By John J. Raspanti
Good things come to those who wait.
Eleider Alvarez, who had waited two years for his shot at a world title, shockingly knocked out defending champion Sergey Kovalev at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, Saturday night.
Alvarez, the quicker fighter, flashed fast hands in the opening round. Kovalev popped jabs to the body and little else. It was evident that Alvarez’s hand speed was already bothering him. He walked back to his corner with a puzzled expression on his face.
In rounds two and three, Kovalev picked up the pace. He fired hooks and a crisp uppercut. In a case of foreshadowing for later in the bout, Alvarez fired a right that rattled Kovalev. Seconds later, after setting up his punches with a crisp jab, he landed another combination to the head and body. Kovalev fought back – connecting with a sweet left hook to the ribs.
Kovalev found his range in round four. He went to the body and head. He hurt Alvarez with a hard right to the side of his face. The big underdog motioned Kovalev to bring it on. Kovalev connected with another wicked combination to the head. A left hook also landed.
Alvarez strafed Kovalev with a good right hand in round five. Kovalev feinted and looked to unleash his right. The crafty Alvarez moved, but Kovalev caught him with a left hook. Alvarez stabbed Kovalev with another stiff jab.
Kovalev connected with two sweeping right hands. Blood was dripping from a cut near Alvarez’s left eye. Kovalev staggered Alvarez with short right cross to the chin in round six. A hard shot to the ribs caused Alvarez to gasp.
Kovalev came out jabbing in round seven. He looked a little weary. His left hand dangled near his side. Alvarez, behind on the judges’ scorecards, saw this and unleashed a right hand to the temple that sent Kovalev stumbling to the canvas. The soon to be former champion pulled himself up, but his eyes were vacant and he resembled a guy who had one to many vodkas.
Alvarez wasted no time. He uncorked a right-left combination that crashed off the chin of Kovalev-flooring him for the second time. Somehow Kovalev got up, but he wouldn’t stay that way for long. The same combination (right and left to the head) caused Kovalev to collapse on all fours. The referee waved off the contest.
The time was 2:45 seconds of round seven
“I can’t even describe how I feel,” said the elated Alvarez. His wait was over.
Kovalev left the ring quickly with a career in serious jeopardy.
Talented Dimitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs) boxed and punched his way to one-sided 12-round decision over a determined Issac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) on undercard of the Kovalev vs. Alvarez main event.
The scores were 120-108 (twice) and 116-112.
Bivol took control in the opening round and never relinquished it. He stalked and landed a number of big left hooks and right hands.
Chilemba looked to counter, but it was obvious that Bivol was the much sharper fighter. Bivol went to the body in round three. Chilemba fought back as best he could.
Bivol connected with two more hard blows to the head. Chilemba was hanging in, but whatever plan he had wasn’t working. Bivol connected with another left hook and more hard blows in rounds four, five and six.
Chilemba wasn’t winning, but he was still there and showing a good chin. Bivol cracked Chilemba with a solid right hand in round seven.
Chilemba’s trainer, future Hall of Famer Roy Jones, advised Chilemba to mix it up more. He did, connecting with a good shot. Bivol didn’t blink.
Rounds eight, nine and 10 were more of the same. Bivol was more active, but Chilemba was still competitive. Bivol landed more combinations in the last couple of rounds to the head but the young fighter had realized he couldn’t knock Chilemba out.
A win is a win.