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Sergey Kovalev Goes Under the Boardwalk

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I lay my head on a thousand beds

It’s been a test to see how far a man can go without himself 

I think I’ve lost the only peace that held it all in place

And now my madness is the only love I let myself embrace 

I could’ve stayed~

–The Weeknd, Adaptation

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(Atlantic City, NJ) Sergey Kovalev chose “The Storm” and got “Krushed.” But you know that. What you may not have known, is just how interesting the last three summers have been for a man three years removed from the one we knew and Andre Ward had yet to know.

As a pugnacious Dmitry Bivol develops dull ax blades attempting to chop down a teflon tree in Isaac Chilemba, Kovalev’s own July 2016 “Russsiagate” with Chilemba replays itself mentally in between rounds devoid of sound. Considering how a devastatingly spry Bivol is transformed into a weary, somewhat frustrated mongoose by the biggest light heavyweight I’ve ever seen in my life after a hard earned 12-round UD, I decided to watch a round or two of Kovalev’s near disaster with Chilemba.

Now, having been rinsed ashore and under the boardwalk of Atlantic City like a message in a bottle from the Kremlin worth breaking and reading, the demise of the former pound-for-pound great becomes clear: Chilemba (and habits linked to depression) is the true physical source of Kovalev’s demise– not Ward.

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“Remember, he’s a bully and a contented one at that. He’s capable of pulling a Mike Tyson and quitting.”

Yours truly, flanked by ringside aficionados Mike Adellino and Doc Stanley, after the 4th round of Kovalev V Alvarez

Eleider Alvarez was basically getting his ass beat– by design, and was proud of it. Think boxing isn’t a thinking man’s sport and adjacent to checkers? You’re crazy. Just as a pummeled Alvarez looked to the uninitiated while sauntering back to his corner with a glove in the air as if he’d won the round. He didn’t care about the rounds, for he’d suspected that Kovalev was no longer a 12 round fighter; instead, he’d regressed to an 8 round fighter, one about to enter his own version of championship rounds without his vaunted power. A scant look at Kovalev’s once menacing frame conjured Michael Phelps, which is food to an inner Mike Tyson swimming for trouble. Krusher’s eyes wandered just enough to miss the ringcard girl, but long enough for an analyst to capture a look of doubt.

There’s a great difference between knowledge and intelligence, for one is known and the other discovered. Alvarez had both on Kovalev after the 4th round. “The Storm” had already weathered the effect of Chilemba in November 2015 and saw Kovalev nearly fall apart against the stubborn Malawian at the DIVS Arena in Ekatarinburg, Russia the following summer. Sergey had inadvertantly killed a man in that arena, and was defending himself and his title of front of that man’s family as Chilemba was trying to kill… him.

He survived. But that episode, along with a long awaited baby on the way and burgeoning tension between himself and former trainer John David Jackson (who realized he didn’t have the same fighter and was in denial) took its toll. Might drive a man with an unfair conscience to drink. Character assaults of the racist kind ensued before having to confront the ring version of the TV game “Jeopardy” in Ward. Then John David Jackson happens and he gets re-Ward’d.

I remember telling Kathy that Sergey looked “50 shades of gray” last summer and she agreed. After a near fatal accident scare upon return to Russia last year around that time, Sergey got it together physically, but in a way removed from the rigors of a fighter with the mentality of Ivan Drago. He didn’t give damn about killing Apollo Creed. Kovalev cared and has never stopped. With all of this to ponder, Duva took personal responsibility for not recognizing his demons then, which exemplified a look of sheer sadness and shock on her face inside of the Hard Rock Casino. It was poignant, genuine and admirable.

Looking back, we can probably start eulogizing Kovalev the fighter before Ward I. Up on the jumbo screen before his ringwalk in T-Mobile Arena that night, Kovalev can be seen presenting a six figure check to his new family amid hugs n kisses with elated relief. In reality, he would go on to become Marcos Maidana hanging around after two bouts with Floyd Mayweather.

My favorite picture of Sergey features a smiling Krusher with a jovial toy terrier riding shotgun, proving the bully was a ring movie bluff. No more madness, just a chance to embrace the love of his family.

He should stay ~

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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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