Sunday, March 30, 2014

"To me, Stevenson is a piece of sh**!"

Who's the most feared man in boxing? Contrary to popular belief, especially his own, it is not Floyd Mayweather, Jr. It is a man who can take your head off and finish a fight with just one punch. That man is (pictured @ left) WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev.

On Saturday night inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, the 'Krusher' lived up to his name as he systematically dismantled previously undefeated, but unheralded Cedric Agnew within seven rounds. For Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KO's) that is like a bad night because the last time he actually had to go to the seventh round was seven fights ago in December 2011. However, it may have actually been his best performance to date for varying reasons.

First of all, he was fighting a boxer who had an extremely good defense and decent boxing skills. Kovalev showed he was much more than a one trick pony as he took what Agnew gave him and worked around it with his own use of boxing combined with power. Second is he showed that if taken into the second half of the fight, he's in shape to go there with no problem at all. At no point did the Russian destroyer seemed gassed or tired, even though he was throwing non-stop punches throughout.

However, the biggest thing Kovalev showed was he can perform to the same standards, even when faced with adversity. An illegal low blow by Agnew late in the first round dropped the champion to his knees. A head butt in the fourth round gave him a serious cut above his right eye and a shoulder blow from Agnew in the sixth cut him below his left eye. Though uncharted territory, none of this seemed to rattle Kovalev in his quest to get the job done. If anything, it lit a fire underneath him.

Though Agnew showed a seemingly impenetrable defense, Kovalev found an opening. It was to the left side of Agnew's body where Kovalev dropped the challenger with a left hook in the sixth and finished him with a straight job to the body in the seventh. For Kovalev it was his 22nd knockout in 24 victories.

With the WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson sporting a similar record that features 20 KO's in 23 wins, it would seem that the division has a potential light's out, no pun intended, match made in heaven. The last time the light-heavyweight division saw a match-up of heavy hitters like this was 35 years ago in April 1979. That was when Philadelphia's Matthew Saad Muhammad, who had 35 KO's in his 49 victories, knocked out the then WBC champion Marvin Johnson, who himself had 35 KO's in 43 wins, in the eight round of a classic rumble.

Yet though these two indestructible forces should be on a collision course, it won't be happening anytime soon. That is because Stevenson, who has a title defense scheduled in May, has stated he is interested in fighting the "fly in the ointment" IBF champion in this division, 49 year old Bernard Hopkins. All respects due to the future hall of famer, but do we really want to see Hopkins clinching and using his dirty tactics to survive 12 rounds against Stevenson?

We don't and neither does Kovalev, who would love nothing better than the chance to fight Stevenson. He stated in his post fight interview, "This is boxing, I don't care if I lose; it's bound to happen, this is boxing." Refreshing viewpoint from a star in the making, who I've had the pleasure of seeing fight in person three times when he fought here in my hometown at The Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. One of those times, my friends and I actually found us on the hotel elevator with Kovalev before one of his fights.

When I confirmed who he was, he acknowledged us and was a genuinely nice guy; he even laughed along with us when we jokingly asked him if he wanted a shot of some Puerto Rican Rum we had in tow. However, don't mistake his kind demeanor for weakness. When asked on Saturday night what he thought about Stevenson not wanting to fight him, he succinctly responded, "I don't want to talk about him. To me, Stevenson is a piece of sh**t!" 'Nuff said.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Changing of the guard; yes and no

There was a changing of the guard, yes and no, during an entertaining boxing card Saturday night at The Sands Events Center in Bethlehem, PA. In one case, the young warrior was too much for the grizzled former champion; while in the other, a close decision loss, the former world champion's experience was just enough to get by.

The main event on Saturday night featured former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion of the
world 37 year old Tomasz Adamek (49-3, 29 KO's) taking on 29 year old Vyacheslav 'The Czar' Glazkov (17-0-1, 11 KO's); both are pictured above. Meanwhile pictured at right, the featured bout had welterweight contender, Bethlehem's own, Ronald Cruz (20-3, 15 KO's), age 27, taking on former world welterweight and light middleweight champion Kermit 'The Killer' Cintron (35-5-2 (28 KO's). Both bouts went the distance, but were two different stories all together.

In the main event, both Adamek and Glazkov were busy boxing throughout the 12 round affair for the IBF North American heavyweight title, however there was one noticeable difference; Glazkov was beating Adamek to the punch. While Adamek remained busy throughout using his jab and throwing combinations behind it, Glazkov did the same and in the end the difference was noticeable. While Glazkov came away with a noticeable mouse under his left eye, Adamek had the same under his right eye only worse.

By the fourth round Adamek's eye was on it's way to swelling near shut and by the seventh round and each succeeding round in between till the end, the ringside physician and referee were in his corner checking his status. However, the eye was just the worst of it as Glazkov's continuous pressure and non-stop punches in bunches attack were turning Adamek's face into a distorted mess. In the end it was a clear-cut unanimous decision for the Ukranian who now becomes the number two-ranked heavyweight in the world.

There were heavy contingents for both fighters last night as chants in both Polish and Ukranian could be heard ringing throughout the arena the entire fight. However, when it was all over, the pro Glazkov fans were the only ones to be heard rejoicing. Yet, much credit to the pro Adamek Polish crowd in attendance; they stayed and cheered their fighter all the way up until he left the ring. When asked in his post fight interview if he would consider retirement, Adamek said, "I don't know right now. I have to take some time off and think."

Now before the Polish and Ukranian fans were being heard, it was all Puerto Rico in the house as both Cruz and Cintron were not only fighting for national pride, but for eastern Pennsylvania bragging rights as well. Cintron, who is from Reading, PA, only a one-hour drive from Bethlehem had his own crowd of fans who made their way to The Christmas City. However Cruz, the hometown favorite who literally lives about 10 minutes from the ring he fought in, had the majority of Boricuas on his side. This was a big step up in class for Cruz, but right from the start he showed no signs of intimidation.

From speaking to him and his trainer Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez before the fight, their game plan was to pressure the former champion. Ronald was going to put his head in Cintron's chest all night and constantly pressure him with body shots and hooks to the head. It sounded like the perfect plan and to Cruz's credit, he executed it, as best he could. There were two problems though.

One problem was Cintron himself; to his credit, unlike in previous bouts, Cintron showed no emotion. He appeared calm throughout the entire fight and worked his way out of Cruz's pressure; well sort of. This is where the other problem for Cruz came in. At no fault of his own, he got stuck with the worst type of referee for the fight and plan he was trying to implement.

Veteran referee Gary Rosato worked the Cintron/Cruz fight and did his job fairly; however therein lies the problem. Every referee has their own style in working fights, Rosato's style is to be quick to jump in and break the clinch, while other's, like Steve Smoger for example, tend to let the fighters work themselves out of the clinch. Rosato's style was a detriment to Cruz all night as every time he worked his way inside Cintron's guard where he wanted to be, the referee would immediately separate them instead of letting them duke it out.

The pro Cruz crowd caught on to this by the third and fourth rounds and could clearly be heard voicing their displeasure with chants of "Let them fight" and "What are you doing" every time Rosato would step in to break the clinch. No excuses, just that the term "Styles make fights" was never more prevalent than in this case. A different style referee may have made the difference between Cruz losing a unanimous 96-94 decision across the board and possibly winning an extra round or two in the judge's eyes, thus changing the outcome.

In the end, both Cintron and Cruz remain contenders, only one is back at the top of the rankings, while the other remains on the outside looking in for now. Cintron was gracious in victory stating in his post fight interview, "Cruz is a tough fighter who would give anyone in the division problems. I told him to keep his head up and keep working because he has a lot of potential."

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