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Is Sergey Kovalev the next GGG?

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The boxing world was all aglow this week in the aftermath of WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin’s three-round demolition of Daniel Geale. The undefeated crowd-pleaser received some of his biggest props from some of boxing’s biggest names. Calling the action from ringside, HBO’s Max Kellerman compared Golovkin to Joe Louis on Saturday night. Sportscaster and president of the Las Vegas Boxing Hall of Fame Rich Marotta said via Twitter he thought Golovkin was the “hardest punching” middleweight ever. Thomas Hauser opined that Golovkin was the “true middleweight champion” of the world. ESPN.com’s Brian Campbell said Golovkin was “the class of the middleweight division” and said the win “stamped his spot among the sport’s pound-for-pound best.” Frank Lotierzo said Golovkin was the “alpha fighter”’ at middleweight. Even Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw, said Golovkin was the best 160-pound fighter he had ever seen.

GGG is a rare breed: a solid puncher who is superbly skilled at all facets of the game. He moves forward with precision and throws compact combinations with poise and power. If Golovkin isn’t the future of boxing, he most certainly is the most macabre mirage of it HBO has ever been able to produce.

Light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev might be the very same kind of fighter.

Golovkin, a 32-year-old, is a native of Khazakstan who now lives in Germany. Kovalev, a 31-year-old, is a native Russian who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Both men posses seemingly absurd power in both hands and fight in the aggressive style of a stalker. Golovkin has knocked out 27 of 30 opponents while Kovalev has done the same to 22 of 25. Each man has an impressive knockout streak going. Golovkin’s sits at 17 while Kovalev’s run is up to eight (though it might be up to 13 had a 2011 bout against Grover Young not been called a Technical Draw after Round 2 due to a foul).

Kovalev might very well be following in Golovkin’s footsteps. In fact, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva told me she believes Golovkin helped pave the way for Kovalev.

“Once Golovkin proved that an Eastern European can, in fact, be embraced by the whole world, then that prejudice, and that’s what it was, the wall came down. Thank heavens for that.”

Like Golovkin, Kovalev is the type of fighter who dares you to stand in front of him and trade punches. He is a sound boxer with expert technical ability. He’s forceful and aggressive, but doesn’t cross the line into being careless about his defense. Both fighters can knock their opponents into next week and usually do. In fact, both men seem to go into every minute of every round intent on exactly that.

Neither man is the lineal champion in his division but just might be the best there anyway. Miguel Cotto holds the lineal middleweight crown after knocking out Sergio Martinez in June at Madison Square Garden. Adonis Stevenson is the same at light heavyweight after a one-punch knockout win over Chad Dawson last year at Bell Centre in Quebec.

It’s a shame, but Golovkin and Kovalev don’t seem to be on their ways to shots at the lineal titles they lack anytime soon. Cotto appears to be content on taking the same road his predecessor did before him at middleweight, one that keeps him as far away from Golovkin as possible. Meanwhile, Stevenson had agreed to meet Kovalev earlier this year but thought better of it and headed over to Showtime for the likes of aging light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins instead.

Despite it, both Golovkin and Kovalev hold alphabet titles and have the power and money of HBO behind them. Golovkin has held some version of the WBA strap since 2010. Kovalev has worn his WBO belt since last year’s four-round destruction of Nathan Cleverly in Wales.

Yet, there comes a point in boxing when things like who is the true champion in the division doesn’t really matter. I mean, sure, it matters to historians and the like, but prizefighting is ultimately about who the fans want to see fight. In an age when fans seem to flat-out revolt against the likes of Cuban stylist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is lineal champion of the junior featherweight division, Golovkin and Kovalev represent a stark contrast from the status quo.

