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Sergey Kovalev Exorcises The Ghost of Andre Ward

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He didn’t want him anywhere near his dressing room. There would be no pre-fight production meeting between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, not with memories of falling off a cliff on the eve of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ 13-3 cliffhanger over the Los Angeles Rams.

It was the summer of 2017 in the month of June and I’m feeling the blues. In Santa Monica on artistic assignment, however, the melancholy is giving way to beautiful violence in the form of music; Andre Ward’s would be in the form of boxing– in this case, a textbook mugging of the remnants of Kovalev in their sequel. It turned Ward into “The Krusher”, in his swan song before Canastota; while forcing Kovalev to seek the “Son of God” for advice– before, during, and after fights.

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Just before that happened, I’d predicted it would happen exactly as it did during my last podcast appearance on Talkbox with Michael Woods, who also happens to be the editor-in-chief of NY Fights. It was a surreal morning. 

On my way to a music production studio on the beach in Santa Monica, I’m nearly hit at a stop sign by Billy Bob Thornton. I’m wearing a black fedora and Billy Bob tips an imaginary cap, as he and passenger Maria Bello flash megawatt Hollywood smiles.

I’m confident- when five minutes later, I’m telling Woodsy on air that a heavily inspired Andre grinds Sergey into submission in about 8-rounds.

Spoken word is sometimes the lie that has speed, in contrast to a written truth with endurance. At once conflicted over what a Kovalev of old could do to Ward (even the November 2016 version against Ward, still wasn’t the old Kovalev), those feelings resurfaced after a sharp convinced me that John David Jackson had resurrected a vintage Sergey. But it was fool’s gold, as Ward exposed the Russian product as something less than an authentic version of who he was. Having been on a few movie sets, Ward knew Kovalev was quite literally ‘playing himself’ and inculcated that impression into his mind– and groin. Impressions that stayed with Kovalev upon regaining, defending and losing the WBO light heavyweight title until the other night.

The first thing I imagined old school new coach Buddy McGirt doing with Sergey, was placing him in a dark room with videotape of “The Krusher,” for he had kind of simply become punk ass Sergey Kovalev. We cannot go back to who we were, but if we remember that other self as better than the current version, we need to go back to the habits of who we were. Sergey Kovalev didn’t beat Eleider Alvarez via convincing 12-round UD last Saturday night in Frisco, Texas, “The Krusher” did, albeit an older one that knew he could beat an even better Alvarez this time.

I’ve always thought of Kovalev as a black fighter with a Russian accent; he used to train hardcore with the brothers in Miami, and routinely mowed down the best competition the hood had to offer with his patented chopping strike offense and killer instinct. In truth, a part of Kovalev never recovered mentally from killing Roman Simakov in December 2011, and didn’t respond well when revisiting the scene of that accidental crime in July 2016 against an always tough Isaac Chilemba. Who was Kovalev’s very next opponent? Ward, who knew Kovalev had difficulty letting go and wouldn’t allow him to believe he could. 

He has, finally.

I don’t know where Kovalev goes from here as a fighter, but I do know three things:

1. A third fight with Andre Ward would be an extremely difficult encounter for a comebacking S.O.G if he so chose.

2. I don’t believe the woman accusing Kovalev of sexual assault while traumatizing her dog. In this country, at least presumably, exists a condition of innocence before guilt. There are few things more disgraceful than a woman feigning that type of abuse, and Kovalev’s adamant denial– while displaying a never-before-seen mental toughness in subduing a man who’d knocked him senseless just months ago was impressive. 

3. A fight with WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol would be a candidate for FOTY. Their style blend meshes like peanut butter and jelly, and it’s a fight Main Events CEO Kathy Duva and Eddie Hearn would have little difficulty putting together.

“The Matrix” Needs An Upgrade 

Speaking of ghosts while rounding out a few thoughts from the weekend, I saw enough in new IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey to suggest he’ll give world #1 Vasyl Lomachenko hell in April before ultimately being stopped. Sure, Commey looked incredibly scary destroying Isa Chaniev, but we’re talking about Loma. He’d eventually make Commey’s physical exuberance work against him before obliterating the Ghanaian. But what the braintrust behind Loma need to be doing – in earnest, is figure out a way to reinvent and upgrade “The Matrix” in preparation for the threat of Teofimo Lopez. 

Having established himself as a super-villain that would make Mr. Anderson blush, Lopez poses perhaps a greater threat to Lomachenko’s legacy than Gervonta “Tank” Davis or Mikey Garcia. His chilling, cruel (and somewhat crass) annihilation of Diego Magdaleno served notice that he is coming for his head on a plate in 2019. No one gives a damn about his turn as Neo at 130, for he appears mortal in his quest for lightweight glory. No storyline will be more interesting than finding out if Lomachenko is indeed the greatest pure talent since “The Greatest” as Bob Arum famously suggested a few years ago. And this year, the boxing world is about to find out.

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About John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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