I don’t want to take a single thing from what Elieder Alvarez accomplished last night. The undefeated fighter from Colombia showcased serious boxing skill and more power than most believed he had.
Alvarez is for real and deserves our respect for his 7th round demolition of the formerly fearsome Krusher Kovalev in their Light Heavyweight title rumble on the promenade in Atlantic City.
It’s just that I can’t quite shake the feeling there was a third person in the ring, and I don’t mean referee Eric Fields. Okay, not a person per se. More like an apparition. The Son of God, in fact.
I believe Kovalev lost this fight before he ever walked into the ring. Something was taken from him in those two bouts with Andre Ward.
In losing the first fight on a controversial decision, Kovalev was robbed of an opportunity to stake a claim as the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
To be fair, while in no way did I find the decision a travesty of justice, I had Kovalev winning the first fight by a point. While most of this article is steeped in speculation, Kovalev definitely believed the fight was stolen from him. And so, he had to go back and do it again.
It's hard not to think when Kovalev entered the ring for the rematch with Ward that he had to be wondering “Why am I here? I already beat this guy once.” Conversely, Ward used his disputed victory as fuel. “Oh, you don't believe I won the fight? Let me show you who I am.”
The all-time great took a different approach in the second fight. Instead of boxing him in a clinical fashion as he did for most of fight one, Ward bullied Kovalev.
He gave away rounds to get close and land heavier punches. He was chopping Kovalev down the way the Krusher typically did with his opponents. Kovalev may have been close on the cards going into the 8th round, but he looked gassed. His heart didn't appear to be in it. His aura was gone.
And then is happened. The fusillade of body blows that Ward had been raining down on Kovalev took their toll. A shot to the head. More banging to the body against the ropes. Kovalev didn't go down, but he did quit. He dropped his hands. Laid on the ropes. Stopped defending himself. Leaving Tony Weeks with no choice but to stop the fight. Ward snatched Kovalev's body, then he took his heart.
We may not have known it at the time, but Andre Ward ended Krusher Kovalev that night. All that was left was Sergey. And Sergey was human. Breakable. Everyone knew it, for they had seen it with their own two eyes.
I believe Sergey knew it too. While no one should blame him for taking on two B level opponents after Ward, his TKO victories over Shabranskyy and Mikhalkin proved little. Sure, Kovalev checked the boxes against a couple of guys who are good fighters. In no way were either a true challenge though. Even in the post-fight interviews, Kovalev’s typical bravado seemed tempered. As if he believed it would be fraudulent to get too pumped up over the dispatching of lesser lights.
What he really wanted was that which he could not have. A ‘W’ over Ward. With Andre’s retirement, it was no longer even a possibility.
All of this is not to suggest that Kovalev didn’t try against Alvarez. He didn’t quit either. No, more to the point, he was simply not the same. Those two losses were still in his head. Andre Ward had taken up permanent residence.
In stepping up in competition after his two recovery fights, Kovalev once again found himself in the ring with a superior boxer. One who could take a punch. Make no mistake, Alvarez may well be special. Kovalev wasn’t just fighting Alvarez though. He was also fighting the ghost of Andre Ward, and the ghost of Andre Ward, he don’t fade away.
The boxing record of Sergey Kovalev will show that on the night of August 4, 2018, he was TKO’d by Elieder Alvarez. That will certainly be true, but only partially.
In a more ethereal sense, he was defeated again, for a third time, by Andre Ward. Whose spirit will forever haunt whatever remains of Krusher Kovalev.