“FOR a long time I never wanted a nickname,” Sergey Kovalev says quietly as he reflects on the way his life has changed since he began fighting professionally in America nearly six years ago. He might now be known as “Krusher”, and regarded alongside Gennady Golovkin as the hardest-hitting fighter in boxing, but Kovalev resisted any easy shortcuts. These days Kovalev and Golovkin are routinely hailed as “Beasts from the East”, and acclaimed as more interesting fighters than the controlling Floyd Mayweather, the only boxer who can legitimately argue to be clearly ahead of them in the pound-for-pound rankings.
“I just wanted to be Sergey Kovalev, nothing else,’ he says. “I see no good idea in a nickname. But Kathy Duva, my promoter, told me that people in America don’t remember Russian names. They get confused with Russian fighters. They can’t tell you the difference between Sergey Kovalev and Alexander Povetkin and Ruslan Provodinkov. It is like we are the same guy.”
Kovalev is an unassuming man, for all his controlled ferocity in the ring, and he sighs in mild disbelief. Those three Russian names are as distinct as the differences between a limited heavyweight like Povetkin, an unbeaten multiple world champion light-heavy in Kovalev and an inconsistent 147-pounder such as Provodnikov. “Kathy explained that people will recognise me more if I get a good nickname. She thinks a long time and says, ‘You are more than just a knockout guy. You are crushing your opponents. You are ‘Krusher’.”