SERGEY KOVALEV joined forces with Father Time and swamped Bernard Hopkins. The Russian claimed an emphatic, and unanimous decision, as two scores of 120-107 and one of 120-106 added the WBA and IBF light-heavyweight belts to his WBO belt.
Those at Atlantic City hoping to witness another ‘Alien’ landing sensed trouble early on as the 49-year-old hit the canvas in the opening round. The wily old American immediately looked at the canvas in mock disbelief, indicating he had slipped, but replays revealed a clumping right hand from Kovalev was a huge factor in the knockdown.
“I was pacing myself,” Kovalev explained afterwards. “A knockdown is just a knockdown, there were many more rounds to go. I wanted to show myself, and boxing fans, that I could box [as well as punch].”
Kovalev, 18 years Hopkins’ junior, showed respect for his rival, but there was no evidence – whatsoever – of him being overawed by fighting the modern boxing legend. The Russian forced Hopkins along the ropes, bullied him into the corners. and dominated every exchange to ruin the fairytale the old man had been crafting in recent years.
Big right hands from the composed Kovalev persuaded Hopkins to defend for much of the bout, and a booming blow almost dropped the veteran in the eighth. Desperation forced ‘The Alien’ to take chances and in the 10th, he had moderate success with a right and left hook of his own. Briefly people wondered if the Philadelphian could muster a miracle, if Kovalev – a knockout master used to early finishes – would fade over the final minutes. But Kovalev grew stronger, and dished out a nasty shellacking over the final three minutes. Hopkins, brave and determined to hear the last bell, wobbled all over the ring as his head was snapped back time and again. It should, perhaps, have been stopped there.
The ageing warrior survived. But the Alien is human after all. And unlike in previous losses – to Joe Calzaghe, to Chad Dawson, to Jermain Taylor – there were no cries of robbery from Hopkins in the aftermath.
“He fought a great technical fight,” admitted Hopkins afterwards. “He used his reach and he used his distance. That was the key to the fight. He definitely has his mechanics, and he has patience and every time he got hit with punches from me, he did the right thing and stepped back, and I had to reset.
“Kovalev is going to be around for a long time, for as long as he wants to. I’ve got respect for him, he wants to fight the best, and that’s what boxing should be about.”
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