QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC — Light-heavyweight champions Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev handled business last night with their respective knockouts over solid contenders Tony Bellew and Ismayl Sillakh at the Colisee de Quebec. HBO has made it clear that excitement will be rewarded on their network and both champs proved their careers are worth investing into for 2014, most logically being a unification match.
But like most things in boxing, there are factors that can delay the fight, most notably the “options” that Stevenson made clear in his psot-fight interview. First, left’s recap the evening that has made Stevenson vs. Kovalev one of boxing’s anticipated 2014 fights.
THE KRUSHING OF A BLACK RUSSIAN: Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev made easy work of Ismayl Sillak, needing just two rounds to separate the “Black Russian” from his senses with a few well-placed left hands and straight rights. Sillakh had the right idea coming out — he used his legs to circle and counter Kovalev’s slower hands with straight right counters and snapping jabs. Kovalev quickly adjusted by popping his jab to the body, making Sillakh hesitate just enough regarding where the punches were coming next. This allowed Kovalev to get inside, where the two clashed together roughly in several exchanges. The last one saw Kovalev snap Sillakh’s head back with a short left that bloodied his nose and put him on the floor.
Sillakh was out of it as he got to his feet, but that didn’t stop Kovalev from taunting him before landing the merciless coup de grace — a lead straight right followed by two lefts that deposited Sillakh, and his potential career as an elite fighter on the light-heavyweight division, motionless on the canvas.
Anyone that’s seen Sillakh fight before last night knows he’s a talented fighter. The problem is his durability and it’s very hard for any fighter to prosper at the elite level when you have issues taking big shots, let alone a division like light-heavyweight that’s stacked with heavy-handed punches. From their body language, you could see Kovalev had all the confidence in the world knowing that his opponent’s glaring weakness happened to be one his greatest strengths. In addition, you could see Kovalev relished destroying a fighter from his region that received much more hype over the last few years than himself. At 28, I don’t see Sillakh hanging them up, but he should remain at the Friday Night Fights level for the foreseeable future if his team has any hopes of salvaging his confidence.
“THE DWARF KNOCKED HIM OUT!”: Tony Bellew probably has a whole new respect for little people after getting bludgeoned with straight lefts in route to a sixth round stoppage defeat to WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Referring the division’s linear champ as “dwarf” and promising to overhwhelm him, it was Bellew who couldn’t handle the power nor speed of Stevenson’s money punch.
Bellew at times showed good defense in making Stevenson lunge after him, but the UK challenger was not fluid enough on offense to make the champ pay when he missed. Bellew’s shining mopment was in the fifth when a cuffing shot towards the back of the head in an exchange caused Stevenson to go toppling towards the canvas. Although ruled a slip, an emboldened Bellew pressed the fight and threw some solid hooks, but quickly backed off after eating a left cross and realizing Stevenson wasn’t hurt.
From that moment, Stevenson turned predator and took the fight right at Bellew, firing repeated lefts that cracked the challenger in the center of his face. A short left inside provided the first knockdown. Bellew rose, but soon found himself helpless on the ropes when two more left hands barreled into his skull. Referee Michael Griffin did an excellent job jumping in to prevent another damaging blow.
Afterward, all Bellew had left was his pride, seen when he refused to stay seated on his stool for evaluation after the bout’s conclusion.[youtube http://youtu.be/LqRpLPMg68g]
KOVALEV NEXT? NOT IF STEVENSON HAS HIS WAY: When asked in his pot-fight interview who he wanted next, Stevenson didn’t rule out Kovalev if “HBO put up the money,” but he made it clear he had two options he preferred over the Krusher.
I don’t have a problem if HBO put up the money. But the fans of Quebec City want Bernard Hopkins or Carl Froch. The fans know them. Pascal and Bute were defeated. But if the money is right [for Kovalev], no problem.
Stevenson is no fool. He knows that Kovalev, a fellow devastating puncher, is the biggest threat to his light-heavyweight crown. Froch is a big fight, but he’d be moving up in weight and from how we saw the 36-year-old struggle with the speed and power of young George Groves, it’s not a stretch to imagine Black Superman being the first fighter to stop the Cobra. Hopkins, ancient master that he is, did good business in Canada with his two Pascal fights. However, B-Hop also struggled mightily with the last speedy southpaw he faced in Chad Dawson. These two represent two lucrative but very winnable fights for Stevenson.
Lucky for us, HBO likely shows the money and makes this fight happen. Last thing they need is Stevenson, who’s made his American name on their airwaves, heading over to Showtime to fight Hopkins. And Froch likely doesn’t fancy a fight like this when he can make much more money possibly filling up Wembley Stadium handling unfinished business with Saint Groves.
So who takes it? A win by neither would be surprising. Although 30, Kovalev has really just stepped up his competition in January. Before then, he was fighting mostly journeyman and overmatched fighters. He’s shown a better variety of punches, legit power in both hands, and adjusting strategies in the ring than Stevenson, but his chin is still a question. Stevenson’s competition has been better, but it remains to be seen if his speed can overcome Kovalev’s better timing. It’s a highly intriguing fight that needs to happen. If forced to choose an early favorite, put me in Kovalev’s camp.