There were two light heavyweight world title fights in Atlantic City last weekend.
In the first, Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KO’s) defended his WBA belt for the third time. Across the ring stood Issac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KO’s).
Bivol is a knockout artist, known for closing the show quickly by putting his opponents “to sleep” in the early rounds.
Chilemba is a tough piece of gristle whose only losses have been to the most elite in this weight class (Tony Bellew, Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev, to name a few).
They set a brisk tempo.
Bivol’s superior hand speed allowed him to easily dominate offensively.
And those quick mitts also factored into his defensive. He parried punches and batted down the incoming leather so effectively that he kept Chilemba from landing in double digits during any single frame of the fight.
Chilemba only averaged six per round.
Going deeper into the match Chilemba picked up his pace and landed more frequently.
Bivol’s power and accuracy waned as the bout wore on. He was never in danger, but he couldn’t dispatch Chilemba.
The match went the distance, and the scorecards accurately reflected the action.
Dmitry Bivol won a unanimous decision (two judges gave him every round) remains undefeated, and retained his title.
The second bout of the doubleheader was a bit of a calculated surprise.
Sergey Kovalev’s troubles started back in November 2016, when he was ripped off in a decision loss against Andre Ward.
Kovalev should’ve been ahead by several points, but all three judges at ringside scored it 114-113 in favor of Ward.
The damage that defeat did to Kovalev’s psyche was as bad as if he’d been knocked out.
With his confidence shaken Kovalev came back for the rematch (seven months later) unsure and diminished.
He lost again…this time for real.
Since that time he’s had two fights against “manageable” opposition and he laid them low without breaking much of a sweat.
On Saturday Kovalev faced Eleider Alvarez, an actual threat and a true test of his mettle.
Alvarez came to this contest undefeated, but hadn’t been in the ring for 14 months.
Understandably, the early rounds were tentative.
Alvarez scraped off the ring-rust while Kovalev proceeded cautiously.
They were active but they were keeping a safe distance, so not much was finding the target.
Both landed stiff jabs in the 3rd. Kovalev opened up his offense as his confidence bolstered and he enjoyed a successful flurry in the middle of Round 4.
An accidental clash of heads in the 6th opened a cut under Alvarez’s left eye but it did not become a factor.
Although Kovalev was landing the harder more damaging shots, Alvarez remained competitive and never stopped throwing…which paid off in the middle of Round 7.
Alvarez lunged forward with a jab and then stepped across with an overhand right. Kovalev moved straight back, and then stopped as the jab fell short.
But he took the full force of the overhand right. Kovalev stuttered-stepped backwards, and dropped to the seat of his satins.
He got up, took the standing eight-count, and said he was good to go.
He was not.
Alvarez pursued him, measured off a 1-2 combination (left hook, right hook) and Kovalev crumpled to the carpet.
The referee could have stopped it at that point, but he gave Kovalev one last chance.
And that is exactly what it turned out to be.
The ref barked the command, “Box” and Alvarez rushed forward with a sweeping right hook that landed flush to the face, initiating Kovalev’s final descent to the canvas.
Alvarez strafed him with two glancing blows as Kovalev fell for the third time. They weren’t needed.
The referee immediately called a halt to the campaign.
Good call, ref.
Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KO’s) remains undefeated, and took the WBO and IBA world titles.
Kovalev needs to get his mind right…or consider retiring.
God Bless and don’t lose
Mark Felicetti has considered retiring. Reach him at email@example.com.