By John J. Raspanti
Sergey Kovalev is no longer a former champion. Kovalev, 34, ended a two-bout losing streak and captured the WBO light heavyweight championship by blasting out game Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in round two at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City Saturday night.
Kovalev (31-2, 27 KOs) connected with a hard-right hand in the opening seconds of the fight. He jabbed to the body and head. Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) knocked Kovalev back a step with a sold jab. As is always the case, he had to come to fight.
Seconds later, Kovalev let fly with another right. The clubbing blow sent Shabranskyy to the canvas. Shabranskyy got up and tried to fight back, but it was obvious his aggressive style was perfectly suited to the potshoting past and present champion.
Kovalev reset and went back to jabbing. The blow is his range finder. With 19 seconds left in the stanza, Kovalev stunned Shabranskyy with another shot to the chin. The Ukrainian fighter wobbled right into the buzzsaw that is Kovalev. A combination floored Shabranskyy for the second time. Shabranskyy got up at three as the bell rang ending an explosive opening round.
Kovalev, looking sharp, continued to set-up Shabranskyy with his stinging jab. He appeared to be timing Shabranskyy for another right. The shot was locked and loaded and Shabranskyy couldn’t do anything about it.
With less than a minute to go in round two, a three-punch combination put Shabranskyy on all fours. The courageous fighter got up and glanced at Kovalev. He wobbled to the ropes and took an eight count.
Referee Harvey Dock asked Shabranskyy twice if he was alright. Shabranskyy said yes, but his body said otherwise. Kovalev went right back to work. A hook to the belly had to hurt. He repeated the punch and, after Shbranskyy dropped his hands ever so slightly, anticipating another body shot, Kovalev connected with a wicked combination. A left-right drove the woozy Shabranskyy into the ropes, prompting Dock to wave off the contest.
The time was 2:36 into round two.
“I did it. I reloaded my brain and conditioning. I’m back.”
Kovalev was fighting for the first time since being stopped by Andre Ward last June in a sequel to their first match (also won by Ward by controversial decision) in Las Vegas, NV.