Unlike Rigo, as well as boxing’s biggest superstar, Floyd Mayweather, Golovkin and Kovalev do not, as Frank Lotierzo borrows from Muhammad Ali, “only punch hard enough to win.” Instead, both Golovkin and Kovalev are the type of fighters who want to stand in the pocket and test their opponents’ wills. Where Rigo and Mayweather are content to duck and dive out of harm’s way, mitigating risk and only throwing punches when they feel safe enough to do so, Golovkin and Kovalev seem downright offended when an opponent would rather step away from them than come forward and fight.

Boxing needs all types of fighters. For every Rigo and Mayweather, guys who want to box and move, there has to be fighters like Golovkin and Kovalev to balance things out. More importantly, boxing needs a mixture of styles at the top of the sport. There are plenty of pugs who fight in the style of Golovkin and Kovalev, but few are able to do it at the highest level of the sport.

Fight fans crave action perhaps more than any other thing boxing has to offer. Both Golovkin and Kovalev are well positioned to bring exactly that for a long time to come. If Golovkin is the future of the sport, perhaps Kovalev is the very same, too.

Time will tell.

McCarson’s Blogtastic Notes

— Hard to imagine, but not so long ago, Kovalev was a free agent who couldn’t find a promoter in either the United States or Canada willing to give him a chance. Kovalev’s manager, Egis Klimas, met with Main Events’s CEO Kathy Duva and matchmaker Jolene Mizzone at a Manhattan restaurant in January 2012. Main Events matched Kovalev with Darnell Boone, a fighter who gave Kovalev trouble two years prior. This time, though, the improved Kovalev thrashed Boone in just two rounds. Duva remembers that moment fondly: “Then just after the fight was over… We ran over to Egis and I said, ‘we’ll have a contract over to you on Monday!’”

— Kovalev was in a rare mood last week when I talked to him on the phone for Bleacher Report. His first words to me were how hungry he was (not for titles but food) and his answers where short. Still, the experience only added to Kovalev’s mystique for me and provided readers, in my estimation, a fun read. The best moment of the interview was when I asked him about Bernard Hopkins, to which Kovalev replied: “…who is this ‘Bernard Hopkins’? I know that my next opponent is Blake Caparello.”

— Kovalev’s opponent, Caparello, is a 27-year-old from Australia with only has six knockouts in 20 professional fights. While Caparello believes he’ll be able to frustrate Kovalev early and take him into the later rounds, it’s difficult to imagine a fighter with as little pop as Caparello being able to keep Kovalev off for very long.

— Speaking of Australia, Golovkin’s opponent last weekend, Geale, also hails from Down Under. This will likely end up a rough week for Aussie boxing fans.

— Kovalev and Golovkin were gym mates for a short while and sparred each other on occasion. Can you imagine what that must have looked like? Kovalev said: “Golovkin hits like a sledgehammer.”

— I asked Kovalev if he had a prediction for Saturday’s fight with Caparello and he responded with a righteously awesome Michael Buffer impersonation: “Let’s get ready to rummmmmbbbbbblllllleeee!”

— Kovalev possesses serious power, but award-winning writer Bart Barry told me it wasn’t just that Kovalev was strong, but that he was able to run his opponents into his punches. Against Caparello, watch closely to see how Kovalev uses smart combinations to set his opponent up for the power shot.

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

BLK Prime’s inaugural venture went off without a hitch. An announced crowd of 14,630 turned out in Omaha to watch native son Terence Crawford dismantle David Avanesyan. BLK Prime’s second promotion, slated for Feb. 25 at a 5,000-seat venue in Atlanta, has been messy from the get-go. The executives at the fledgling company, based in Hayward, California, are learning to their dismay that the sport of professional boxing is governed by Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Adrien Broner’s nickname is “The Problem” (how perfect!) but the problem isn’t him but finding a suitable opponent for the former four-division title holder who purportedly signed a three-fight deal with BLK Prime that will pay him an absurd $10 million. As reported in a story that ran on these pages last week, Broner’s original opponent Ivan Redkach pulled out and was replaced by Hank Lundy. Today (Tuesday, Jan. 24) it was revealed that Lundy was also off the card and would be replaced by Michael Williams Jr.

