By “interesting,” Your Intrepid Editor means you got the right mixture of brutal power and analytical deconstruction in Sergey Kovalev, 23-0-1 (21), and Adonis Stevenson, 23-1 (20), respectively. Now that I think about it, it wasn’t just the perfect primer for new fight fans for its range of method and results; it was the perfect primer for a seriously badass 175-pound showdown for all the golden marbles.
In the HBO opener, Kovalev faced off against Ismayl Sillakh, 21-2 (17), a hard-hitting Ukrainian whose only loss was a disheartening loss to Denis Grachev well over a year ago.
The undefeated Kovalev entered the evening’s co-feature on the steam of three previous wins in 2013, which included two victories over two former light heavyweight titlists, Gabriel Campillo and Nathan Cleverly, the latter from whom he annexed his WBO belt. The ultimate goal? To close out the calendar year with a solid statement regarding his place in the light heavyweight landscape. And it was done in spades.
In this writer’s assessment, Sillakh, no one’s red shirt (in the parlance of “Star Trek,” if you will) by any means, would be a perfect accoutrement to a respected titleholder’s dress blues. Not easily earned, procured via astute expertise and execution.
The opening round was not unlike any other important title bout’s. Kovalev contemplated and measured Sillakh before Sillakh fired off a sharp one-two. Kovalev responded with a straight right hand and continued a methodical aggression in spots. Kovalev missed a left/right combination of his own, all the while chatting with his opponent. “Krusher” would jab to the body as a precursor to attempting to briefly attack Sillakh’s midsection. This all merely culminates in a glorified sizing-up session.
The second stanza opens with Kovalev backing up Sillakh with an unsuccessful, swinging left hand. This minor miscalculation was immediately remedied with a big right hand that dropped Sillakh. Sillakh rises albeit with a speck of uncertainly (but with more than enough bravery to spare), beating referee Marlon Wright’s count. Sillakh willingly re-entered the fray, only to meet an authoritative, three-punch salvo, which stopped him cold 52 seconds into round two.
In the evening’s main event, frontrunner for “Fighter of the Year” honors and lineal light heavyweight champion (or, much to HBO’s dismay, The Ring magazine champion – and that’s got to kill HBO analyst Max Kellerman a wee bit softly, n’est-ce pas?) faced off against Tony Bellew, 20-2-1 (12), a nuts-and-guts Brit (and WBC “silver” light heavyweight titlist) who didn’t know the meaning of “stoppage loss.”
Round one opened with a very measured dance between Bellew and Stevenson, with the latter eyeing his quarry with a stoic gaze. Adonis throws a swinging right with no consequence, leading into a noncommittal tête-à-tête. Stevenson cuts off the ring with authority but said authority serves territorialism at the most. Stevenson throws one shot at a time, unwittingly convincing “Bomber” to come at him more than anything. Before round’s end, Bellew connects with a halfhearted right hand.
“Superman” opens the second heat by cutting off the ring, backing up Bellew in the process (this becomes Stevenson’s subsequent modus operandi from then on). Bellew attempts aggression in spots, making the more analytical observer perhaps wish the former Commonwealth champion would confidently continue with impunity. However, Stevenson continued to control the proceedings by cutting the ring off (something his trainer, Javon “Sugar” Hill would continually insist on amid his instructions) and pursuing his quarry. Stevenson would further attempt to land that long left hand, only to result in an unresolved chase. Bellew would try to return the favor with an unexpected-yet-brief offensive, missing a left hand, but ate a Stevenson left upstairs before round’s end.
In round three, Stevenson continued to attempt to walk Bellew down by mere control of the geography, landing to the body. Stevenson keeps up the right jab and blocks a Bellew right. Bellew’s reticence to engage results in absorbing a left, followed by a one-two upstairs. Stevenson corners “Bomber” and lands half the shots he hands out. A straight left hand rocks Bellew on the ropes before punctuating the round with another solid left hand shot.
Bellew lands a right hand after the start of the fourth but Stevenson lands a left hand in kind en route to his perennial backing up of his opponent. Stevenson watches Bellew like a hawk before landing a one-two to the body but subsequently hits the canvas in result of the standard “southpaw/orthodox lead foot syndrome.” Bellew takes advantage of Stevenson’s minor slip-up with bracketed-yet-limited aggression but a one-two from Stevenson solidly finds its destination. Stevenson lands another left hand that wobbles Bellew on the backfoot as they both venture toward a corner. Prior to round’s end, Stevenson lands an absolute accidental right hand to the back of Bellew’s dome as the latter twisted to his own left by the time the punch landed.
The fifth round was as bland as bread with no compound butter as Stevenson worked on backing up Bellew (again), mixing it up off the ropes.
In round six, Stevenson pursued Bellew with no consequence whatsoever as the Brit countered with equal effect. Adonis pawed away, at long last connecting with a wide-swinging uppercut with no follow-up. That said, the tide turned egregiously as Stevenson connected with the most bitchen of left hands, dropping Bellew. As the brave Brit regained his footing, the Haitian-born Canadian hammered him with a four-shot salvo that including two crippling lefts, separating Bellew from his senses. At that point, referee Michael Griffin rendered the perfect call, stopping the carnage at 1:50 of the round.
Obviously, considering the promotional circumstances, it had to be asked of Adonis Stevenson by HBO’s Max Kellerman what the lineal light heavyweight champion’s next move would be.
The frontrunner for the “Fighter of the Year” distinction answered (rather disappointingly) in no uncertain terms that his next mission might more reasonably (to him) involve WBA/IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch or 48-year-old IBF light heavyweight titlist Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins.
Hopkins? Seriously? This harkens to my recent assessment of misdirection in boxing (I can haz “cheap whore” status. Sue me. http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/thanks). What you can’t control (read: the promotional/network “Cold War”) is a whole ton of easy to bandy about.
As for Froch…this isn’t to say it isn’t a good fight but for the love of Huey, last night’s gig was all about the set-up. And the set-up is of epic proportions.
And if Adonis Stevenson doesn’t want to live up to his Kryptonian moniker by unifying the light heavyweight division against Sergey Kovalev, then he’d better offer up that honorific to a light heavyweight who will.
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