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Sergey Kovalev Will Have More Than Blake Caparello On His Mind August 2nd

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When WBO light heavyweight title hold Sergey Kovalev 24-0-1 (22) defends his title this Saturday night in Atlantic City against Blake Caparello 19-0-1 (6), he’ll be fighting two opponents at the same time. In the ring he’ll be looking to take Caparello out as quickly as possible, and in the eyes of boxing fans, his performance will be compared to middleweight Gennady Golovkin’s signature win last weekend, when he stopped challenger Daniel Geale in the third round.

Kovalev, like Golovkin, has an impressive knockout record and can really punch. In fact, along with Golovkin, Kovalev is one of the top five best punchers in boxing today. Sergey is one of the most exciting and highly touted fighters in the world and is looking for that marquee fight to convince boxing observers that he is truly the real deal. Kovalev isn’t as polished or refined as Golovkin technically, but he fights even more aggressively and brings a mean streak and attitude to the ring every time he fights. It’s easy to glean from his demeanor that he truly doesn’t give a damn about anybody he fights once the bell rings. He has the utmost confidence in his ability and power to hurt his opponent and as former great “Smokin” Joe Frazier used to say, “Get the job done.”

Golovkin looked terrific last week and its doubtful Kovalev will stop Caparello with a beautiful counter right or as efficiently as Golovkin did Geale. However, while he may not look as sophisticated in ending the fight as Gennady, he’s every bit as destructive and dangerous. And that’s what he has to be against Caparello, destructive. With Golovkin looking so precise and powerful in getting rid of Geale, he’s become the new flavor of the month in professional boxing. Only, Golovkin is no flavor of the month fighter and will probably be the main man in the middleweight division for the near future.

Based on the notoriety and attention that Golovkin has garnered in less than a week, it’s another layer of proof in how much boxing fans love to watch punchers. Floyd Mayweather, who is a great technician and boxer, turned pro in 1996. But he never participated in a fight that fans really cared about until he fought a declining and washed up Oscar De La Hoya 11 years later. Guillermo Rigondeaux just might be the best combination of speed, style and class in professional boxing today, but all you hear about him is he isn’t exciting because he doesn’t tear guys apart like a prime Manny Pacquiao used to do.

Punchers don’t have to be smooth and quick as long as they end fights in a memorable fashion. Most fans don’t appreciate the genius or greatness of a Rigondeaux, and it took them 11 plus years to care about and appreciate Mayweather. When fans see a fighter down or concussed it doesn’t take much of a boxing aptitude to understand what happened. They like dramatic endings that aren’t tarnished by inept scorecards submitted by a few boxing judges.

Right now Golovkin is winning the perception battle between the two “catch n kill” style attackers. It’s doubtful that Kovalev can surpass him regardless of how he looks in taking Caparello apart Saturday night. That being said, Kovalev is probably in the better position of the two of them to earn some impressive signature wins down the road. Granted, the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions aren’t loaded with a plethora of outstanding opponents for either of them to face. But at least the light heavyweight division has two in Bernard Hopkins 55-6-2 (32) and Adonis Stevenson 24-1 (20). And that would be two more credible foes for Kovalev to solidify his stature against than Golovkin has at middleweight. If Kovalev can win impressively this weekend, hopefully there will be enough eyes watching that it will put some heat on both Hopkins and Stevenson to step up and fight him. I think it’s fair to say that Stevenson, to this point, has been reluctant to make the fight with Kovalev. And I haven’t seen Hopkins, who attends all the big fights, jumping in the ring to challenge Kovalev after his fights have ended. And Kovalev is fighting in Bernard’s back yard, Atlantic City, this weekend. Let’s see if Hopkins shows up and starts issuing challenges to Sergey. Remember, it was Hopkins who strongly urged Shane Mosley to jump in the ring and challenge Floyd Mayweather after he beat Juan Manuel Marquez. The ploy worked and Mosley ended up being Mayweather’s next opponent.

If Kovalev were to fight Hopkins, who at nearly age 50 has never been beaten up or stopped, and stopped him, Golovkin couldn’t buy that kind of credibility unless he moved up and stopped Andre Ward. And if Kovalev beat Hopkins, how big would a fight be between him and Stevenson? It would be huge and receive monumental attention.

Sure, Miguel Cotto is the lineal middleweight champ, but he’s a former junior welterweight title holder who was defeated conclusively by former featherweight champ Manny Pacquiao five years ago. Beating Cotto in four rounds would look good on Golovkin’s record but nobody is going to be declaring his greatness afterward. Or should I say nobody that knows anything worth knowing about boxing will. That leaves Mayweather, but he’d have to cut off his arm to make a fight with him a reality, so forget that.

Alvarez has said that he’d fight Golovkin, but I bet he fights Cotto first. And Golovkin beating Alvarez, or Carl Froch or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. won’t eclipse Kovalev if he goes through Hopkins and Stevenson fighting at his natural weight.

Right now, Golovkin is winning the perception contest and is ahead of Kovalev in the eyes of most fans. But we don’t know if he really is the better and more dominant fighter and puncher. Neither has yet faced a special opponent. However, Hopkins is out there for Kovalev and he’s much more than special. And if Sergey beat Stevenson, who is a legitimate ox and puncher at 175, that would be even sweeter icing on the cake for Kovalev. In addition to Hopkins and Stevenson, Kovalev has the potential options of fighting Ward and Froch (both those guys definitely will be moving up). That gives him more meaningful –meaningful in a purely fistic sense–opportunities than are available for Golovkin. Kovalev has four “must see” fights in front of him for purists. I’m not sure that Golovkin has more than one or, at most, two.

