It was an eventful night of fights on Super Bowl eve at the Star in Frisco, Texas, capped off by Sergey Kovalev regaining the WBO light heavyweight title by conclusively outboxing Eleider Alvarez over 12 rounds. So what did we find out Saturday night?
Kovalev is still a force
I guess Mark Twain might have had Kovalev in mind when he uttered his famous words about his demise being greatly exaggerated. Back in the summer when Alvarez took the WBO light heavyweight title from “Krusher” by knockout in Round 7, it seemed as though it had closed the prime on what was a highly productive and highly entertaining career of the lovable rogue from Russia.
But as he prepared for the rematch, the often hardheaded and stubborn Kovalev put his trust in the hands of veteran cornerman Buddy McGirt, who in the past was able to revive the career of another Main Events-promoted fighter, Arturo Gatti.
Still, many observers and pundits had their doubts, not only about the fragility of the 35-year-old who had just been knocked out, but the mental state of Kovalev, who is facing some serious legal charges from allegations of a felony assault. You wonder if his world — and career — were falling apart.
Most believed that Alvarez would simply repeat what had happened the first time around when the Colombian hammered Kovalev to the canvas three times in the seventh round of their initial encounter in August.
To the surprise of most, if not all, Kovalev fought a disciplined fight and boxed well behind his steady left jab and was able to keep Alvarez at bay for much of the night and controlled the action three minutes at a time.
“We worked a lot on my jab,” Kovalev said. “Right now, I am working with Buddy the way I was when I was an amateur.”
No, perhaps it wasn’t the explosive Kovalev we have seen in the past, but it was a much more disciplined and focused one, much like the boxer we saw control Bernard Hopkins in 2014. The expected big punch and rally for Alvarez never really materialized, as he was neutralized by the adroit boxing of Kovalev, who suddenly has some big fights to look forward to again.
By regaining his title, Kovalev joins the likes of Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev, as belt-holders at 175.
“After this, I want unification fights,” Kovalev said.
Suddenly a fighter who was thought to have his best days in the rearview mirror has a present and a future to look forward to.
The takeover continues
Teofimo Lopez continues to serve notice that he just might be the next great boxer in the sport as he systematically dispatched veteran Diego Magdaleno in seven rounds.
Lopez (12-0, 10 KOs), ESPN’s 2018 prospect of the year, certainly has a flair for the dramatic as again he provided another highlight-reel knockout as he starched Magdaleno (31-3, 13 KOs) with a devastating left hook that floored the 32-year-old southpaw, who had been knocked down in the previous round.
Why Magdaleno was allowed to continue will be debated, for all intents and purposes, the fight was essentially over at this point.
“I take nothing away from Diego Magdaleno. We picked our shots, and we knew that in the later rounds he’d drown in those deep waters,” the gifted Lopez said. “As the competition gets tougher, you will see more of what I can do. I dissected him like a surgeon.”
His Fortnite dance and back flip post-fight celebration — which is becoming his trademark — will rub some people the wrong way. But that’s all part of “The Takeover” as he calls it. Love or loathe him, you will want to tune in when he performs.
But make no mistake, this was another statement victory for Lopez, who back in December scored a devastating first round KO of Mason Menard. On Saturday, he picked apart a sound boxer who had challenged twice before for world titles.
Now, Lopez is headed for an April 20 assignment on the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan ESPN pay-per-view card and there is talk of him facing Jose Pedraza, who just went the distance in a loss to Vasiliy Lomachenko. And should he get past Pedraza, Lopez and his boisterous father have made it clear that they want Lomachenko in 2019.
Yeah, Lopez is as bold as he is talented.
Valdez returns with a bang
It has been 11 months since we saw WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, who suffered a fractured jaw last March during his physical battle against Scott Quigg, who didn’t bother to make the 126-pound limit for their fight.
He returned to action Saturday night armed with new trainer Eddy Reynoso (best known for his work with Canelo Alvarez), and this union got off to a good start as Valdez scored a seventh-round TKO of Carmine Tommasone, whom he sent to the canvas twice in round four, again in the sixth and then finished him off with a right uppercut in the seventh.
Valdez (25-0, 20 KOs) had the expected ring rust early, but as he began to settle in, he looked much more comfortable and started to land more frequently on his Italian foe. But it’s clear that this is still a work in progress for Valdez and Reynoso. There’s a reason why Tommasone (19-1, 5 KOs) was chosen for this assignment: He had an undefeated record coming in, was a limited foe and would give Valdez a few rounds of work.
You could say he played his role perfectly and now Valdez moves on to bigger and better things.
A trainer can’t ever truly change a fighter, but he can evolve and improve him within their natural style. This will take some time, but Valdez got off to a good start.
“We started 2019 well. The sky’s the limit,” Valdez said.
As for Tommasone, after the fight he proposed to his long-time girlfriend and she accepted. So you could say there were two winners here.
Commey makes a statement
Richard Commey didn’t just win the vacant IBF lightweight title by stopping Isa Chaniev in two explosive rounds, but he set the stage for an April 12 against Lomachenko, who holds the WBA and WBO belts.
And he did it in the most emphatic way.
What was thought to be rather tough stylistic matchup for the heavy-handed boxers from Ghana, was instead a blowout as Chaniev, who instead of boxing early on, made the rather dubious decision to stand and trade with Commey — and he paid a price.
He was sent to the canvas at the end of Round 1 with a blistering right hand. Things didn’t get any better in the next round as he was sent down by a left hook early and after rising on his feet, was hit by a barrage of power punches from Commey, leaving referee Laurence Cole no other choice but to wave off the fight.
After some tough-luck losses against the likes of Robert Easter (in what was his first title opportunity back in 2016) and Denis Shafikov, Commey (28-2, 25 KOs) left no doubt Saturday with a dominant performance.
“This is everything for me. This is what I worked so hard for. Finally being a world champion, I feel like I fulfilled a destiny for me,” said a jubilant Commey, who joins the likes of Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey, as champions from Ghana.
Often in boxing it’s not if you win, but how you do so. And with the explosive nature of his victory, Commey creates a real buzz for his potential upcoming task against one of the best pure boxers in the sport.
Lomachenko will still be the significant favorite when they meet, but with the nature of Commey’s victory on Saturday night — and his overall track record — we don’t really know what might transpire.