3 More Rounds

Hopkins-Kovalev: Who will reign supreme?

Photos: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / GBP

Photos: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / GBP

On Saturday night, “The Alien” Bernard Hopkins meets Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev in a unification bout for the WBO & IBF World Light Heavyweight Titles. This matchup is the most anticipated fight in what has been a subpar 2014 for the sweet science. This is a real pick ’em fight, with the Vegas odds slightly favoring the Russian powerhouse.

Kovalev is undefeated with a record of 25-0-1 with 23 KOs. He has steamrolled anyone who dared step in the ring against him, but hasn’t faced the top guys as of yet. He holds quality wins against the likes of Blake Caparello, Cornelius White, Nathan Cleverly, and Cedric Agnew. Although opponents have been hard to come by, fellow titleholder Adonis Stevenson has been called out numerous times for avoiding a fight with “Krusher”.

Kovalev combines devastating power with strong boxing skills, which where developed as an international-level amateur. Kovalev isn’t given enough praise for his ring IQ, but he is actually very methodical, waiting for the right opportunity to unleash his offense, rather than trying to force his way in with reckless aggression.

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Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson is a former Hopkins opponent and also worked under Hopkins’ trainer, Naazim Richardson. Jackson’s experiences with Hopkins and his camp will undoubtedly help develop the right game plan to deal with the cagy veteran.

“The key to beating Bernard is to make him fight the whole fight,” Jackson says. “Take advantage of his age. Wear him down. Guys say that, and then they don’t do it because, when they hit Bernard, he hits them back and they figure they’ll wait a while longer before they go after him. But when Bernard hits you back is when he’s most vulnerable. That’s when you have the opportunity to trade punches with him.”

Bernard Hopkins is a boxing professor with the highest level of ring intelligence comparable to one Floyd Mayweather. He is a master of controlling range and tempo, a brilliant technical fighter, but one that can also be rough when he needs to. Amazingly, the almost 50-year old Hopkins is still one of the best-conditioned fighters in the sport.

Bernard Hopkins will need to be at his absolute best to derail the Russian monster.

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The keys for Hopkins is to control the distance, provide angles, and be ready to let his hands go while standing his ground in spots, especially when Kovalev closes the distance. Hopkins is a master at slowing the pace of a fight down and he will need to control the tempo of this fight in order to come out on top.

“Kovalev is coming to the fight with one bullet, and that’s his punching power,” Hopkins says. “Let him take his shot. I’m not going to run from the gun. I’m going to disarm him. I’m going to take away his big punch. This fight will be as easy for me as beating Kelly Pavlik. On November 8 on HBO, you’re gonna watch artwork.”

Kovalev will need to focus on keeping Hopkins in front of him and preventing the ageless one from stepping around him. He’s also got to use his strength advantage to prevent Hopkins from maneuvering him into dangerous positions.

If Kovalev maintains an intelligent, aggressive attack and prevents Hopkins from imposing his slow paced counterpunching style, he should be able to methodically impose his power and may even be able to be the first to stop the living legend.

“I’m going to go in to fight,” said Kovalev at a recent media workout, “I’m going to box, I’m going to show that I can fight with the best light heavyweight right now. From my side everything will be clean and fair. I don’t know what he will be doing. My life has already changed but this fight means everything.”

Saturday night should be another fun night of boxing in Atlantic City.

Prediction – Kovalev by close UD.

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