difficult to land, Bivol said he has the frame to comfortably pare down to 168 and test himself against the biggest fish in that division, which likely will be Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez (50-1-2, 34) should he succeed, as expected, in wresting the WBC super middleweight crown from the United Kingdom’s Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) on Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

“Many fighters want to fight against Canelo,” Bivol said of his willingness to move down if necessary. “Of course, me too. I’m not a big guy. I can make (168).”

In the other HBO-televised bout, Akhmadaliev (5-0, 3 KOs), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, defended his WBA Intercontinental super bantamweight title on a ninth-round stoppage of fellow southpaw Isaac Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs), of San Pedro, Calif. And if you think Akhmadaliev won his minor belt in rapid fashion, consider Madrimov, who won the vacant WBA Regional super welter championship in his pro debut, on a sixth-round TKO of Mexico’s Vladimir Hernandez (10-3, 6 KOs).

Another Olympian, this one a 2016 gold medalist – Tischenko (3-0, 2 KOs) – put away Mexico’s Christian Marischal (11-2, 5 KOs) in two rounds.

Two U.S. fighters, lightweight Karl Dargan (19-1, 9 KOs) of Philadelphia and welterweight Logan Yoon (14-0, 11 KOs), upheld American pride in this night of Eastern European dominance, Dargan scoring an eight-round decision over Moises Delgadillo (17-13-2, 9 KOs) of Mexico and Yoon (14-0, 11 KOs) stopping Uganda’s Hamizah Sempewa (12-11, 6 KOs) in five rounds.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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It’s a ‘Three-Peat’ for Eddie Hearn, the 2018 TSS Promoter of the Year

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One billion.

That was the glitzy number rolling off the lips of men and women in sharp business suits as they knocked back glasses of champagne atop a rooftop garden in midtown Manhattan back in early May. It was here, in the commercial capital of the world, that UK promoter Eddie Hearn announced an eight-year deal with subscription streaming platform, DAZN, in a play to dramatically alter how boxing is consumed and disseminated  — all, yes, to the tune of one billion walloping dollars. The fine print let you know, of course, that only two years were guaranteed, among other caveats. But who was counting? Certainly not Hearn (pictured with his father, Matchroom Sport founder Barry Hearn), whose enterprising ways once again, for the third year in a row, make him TSS 2018 Promoter of the Year.

Some readers will find the honor redundant, perhaps even dubious. But if Hearn’s work in 2016 and 2017 at Matchroom might be charitably described as “domestic-level,” his endeavors this past year were far more international and innovative in scope.

No one would have begrudged Hearn if he had decided to stay put in an Essex abode and oversee, twice a year, what is by now one of the great sporting spectacles today: an Anthony Joshua fight, which depending on whether it takes place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff or at Wembley Stadium in London, typically draws upwards of 75,000 spectators. But the inexhaustible Hearn, smelling fame and fortune across the Atlantic, had other ambitions in mind other than counting “AJ” gate receipts and PPV revenue from the comfort of his chaise lounge.

“I am trying to do what no UK promoter has ever done,” said Hearn shortly after announcing the DAZN deal. “Everybody wants us to fail, just like they did when we came into the UK five or six years ago, but this deal gives me a chance. In six years’ time we want to be the No 1 promoter in America.”

That last statement might make a veteran US promoter like Bob Arum keel over on the floor in stitches. But the fact remains that Hearn arrives with more ammunition than any British outsider since the colonial days. By linking up with DAZN — a startup bankrolled by billionaire Len Blavatnik and helmed by ex-ESPN head John Skipper — Hearn boasts the infrastructure to grow his firm into an American and perhaps even global powerhouse. But it is his position at the forefront of the new technology that DAZN represents that makes Hearn the most noteworthy promoter of the past year. If streaming is the future (as seemingly everyone in the sports media aisle seems to think), Hearn wants to be sure that he has a seat at the table.

Through Hearn, DAZN, the self-styled “Netflix of Sports,” has bulldozed its way into the American boxing market at a time in which the industry has never looked more in flux and fragmented. The news that HBO would no longer showcase boxing sent shockwaves across the industry, but for purely sentimental reasons. In reality, the boxing business had long outgrown the diminishing offerings from HBO. How Hearn will steer his company in this new landscape as DAZN’s chief content provider will be a key story in the coming years.