Prior to being lopped off the card, it was reported that Hank Lundy had been suspended by the California Athletic Commission for failing to honor his contract to fight up-and-comer Ernesto Mercado (8-0, 8 KOs) on Feb. 4. The match was to be an 8-rounder in Ontario, California. According to prominent boxing writer Jake Donovan, Lundy provided paperwork to the California commission showing that he was unable to keep his commitment because of a cut he suffered in sparring.

Some state athletic commissions automatically honor a suspension handed down in another jurisdiction. Other commissions evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. It’s a fair guess that had Lundy kept quiet about the (alleged) injury, the Georgia commission would have allowed the Broner-Lundy match to go forward. Regardless, he’s out and, barring more upheaval, Broner (pictured) will be touching gloves with Michael Williams Jr.

The son of an Army veteran who serves as his chief trainer, Williams Jr, 23, was born in Fort Riley, Kansas, and grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg. As a pro, he’s 20-1 with 13 KOs but those 20 wins came against a motley bunch of opponents and he failed miserably on the one occasion that he stepped up in class. On Dec. 11, 2021, he was stopped in four rounds by fellow unbeaten John Bauza on a Top Rank card at Madison Square Garden. Williams suffered five knockdowns before the match was halted. “He’s got a lot to work on. There are some glaring issues here,” said ringside TV commentator Andre Ward.

Although the Fayetteville area has long had a reputation as pugilistic feed lot (a place where boxers go to fatten up their records), the feeling is that Williams may have been awed by his surroundings that night in the Big Apple, hence his poor showing. During the early portion of his career, he was co-trained by Roy Jones Jr who reportedly hooked up with the young junior welterweight after witnessing him bully a bunch of ex-cons while sparring at a gym in New Orleans.

Does he have the tools to make things interesting against Adrien Broner? Likely not, but Broner tends to fight down to his level of competition, so it wouldn’t surprise us if Williams wins a few rounds.

Heavyweights at the Crossroads

SHOWTIME drops anchor in San Antonio on Feb. 11 with a card headlined by a match between Rey Vargas and O’Shaquie Foster. They will compete for the WBC 130-pound world title vacated by Shakur Stevenson.

Truth be told, this isn’t a contest that gets our juices flowing. The undefeated Vargas, who has won world titles at 122 and 127, is a solid technician but doesn’t fight with pizzazz. He hasn’t won a fight inside the distance since 2016. Foster is on a nice roll – he’s won nine straight, advancing his record to 19-2 — but likewise lacks charisma.

The pay-per-view opener, however, seized our interest. It’s that very rare contest between two rising heavyweights at the same juncture of their respective careers. On paper there’s little to choose between Viktor Faust (11-0, 7 KOs) and Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs). Both are the same age (30), are roughly the same size (in the six-foot-five and 240-pound range) and were outstanding amateurs.

Faust

Viktor Faust, aka Viktor Vykhryst, is from the Ukraine. In 2017, he won the European amateur title, defeating future Olympian Frazer Clarke in the finals. He turned pro in 2020, spurning an opportunity to represent Ukraine in the Tokyo Olympics.

Faust, says prospect watcher Matt Andrzejewski, is extremely fluid for his size and his hand speed is well above average. He also has one-punch knockout power as he demonstrated in his third pro fight when he starched the Spaniard, Gabriel Enguema. However, his most recent fight on U.S. soil, a match in Hollywood, Florida, against Iago kiladze, left many questions unanswered.

This was a wild and wooly affair that ended in the second minute of the second round. Kiladze was down three times and Faust twice during the tumult. Because Kiladze was on the small size for a heavyweight, one was left wondering whether Faust could have weathered the storm if he were matched against a bigger man.

Since that scuffle, Faust has added two more wins to his ledger, comfortable 8-round decisions over 40-something gatekeepers Kevin Johnson and Franklin Lawrence.