Boxing fans should be thankful that we have a few years in front of us to watch two “catch n kill” attackers like Golovkin and Kovalev fight other contenders and challengers, as they keep their eye on each other in trying to one up the other for fan acceptance and stature.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Alexis Rocha KOs Brave but Overmatched George Ashie on DAZN.

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Golden Boy Promotions’ potted their first offering of 2023 at the recently opened YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat venue situated inside the stadium built to house LA’s two NFL franchises. The main event was a scheduled 12-round welterweight match between Alexis Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana and George Ashie, a 38-year-old Ghanaian making his U.S. debut. Ashie was a late substitute for Anthony Young who reportedly suffered a nose injury in training. The match and supporting bouts were live-streamed on DAZN.

Ashie, who was fighting above his normal weight class and carried a career-high 146 pounds, was brave but out-gunned. Rocha knocked him down in the third frame with a right hook and hurt him several more times as the fight progressed although Ashie never stopped trying. In round six, an accidental clash of heads left Rocha with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. He fought with more urgency after this incident and knocked Ashie out cold in the next round. The official time was 2:08 of round seven.

It was the fifth straight win for Rocha who improved his ledger to 22-1 (14 KOs). After the bout, he expressed an interest in fighting Terence Crawford. Ashie fell to 33-6-1 (25).

Other Bouts of Note

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a precocious 20-year-old lightweight, had Albert Mercado on the canvas in the second round but was unable to put him away despite hurting him multiple times and went 10 rounds for the first time in his young career.

Schofield, the 2022 TSS Prospect of the Year, improved to 13-0 (11), winning 100-89 on all three cards. Mercado, a 35-year-old Connecticut-born Puerto Rican, declined to 17-5-1 but retained his distinction of having never stopped.

Super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan who lives and trains in Indio, California, overpowered San Diego’s Ulises Sierra who was on the deck twice from body punches before the fight was waived off at the 2:59 mark of round three. It was the fourth straight victory for Melikuziev (11-1, 9 KOs) after suffering a stunning one-punch knockout at the hands of seemingly shopworn Gabriel Rosado with whom he is pursuing a rematch. Sierra was 17-2-2 heading in with eight of his wins coming in Mexico.

In a match framed as a WBO minimumweight title eliminator, Oscar Collazo (6-0, 4 KOs) scored an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Yudel Reyes. Collazo knocked Reyes down twice in the fifth round, the second with a vicious right hand that put Reyes down so hard that the referee didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:59 of round five.

In theory, Collazo’s next fight will come against the Filipino Melvin Jerusalem who won the title earlier this month with a second-round stoppage of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka. Reyes, a 26-year-old Mexican making his U.S. debut, declined to 15-2.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Artur Beterbiev TKOs Anthony Yarde in a London Firefight

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The presumption, echoed by ESPN boxing commentator Bernardo Osuna, was that tonight’s bout at Wembley Arena in London between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde would be explosive and entertaining for as long as it lasted. That proved to be true and when the smoke cleared, Beterbiev, the rugged Montreal-based Russian had retained his three light heavyweight title belts and had added another knockout to his ledger, his nineteenth as a pro in as many opportunities.

Both men landed hard shots during the fight and both were marked up at the finish. Yarde had a cut under his right eye and Beterbiev had a cut on his left eyelid.

A chopping right hand from Beterbiev late in the first minute of the eighth round marked the beginning of the end for Yarde, the muscular 31-year-old Londoner who entered the contest sporting a record of 23-2 with 22 knockouts. The punch sent him reeling backward toward his corner where he landed on his knees. He beat the count, but turned toward his corner rather than referee Steve Gray.

Gray let the bout continue, but Beterbiev pressed his advantage and after a few more unanswered punches Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi stepped up on the ring apron and summoned Gray to stop it. The official time was 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev hasn’t lost since losing a decision to amateur nemesis Oleksandr Usyk in the quarter finals of the 2012 London Olympics. At age 38, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In his post-fight interview, the self-effacing Russian said, “I hope some day I will be a good boxer,” and acknowledged that he would welcome a unification fight with fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the WBA title-holder.

WBA Title Fight

In a bout that was in theory the co-feature but went off during the earlier portion of the ESPN+ livestream, Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15 KOs) retained his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous and somewhat controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (12-1). The judges had it 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

An Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian, Dalakian was making the sixth defense of the title he won in 2018 with a 12-round decision over Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in his lone previous appearance at a venue in the English-speaking world. His five title defenses were in Kiev. Jimenez was coming off a 12-round majority decision over Ricardo Sandoval in what ranked as one of the bigger upsets of 2021.

A Split for the Itauma Brothers

Promoter Frank Warren’s newest signee, 18-year-old heavyweight Moses Itauma, made a big splash in his pro debut, blasting out Czechoslovakia’s Marcel Bode (2-2) in 23 seconds. Moses and his older brother Karol Itauma are sons of a British citizen of Nigerian ancestry and a Slovakian mother.

In a shocking upset, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, a 36-year-old Argentine who had lost six of his previous eight fights, forged a fifth-round stoppage of well-touted Karol Itauma who was 9-0 (7 KOs) as a pro coming in. Itauma ate numerous straight right hands before a straight right hand knocked him down for the count. The official time was 1:04 of round five. Maderna improved to 29-10 (11).

Also

The Frankham cousins, super welterweight Joshua and super featherweight Charles, improved their ledgers to 7-0 with 6-round shutouts over their respective opponents. The cousins are grandsons of John “Gypsy Johnny” Frankham, a former British light heavyweight champion.

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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