Hearn launched the first DAZN boxing card in September with the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin fight in Cardiff. October was even busier. The first DAZN show in the US was held in Chicago and showcased the likes of Artur Beterbiev, Danny Roman, Katie Tayler, and Jarrell Miller, as well as the main event pairing Jessie Vargas against Thomas Dulorme. A few weeks later, Hearn promoted one of the last HBO shows at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden featuring the tightly-contested middleweight title match between his charge Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The following weekend, Hearn flew up to Boston to stage another middleweight showdown on DAZN headlined by new signee Demetrius Andrade. Tevin Farmer, another DAZN signee, fought on the undercard.

But what has truly earned Hearn goodwill with boxing’s finicky hardcore fanbase was his decision to put his weight behind the World Boxing Super Series, the much-lauded tournament series that lacked a significant and serious broadcast partner in its first iteration. An otherworldly talent like knockout artist Naoya Inoue, who is currently participating in the bantamweight tournament, deserves to seen by a US audience.

In a hint at his global designs, Hearn announced recently that Matchroom/DAZN would begin staging eight boxing cards a year in Italy, where DAZN currently has a significant presence in the soccer scene (Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is a global ambassador for DAZN).

But for all the initial fanfare, the past year for Hearn has not been without its learning curves. His bold promise (or was it brash gloating?) to lure marketable US fighters aligned with Al Haymon, including Gervonta Davis, Adrien Broner, and the Charlo twins, fell flat on its face when the PBC announced its output deal with Fox, in addition to renewing its commitment with Showtime. And while Beterbiev, Andrade, Farmer, and Miller are nothing to scoff at, they are hardly the kind of fighters entrusted to bring major credibility and recognition to a brand sorely in need of both. Indeed, the splash that DAZN was looking for would come later in the year and without Hearn’s involvement: the signing of Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to an exclusive contract estimated to be worth $365 million.

Furthermore, though Hearn signing unified cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Uysk certainly deserves praise, his current roster of US fighters are not as impressive as he would have you believe. The November 17 show pitting a mismatch between Jarrell Miller and Bogdan Dinu and as well as a tawdry assortment of over-the-hill fighters, like Brandon Rios and Gabriel Rosado, in boxing backwater Kansas City was an obvious clunker.

Still, there has been no promoter in 2018 more joined to the efforts, for better or worse, to reinvent the sport. Who knows, maybe six years from now Hearn will find himself back safely ensconced in his London office happily hyping a homegrown contender from Yorkshire, and DAZN, blanched and faded from years of financial hemorrhaging, will have been auctioned off to some Silicon Valley unicorn at pennies to the dollar. Maybe.

In any case, should Hearn seek to add another TSS trophy to his Chippendale cabinet for a four-peat, he need only do one simple thing in 2019: cut the dillydallying and make the heavyweight matchup that everyone wants to see in Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder. Like many of the sport’s most colorful impresarios before him, Hearn has attracted both admiration and disgust at a fever pitch. He will have much more of the former when he truly decides to play ball with Wilder’s handlers and consummate the one fight that would benefit the sport as a whole.

But that is supposing he cares about such a thing. Most promoters, as they have shown time and time again, do not. We will find out soon if Hearn is any different.

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Tyson Fury is the 2018 TSS Comeback Fighter of the Year

Arne K. Lang

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Tyson Fury

When the TSS year-end award season rolls around, some choices are no-brainers and others are head-scratchers because there are so many worthy candidates. Selecting Tyson Fury as our 2018 Comeback Fighter of the Year was a no-brainer.

When Fury left the sport for what would ultimately be a 31-month layoff, it soon became evident that we might never see him again. It wasn’t just that his heart was no longer in the game. He fell to pieces, letting his weight balloon to almost 400 pounds.

We would learn that there was more to the story. Fury was abusing cocaine and alcohol and had mental health issues that he readily acknowledged. He told reporters that he was seeing a psychiatrist who had diagnosed him as bipolar and manic depressive.

But Fury pulled himself together and gradually worked his way back to where he was fit to fight again. He returned to the ring on June 9 in Manchester in a supporting bout to Terry Flanagan’s140-pound title defense against Maurice Hooker. In the opposite corner was Sefer Seferi, a 39-year-old puffed-up cruiserweight.

The fight was a travesty. Fury, 11 inches taller and 66 pounds heavier, hardly worked up a sweat and the same could be said of his Albanian opponent who quit after four rounds.

For his second comeback fight, Fury chose a man nearer his own size, former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta. They met on August 18 in Belfast on a show headlined by hometown hero Carl Frampton. Fury won the contest easily in the eyes of the referee who awarded him all 10 rounds, but he wasn’t impressive. Indeed, the fight had no indelible moments.

