Thirty six years old, but resurgent, in that he looked solid in his last outing, with a new trainer helping him reinvent himself.
But maybe stressed, having battled a legal kerfuffle or two, we’ve seen news reports of misbehavior…
What sort of Sergey Kovalev would we see in his homecoming wingding, his WBO 175 pound title defense in Chelyabisnk, Russia on Saturday afternoon (in the US)?
There was no shortage of folks predicting that the jacked Brit Anthony Yarde would snag the upset win. Even though we heard that he’d not been getting sparring with partners, and had instead listened to the most Instagram friendly boxing coach on the planet, Tunde Ajayi…
… many folks felt that the just turned 28 year old Yarde could upend the best laid plans of Sergey ie a fight against Canelo Alvarez.
“Past the sixth round, it may spell trouble for Anthony Yarde,” said the ESPN+ analyst Andre Ward, who fought Kovalev two times. Prescient…
To start, Yarde showed solid hand speed, and looked to land a sweeper hook, because he thought he could time the Russian. The jab, that was the recipe to suceed for the Main Events fighter Kovalev, who landed it to the body and head and tried to set the tone and pace with that table setter. Table-setter, and then some, as we’ll see down the line a bit…
Yarde said he’d pose like the Rock if he won…but what was the plan to win? Hope Sergey slowed down and his lapse in energy made his head stable and in range for that hook?
Ward offered solid insight; he said Sergey is not strong, physically, and we file that away should Canelo come home 160 up to 175 in a couple months.
Jabs to the body, smart stuff by Sergey…More props, meanwhile to the ESPN+ crew calling the bout, Bernardo Osuna and Tim Bradley. Osuna referenced issues with boozing regarding Kovalev–some might think that not appropriate, but for a public figure, and one who has been in the news for speedbump issues, not off base.
We moved through the middle rounds..Kostya Tszyu and Ruslan Provodnikov looked on, and grooved, as the DJ played “I Was Made For Loving You,” by KISS, after round four.
The Brit threw one-twos, was a bit predictable, and how would he pull away?
Round 8…the Brit edged forward. He landed some body shots, in the seventh, and saw they worked. “The fight is slowly shifting Yarde’s way,” said Ward, in fact. He was more energized, a right hand buzzed the Russian. He stayed aloft, and looked beat when the bell rang to end the session.
What round is coming up, Kovalev asked? Nine, said trainer Buddy McGirt…who then threatened to pull the plug if his guy got hit too much in this round. Surprising; but not as much as you’d think because Buddy was in the corner of Maxim Dadashev (RIP) on the fateful night of July 19, and so is feeling a bit sensitive to his guys taking punches.
To the 9th…Kovalev moved more, and Yarde, never having been so deep into a fight, looked a bit tired. Kovalev re-took the edge, he got another wind, and he jabbed and he was the busier man. Solid comeback after a dodgy eighth.
The Russian’s jab was still long and sharp in the tenth–“Now he has caught his seocnd win,” said Bradley. Truth….In round 11, a jab showed how fatigued Yarde was. The jab, timed sweetly, landed on the Brit’s chin, and down he went, after starting a left hook.
Those boulders on his shoulders were a hindrance now as he gobbled for air, as he had to work hard just to keep his hands up, let alone throw.
Strange…the feed I saw didn’t show the count after three seconds, so we didn’t see the ref reach a count of ten, we just saw Kovalev walking with arms up, exultant, and his mama joyous, in the stands. That was an egregious production error, for the record.
Osuna thought it was a hook, not a jab…But no, a decent but not scary jab was enough to drop Yarde. Not unless he was just so drained, which proved to be the case…
So, we saw this was about levels..and “levels” includes seasoning. Kovalev has had to deal with late rounds, and needing to find second and then a third wind. If this fight happened a year or two from now, maybe Yarde would win. But this fight happened now…And now, we wonder if Yarde will tweak his game, and his camp and how he preps.
And Kovalev…it was hard to find someone on social media picking Kovalev to beat Canelo if and when they win. That fight was a 55-45 for Sergey or so before..but now I think it’s tipping toward favoring Canelo. Me, I still say coming from 160 to 175 isn’t an easy task…though what Ward said about Kovalev not being a strong 175 did linger in my head.