Pero

Lenier Pero, a Cuban defector, was never an Olympian, but had a more extensive amateur career. He was 9-3 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing but what really stands out is that he was 5-1 against countryman Frank Sanchez who has made great headway as a pro since leaving Cuba in 2017 and is currently ranked #3 by the WBC and #2 by the WBO.

Although the amateur careers of Faust and Pero overlapped, their paths never crossed. However, Faust did fight Lenier’s younger brother Dainier Pero who is currently 2-0 as a pro and may actually be a better prospect than his sibling. Faust and Dainier Pero met in 2018 at a tournament in the Ukraine and the Cuban won a close decision.

Perhaps that’s an omen. Regardless, Lenier Pero looks like the right side in what has the earmarks of an entertaining shootout.

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David Benavidez and Caleb Plant Both Want ‘Canelo’ Álvarez

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American Fighter David Benavidez has been in constant pursuit of an opportunity to face Canelo Álvarez and, until now, it has been an unrealizable dream. For his compatriot Caleb Plant, his match up with Canelo in 2021 resulted in a resounding loss.

For several years, Benavidez has been trying to cross gloves with Mexican star Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), who has avoided facing him despite receiving countless criticisms from boxing fans.

Undefeated in the ranks, everything indicates that today Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) is closer than ever to finally matching up against Canelo, the current holder of the four most prestigious super middleweight titles in boxing: WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO.

Previously, by order of the WBC, Benavidez faced Canadian David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs), to whom he applied chloroform in the third round in Glendale, Arizona, where the winner conquered the Interim title of that sanctioning body.

After the victory, the WBC declared that Benavidez had the obligation to collide with Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs), who was ranked the number one contender by both the WBA and the WBO and third by the IBF.

According to Mauricio Sulaimán, president of the WBC, the winner between Benavidez and Plant becomes the mandatory challenger for Canelo in a battle for that organization’s belt.

However, the future seems quite complicated for the winner between Benavidez and Plant, since Canelo is currently in negotiations with British southpaw John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) to fight in May and, subsequently, in September, to carry out the rematch against Russian Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs), who defeated him unanimously on May 7 of last year at the T-Mobile Arena where the European retained the WBA light heavyweight belt.

Benavidez has been outspoken about Canelo’s refusal to face him: He (Canelo) knows I’m the biggest threat at 168.” Benavidez stressed the fact that Canelo avoids him because he knows that if he accepts the fight, the same thing will happen to him as against Dmitry Bivol, an adversary who is also larger and equally as strong as the Mexican redhead.

Despite the efforts and multiple statements by Benavidez (also by José Benavidez Sr, his father and trainer), Canelo has always chosen other adversaries with the excuse that Benavidez has not fought any elite rivals that would make him worthy of the opportunity.

CALEB PLANT WANTS REVENGE AGAINST CANELO

“That wasn’t my best camp going into that fight,” said Plant about last year’s battle with Canelo, “but, regardless, that’s not the reason I lost. I lost because I got caught with a great shot and I got stopped.” Plant was clear about wanting to meet Canelo in the ring again. “I want a rematch with Canelo. If I have to pick up every last top super middleweight in the division to get to that, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Canelo’s victory against Plant at the T-Mobile Arena in November 2021 made him the first boxer from Latin America with the four most important titles, in any weight category. But six months later, in May of last year, Álvarez suffered the second setback of his career, losing unanimously to Bivol who retained his WBA “super” title belt at 175 pounds.

Four years ago, on January 13, 2019, Plant won the IBF belt, unanimously defeating Venezuelan José Uzcátegui (32-5, 27 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Uzcátegui went to the canvas in both the second and fourth rounds. Plant lost the IBF title in the unification match against Canelo, a title that Plant had defended three times prior.

Mauricio Sulaimán confirmed to several media outlets that the winner of the upcoming battle between Benavidez and Plant will be the mandatory challenger for Canelo’s WBC super-middleweight title. Per ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, Benavidez vs Plant will take place on March 25th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

To comment on this story in the fight Forum CLICK HERE

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