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Kovalev Has Finally Gotten Hopkins’ ATTENTION



Sergey Kovalev was newly arrived in these United States, hoping to make his mark in the country in which his boxing heroes lived and worked. Then the 27-year-old Russian spotted one of those heroes, up close and personal.

Well, sort of.

“One day, when I had just come to America, 4½ years ago in L.A., Hopkins was to me, like big legend. Famous guy,” the WBO light heavyweight champion was saying Tuesday morning at a press gathering in Philadelphia, the first stop in a multi-city media tour to hype the Nov. 8 unification matchup between Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) and Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), the WBA/IBF 175-pound titlist. “I had just come from Russia and I never seen before any famous boxers, like (Oscar) De La Hoya or Hopkins or Mike Tyson.

“I was surprised when I saw Hopkins at show, (Sergio) Mora against Shane Mosley. I called Hopkins, like, three times. `Bernard! Bernard! Bernard!,’ to take a picture with him. But he didn’t turn to me. I did not get his attention. So I was, like, `OK. See you one day.’”

If this sounds like the familiar tale of one fighter’s bruised feelings nursed over time into a revenge mode until some payback can be achieved inside the ring, think again. Oh, sure, it’s a reasonable scenario, and certainly one that would have some validity had Hopkins been the aggrieved party, inadvertently or otherwise. A component of B-Hop’s enduring success is his ability to employ any perceived slight as reason to work up a frothy rage against virtually every opponent. But Kovalev is a big teddy bear at all times except fight night, quick with a smile and a distinctively Eastern European blend of self-deprecating humor and modesty. He comes across in interviews like Mr. Rogers with an Ivan Drago accent.

So, does Kovalev – an opening-line 4-to-11 favorite over Hopkins, who turns 50 on Jan. 15, just 66 days after he swaps punches with the “Krusher from Russia” in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall – believe he can become the first man ever to knock out boxing’s ageless wonder, or to at least beat him bloody?

“I think nothing,” Kovalev said. “Just go to the ring and do my work, my job. As usual.” Except, of course, that this is not really a matchup that can be described as anything usual. It can’t be. As much as he might try to make Nov. 8 sound like just another day at the pugilistic office, Kovalev surely understands that boxing history – one way or the other – is going to be made.

“Is the most important, the most interesting fight, in my career,” he allowed. “When I was a child and I watch some fights on TV, Hopkins was who I saw. I never thought that I could get to fight with Hopkins. But dreams come true in America. Day by day, step by step, I come to this goal. Am very happy to get this fight.”

When Kovalev was a child, how could he have imagined he might someday fight Hopkins? “The Alien,” as the Philadelphian now likes to call himself, was considered an old man, by boxing standards, when he dominated and then stopped the favored Felix Trinidad in the 12th round of their Sept. 29, 2001, middleweight unification showdown in Madison Square Garden. He was then 36 years old, in some ways just about to enter his prime instead of receding from it.

“They started calling me old when I was 35, remember?” Hopkins said during another of the stream-of-consciousness media sessions in which he holds court by teasing and toying with reporters as if they were so many Morrade Hakkars. “You add five more years to that and now I’m 40. `Well, he got to be slowing up now.’ Add five more years to that and I’m 45, and still going strong. Now I’m almost 50 and still here.

“I’m very, very up on history. I take it seriously. I’m no gatekeeper for no one. People say (to his prospective opponents), `You beat Bernard Hopkins, you’ll be the first to do this or that.’ OK, I understand.

“Look, anybody at the right time and at the right place can get knocked out or severely beaten. It’s (Kovalev’s) job to do what others tried to do and couldn’t. It’s my job to do what I do. I know Kovalev can punch. His record shows he can punch. His (knockout) percentage, I think, is over 90 percent. Have I been in this situation before? Well, yeah. Absolutely. I got 26 years in this business.”

Hopkins – who already holds the record for being the oldest fighter to win a widely established world championship, cites his victories over Joe Lipsey, Trinidad and Kelly Pavlik as proof that he is at his best, and most motivated, when the man in the other corner is undefeated. He said there are few things he enjoys more than erasing the `0’ from someone’s line in the loss column.

“I love fighting guys with undefeated records,” Hopkins continued. “I love it when that fighter no longer can be called a virgin. He’s been had. I have a history of taking those` 0’s’ away.”

So, what does think of Hopkins’ bold talk?

“He is `Alien,’” Kovalev said, cracking another smile. “He is not 49 like regular man.”

Nor is Kovalev apt to fall into the sort of verbal traps that Hopkins has so frequently set so many regular men, good fighters all. He caused Trinidad to fight mad, to his detriment, by twice throwing down the Puerto Rican flag during the prefight buildup to their much-anticipated showdown. Perhaps no fighter since Muhammad Ali has proven so adept at using the well-timed putdown to get under an opponent’s skin, to make him crazy enough to get away from whatever fight plan his trainer might have mapped out. But those sort of mind games work only if the other guy is susceptible to falling for them.

Asked if Kovalev will make the same mistake other straight-ahead, big-punching younger fighters have tried against him, which is to rush forward and try to whack the old guy into the ringside seats, Hopkins said he is prepared to utilize all the tricks at his disposal – and that no one- or limited-trick pony has a repertoire varied enough to match his ring smarts and versatility.

“Last I heard, he can box,” Hopkins said. “He’s shown he can do some things I don’t hear people talking about. People say Bernard do great when guys come to him. But there’s guys I fought who ran and tried to box, and I outboxed them. When you’re dealing with an all-around fighter, a complete fighter, you go to go back to something called `old school.’ To me, `old-school’ is not just about being old. It’s not about age.

“It’s meaningless to me to fight someone that I don’t believe is a threat. I even pondered going up to heavyweight to fight (then WBA champion) David Haye. I talked about fighting James Toney at cruiserweight. They had The Ring magazine cover all ready to go. Couldn’t get the deal done.

“I want to fight the best. (Marvin) Hagler fought the best. Ray Leonard fought the best. (Muhammad) Ali fought the best. And I fight the best. That’s important to me. `The Alien’ likes to walk on a tightrope 50 or 100 feet in the air with no safety net. So let’s go.”

This time, that tightrope is even higher and there’s a strong breeze blowing. At some point, an ancient Hopkins has to start showing signs of decline. And Kovalev, who hits like a mule can kick, at 31 looks like he just might be a big enough hitter to finally put Hopkins down and out, especially if he can keep his emotions in check.

Hopkins’ trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson, said he’s heard tales of his fighter’s imminent demise for so long, he’s not surprised that the picture being painted is again that of Hopkins entering a danger zone from which there can be no escape.

“I respect Kovalev,” Richardson said. “He’s a monster. But he’s more of a monster to other young guys, not this old dude. What’s he going to think when round after round goes by and he can’t get to Bernard? What’s his corner going to be saying? Punch harder? He’ll be thinking, `Man, I’m punching as hard as I can. What’ll I do now?’”

Main Events president Kathy Duva, who promotes Kovalev, thinks her guy will find whatever answer he needs when and if that question arises. In any case, she said the sport of boxing benefits from this fight being made at a time when so many other attractive matchups never get past the discussion stage because of the sport’s numerous internecine conflicts.

“All good things must come to an end, and obviously Main Events believes it’s time for a new era, for the torch to be passed, so to speak,” Duva said. “Bernard clearly disagrees. That’s what makes a great fight, when you have two very different points of view and (people can) walk into the fight saying, `Gee, I really don’t know who’s going to win.’

“That’s what we need – two great fighters putting their titles and their legacies on the line. These guys have already enhanced their legacies by agreeing to this fight.”


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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans



Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th



UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.



Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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