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Kovalev Is Doing What Champs Do… Fighting The Best Available

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In his last fight, he defeated one of the most legendary fighters in history, Bernard Hopkins. He beat him conclusively and for all intents and purpose, retired him. Sure, Hopkins will fight at least one more time, but unless he goes up or down in weight, he won’t be a title holder again. At least not as long as Sergey Kovalev 26-0-1 (23) is holding the majority of the belts in the light heavyweight division. At the post fight press conference, Hopkins was very conciliatory to the new WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight title holder Kovalev. How could he not be? Never in 60 plus professional fights did Bernard ever touch gloves with a fighter who had him down, shut him out, and had him looking for a lottery punch to win their fight.

Hopkins said, to paraphrase: Sergey can stay around and on top as long as he wants if he does the right things. Well, it appears that Sergey is taking his advice, as it was recently announced that Kovalev will meet former WBC light heavyweight title holder Jean Pascal 29-2-1 (17) in his next bout, this coming March. What a welcome change it is to see Kovalev, after winning the signature bout of his career, agree so quickly to defend his titles against the next best available and dangerous opponent. Hopefully, others will follow his lead.

It wasn’t long ago that WBC light heavyweight title holder Adonis Stevenson 24-1 (20) was supposed to fight Kovalev, then he was going to fight Hopkins and most recently it was Pascal. All three fights involving Stevenson fell through. So Kovalev and Hopkins fought and now that Sergey has won, he’s going to defend his three belts against Pascal in his first defense. Stevenson was such a hot prospect and now he appears to be a self-inflicted victim of horrible management.

As for Kovalev-Pascal, that’s a very compelling bout. And make no mistake, as terrific as Sergey looked against Hopkins, he’s not unbeatable. Yes, Kovalev has to be considered at the top of the food chain in the light heavyweight division, but Pascal is one of the sharks swimming in the deep and dangerous waters. It’s almost as if it’s been forgotten, but Pascal did have Hopkins down twice in their first meeting that ended in a draw. That’s something even Kovalev, who handed Hopkins his most decisive and one-sided defeat, cannot say. And when you think of the names Hopkins and Pascal, you think of two fighters being on completely different levels, which is of course true. However, the case can be made that Pascal is actually a little bit more treacherous for Kovalev than Hopkins was.

For the last six or seven years when Hopkins has fought, he’s never entered the ring with the thought or intent of trying to win by stoppage. Unless the opponent really made a big mistake, at the worst it was a safe bet that the fight was going to go the distance. Going for the stoppage was too risky in Hopkins’ mind and he always knew he had the tools, experience and toughness to control things in the ring as long as the fight didn’t get too crazy or wide open. And that mindset held form when he fought Sergey Kovalev last month. Bernard knew that if he tried to get Kovalev out of there and tempted fate by trying to stop Sergey, that very easily could’ve backfired on him and he could’ve been stopped. With the hindsight of the bout now behind us, it’s plausible to see how that just may have been the case.

The problem Hopkins had against Kovalev was the fact that he’s not a big enough puncher, especially at age 49, to really freeze Sergey, or any other elite light heavyweight, to the point to where he can go in and unload on a hurt and bewildered foe looking to get the stoppage. The other issue for Hopkins was, Kovalev could do damage and be effective from outside, therefore there was no urgency on Kovalev’s part to go inside, thus nullifying Bernard to get his hands on him and then turn the fight into a street/MMA tussle. As we saw, by the ninth round Hopkins was way behind and looking for a lottery punch…and that isn’t part of his offensive makeup.

When Kovalev faces Pascal, a lot of the same holds true except that Pascal isn’t going into the fight looking to go the distance. Pascal has shocking and KO-level power with his right hand. And I believe Hopkins more than got Kovalev’s attention a few times during their bout. No, Kovalev wasn’t in trouble or close to going down, but for a brief moment he was rattled. If Hopkins can rattle Kovalev, for however briefly it was, one must conclude that Pascal has the capacity to test Sergey a little more in that regard. And Pascal, unlike Hopkins, knows he probably can’t win by decision, so his predicament almost forces his hand that he will have to take more chances against Kovalev if he is to pull the upset. But will he? Like Hopkins, Pascal will be susceptible to Kovalev’s outside power, and if he doesn’t like how it feels in the early going, he might just lose some of his nerve and gumption with each passing round.

Pascal must be feeling pretty good about himself after handling Lucian Bute in his last fight. He’s definitely the best available opponent for Kovalev, and I applaud them both for putting the bout together so quickly. Of course, you’ve got to favor Kovalev. However, some associates whose opinion I hold in high esteem believe that after watching Kovalev with Hopkins, think someday Sergey’s going to get knocked out by a fighter who can punch. Which is the same thing one of those associates said to me about Jermain Taylor after his two bouts with Hopkins.

It’s not completely impossible for that to be Pascal. But Pascal has to really put himself at risk in order to be successful. Pascal has to land the perfect shot to get Sergey out. But Kovalev could break his will in the early stages of the fight, and then Pascal will be too risk averse. If Pascal doesn’t come out of the chute very fast, his chances diminish by the round. Add to that Pascal sometimes waits for the perfect shot; thus, it could be a tough night for him. In addition to that, he tends to be very right hand reliant and loads up on it. Yes, that right hand might have enough kick in it to get Kovalev out. But the downside of that is, he can’t throw it blindly and he must be judicious in his tempered aggression, or Kovalev will break him mentally and then go in and take him out.

One thing is for sure, Kovalev’s soaring confidence along with the pressure he’ll apply against the hard hitting Pascal should make for a compelling fight as long as it lasts.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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

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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

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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.

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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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