In the post-fight press conference following the Pianeta fight, Fury’s promoter Frank Warren announced that the self-styled Gypsy King would fight WBC champion Deontay Wilder next and that the fight would materialize in late November in Las Vegas. As it turned out, the match came to fruition in Los Angeles at the Staples Center on Dec. 1.

It was widely assumed that Warren was blowing smoke. Surely Fury needed more rounds to shake off all the rust after his long spell of inactivity and self-abuse. But to some it made perfect sense that Fury would take on such a daunting assignment at this juncture. The cynics holding this view said that Fury was a certified loon and the longer the wait before he was thrust into a big money fight, the greater the chance that he would do something stupid and it would all fall apart.

The oddsmakers made Wilder a 7/5 favorite. In Las Vegas, there was late money on Wilder. At one large property, the odds shot up to 11/5 on the day of the fight.

After 40 pro fights, Deontay Wilder was still rough around the edges. Fury, it was widely understood, was the better boxer. But Wilder could take a man out with one punch and it figured that he would clock the Gypsy King who figured to tire in the late rounds if he could last that long.

By now every serious boxing fan is familiar with the details of the Wilder-Fury fight. Suffice it to say that Wilder did clock him in the late rounds, not once but twice, the second compliments of a left hook that knocked a staggering Fury down hard in the final round. The punch, wrote London Guardian scribe Kevin Mitchell, would have anaesthetized a horse.

The punch pulled the fight out of the fire for Deontay Wilder. For five long seconds as he lay prone on the canvas, Tyson Fury looked dead as a mackerel.

But hold the phone.

By some miracle, Fury was able to beat the count – just barely – and, more astoundingly, he got the best of the milling during the remainder of the round.

When the decision was announced – it went into the books as a draw – Fury didn’t bellyache. He had a look of satisfaction on his face as referee Jack Reiss simultaneously raised his hand and the hand of his opponent. Afterwards, he would say that he was certain that he had won enough rounds to earn the decision, but that if he had ranted and raved it might have started a riot. Indeed, whenever there is an especially large delegation of British boxing fans there is a hooligan element. And the Wilder-Fury fight played out before a large delegation of Brits who left the premises justifiably disgruntled but orderly.

At the post-fight press conference, the Gypsy King did something charming. He burst into song, leading the media in a rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Yes, over the years, to his everlasting discredit, Fury has hurt people with words that were misogynistic, homophobic, and even anti-Semitic. But at moments like these the big galoot is so cuddly that it’s hard not to love him.

As comebacks go, Fury’s was strange. He wasn’t coming off a loss and he didn’t win. But he emerged from a very dark place and gave a performance that was not only redemptive but inspirational.

The 2018 TSS Comeback Fighter of the Year was a no-brainer.

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Eleider Alvarez Forged the 2018 TSS Upset of the Year

Jeffrey Freeman

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Alvarez

HBO World Championship Boxing called it quits in 2018 but not before airing the Sweet Science (TSS) Upset of the Year: Eleider “Storm” Alvarez’s jaw dropping seventh round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight title at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly President Trump’s Taj Mahal.

The legendary cable network that broadcast the Douglas-Tyson shocker in February of 1990 retained its reputation as a theatre of the totally unexpected on that Saturday, August 4. It was supposed to be a return to elite form for the Russian Kovalev (now 32-3-1 with 28 knockouts) and a chance for promoters to make boardwalk boxing great again.

For the 34-year-old Colombian Alvarez, successfully transplanted to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2009 by Groupe Yvon Michel, it was the realization of a bold prediction that fell upon mostly deaf ears: “Kovalev will be a very difficult fight but I will be the new WBO champion of the world.”

Right on both counts.

Alvarez (booked as a +400 underdog) appeared to gain an early advantage with impressively aggressive boxing skills but Kovalev wasn’t going anywhere without a fight and he pummeled Alvarez in the fourth round with his long jab and solid power punches—outlanding him 3 to 1.

Alvarez returned to his corner down on the scorecards.

Max Kellerman may have been able to see what Alvarez was doing to win the first three rounds but ringside judges Carter, Pasquale and Ortiz did not. Regardless, Alvarez pumped his fist in celebration, well aware he’d just taken the best of ‘The Krusher’ without being too badly hurt by any of it. “I wanted to show him I have a good chin,” he said after the fight of the assault.

The fifth and sixth were fiercely competitive with both rounds being won legitimately by Kovalev who presently began showing signs of fatigue while Alvarez (24-0 with 12 knockouts) recovered from the fourth round drubbing he’d proudly endured; his left cheek bloodied. If Kovalev’s plan was to outbox Alvarez and win a decision, he lacked the stamina needed to go six more rounds.

Alvarez answered the bell for the seventh ready to make good on his stormy forecast calling for rain on Kovalev’s parade. With a minute and twenty seconds left in the frame, Alvarez feinted a left jab to the body; following up full-speed with a looping right hand to the side of Kovalev’s unprotected head. Kovalev wobbled backwards onto the seat of his pants, decked by a jabby boxer assumed to be a light hitter with a trio of surgically repaired right knuckles.

Up fast at the count of “four” from American referee David Fields, Kovalev was in the eye of the storm now. Alvarez went for the kill with poise and precision. A right uppercut rocked Kovalev’s head back. A left jab had a similar effect. A right cross strafed his face. With 40 seconds left in the round, Alvarez connected with a ferocious left-right combination and Kovalev fell again. And again—Kovalev got up quickly but this time in no condition to continue and he could no longer protect himself. Alvarez walked straight in and landed a clubbing right around Kovalev’s guard. Kovalev collapsed onto all fours and Fields immediately waved it off as Alvarez celebrated.

A new light heavyweight star was being born.

Asked if he wanted to face HBO undercard winner Dmitry Bivol in a WBO/WBA unification match-up, Alvarez indicated a willingness to face all comers. “I’ve been waiting five years to fight the best in the division. I’m now among the best at 175. Whatever comes, I’m ready.”

It won’t be a long overdue confrontation with promotional stablemate Adonis Stevenson. The 41 year-old “Superman” was beaten into a medically induced coma by new WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk on December 1 in Quebec City. What’s coming instead is an immediate rematch with Kovalev, scheduled for February 2, 2019 in Frisco, Texas—streaming live on ESPN. Alvarez probably needs another KO to retain his new title. The three official judges in the first fight did him no favors and Texas is infamous for dodgy officiating and sketchy scoring.

Believing that he needs to be in better shape if he hopes to avenge his latest defeat, Kovalev is fielding yet another new trainer, new International Boxing Hall of Famer, James “Buddy” McGirt. Says Krusher of this ‘last chance’ sequel: “I’ll be ready [this time] and I will take back my title.”

Time will tell.

Despite taking an ambulance ride to the hospital after getting his ass officially kicked, Kovalev went on record claiming Alvarez was “lucky” to get the knockout victory. Kovalev’s loyal promoter Kathy Duva may have convinced her guy it was a fluke but a result like that is surely no accident. “Sergey was clearly winning when he just got caught,” she casually explains. “It happens.”

No Kathy, it happened. It happened. The Sweet Science 2018 Upset of the Year. My Alvarez-Kovalev II prediction: It happens again. Alvarez TKO in nine, Kovalev calls it quits.

Other Notable 2018 Upsets: Roberto “Rifle” Ramirez’s second round beat down of Dejan Zlaticanin in June, Francis Chua’s split decision over Kye McKenzie on the Horn-Mundine undercard Down Under, Emanuel Navarrete’s victory against Isaac Dogboe for the WBO 122 lb. title on the Lomachenko-Pedraza undercard at MSG, and as written about by TSS’s own Matt Andrzejewski, Hassan Mwakinyo’s shocking TKO of Sam Eggington in the United Kingdom.

UPSET PICK POSTSCRIPT

It’s funny how “boxing experts” often claim to have picked the surprise winner of a prize fight only after said fight is over. At a packed press conference in New York City to announce the summer title bout between Kovalev and Alvarez, I couldn’t find a single media member or industry insider willing to entertain the notion of an upset, much less an Alvarez knockout.

Face-to-face with Kovalev, Alvarez looked and sounded like a sure-fire winner to me. Where Alvarez appeared fit and ready to fight that day if need be, Kovalev struck me as a little too fat and happy for his own good. After Kovalev was knocked down and out on HBO, social media was full of ‘I told you so’ tweets from ex post facto smart alecks and keyboard warriors.

What I observed in the lead-up to the fight led me to conclude the 35 year-old Kovalev was not taking his relatively unknown opponent as seriously as he should have been. Kovalev’s middle finger morphed into a peace symbol. He actually said it wasn’t his goal to knock Alvarez out!

Ultimately, I was the only reporter out there who could read the writing on the wall, noting last May what a “high risk, low reward” fight this was for Kovalev; one with the potential to “go all wrong” for him. I couldn’t have been more right. While most (if not all) fans and media regarded the result as a foregone conclusion, I wrote that Kovalev would be UPSET by Eleider Alvarez.

He told me, I told you.

It happened.

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