Photos by Rich Graessle for Main Events
by Gautham Nagesh
The light heavyweight division has been hurting for some time now.
The champion at 175 lbs, Chad Dawson, is a safety-first boxer that was recently handled by the top fighter at 168 (Andre Ward). The division’s biggest draw, Bernard Hopkins, is a 48-year-old that saw his best days at middleweight, and hasn’t registered a knockout in almost a decade. No other light heavyweight can claim to be a star; the closest is probably Jean Pascal, whomust beat Dawson in their March rematch to regain any of his stature. Even if he does, few fans outside Montreal and the hardcore boxingheads will be watching.
Aside from those names, the pickins’ are slim. Tavoris Cloud’s luster has been dulled by his inactivity under promoter Don King and questionable showing against Gabriel Campillo (above right) in his last fight. No one else has proven much. In other words, light heavyweight is one weight class that could desperately use an infusion of talent.
Thankfully for the weight class that once housed Bob Foster, Ezzard Charles, and Leon Spinks, there is a new hope on the horizon, and his name is Sergey Kovalev (above left). Kovalev dismantled Campillo in three rounds on NBC Sports Fight Night on Saturday from Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Curtis Stevens did Kovalev one better in the televised opener, stopping local favorite Elvin Ayala in the first round after scoring knockdowns with two heavy left hooks.
Still, the the night undoubtedly belonged to Kovalev. The unbeaten Russian came into the fight sporting a ton of knockouts, but had never been in the ring with anyone close to Campillo’s quality. The Spaniard came into the fight ranked third at 175 by TBRB. But Kovalev made the slick southpaw look like a punching bag, as he unloaded heavy power shots on Campillo with both hands. When asked what he saw in the ring after the fight, Kovalev was straight to the point:
“I see just a target,” Kovalev told NBCSN’s Chris Mannix.
Kovalev sprang out of the gate, quickly landing a series of heavy power shots to shake Campillo. The Spaniard defended a bit better in the 2nd and seemed more at home, but a hard right hand from Kovalev early in the 3rd precipitated the beginning of the end. From there it was all Kovalev, clearly one of the harder punchers at any weight. Of his three knockdowns, the second from a left hook to the body impressed the most. Official result was a TKO at 1:30 of the 3rd round. Kovalev and his trainer John David Jackason are now clearly a force to be reckoned with at light heavyweight.
Stevens similarly leapt all over Ayala, who foolishly stood in the pocket and left himself wide open against the bigger puncher. Stevens caught a jab from Ayala early with his right glove and responded with a counter left hook that found the mark. Ayala went down hard and looked still dazed as he rose at the count of 8. Stevens pounced on the re-start, raining blows on Ayala against the ropes before a final right to the body-left to the head combination sent Ayala down for the count.
The ref waved off the fight after just 70 seconds, and Stevens climbed the turnbuckle in victory. He was momentarily tackled by an unidentified man, but fortunately, security quickly subdued the interloper and Ayala recovered enough to congratulate his conqueror. A Brooklyn native, Stevens has spent his entire career at super middleweight and above, and he brought plenty of power with him down to 160 lbs. He’s probably not world-class, but definitely exciting enough to get another shot against a prospect on national TV.
New Haven native Jimmy Williams made a successful professional debut at middleweight in the televised swing bout against Noel Garcia. Williams overcame his opponent’s awkward style to score a knockdown in the 3rd round, and a clean knockout in the 4th. Williams struggled with Garcia’s wildness at first, but soon found a home for his uppercuts, which helped him take control. He finished Garcia with a nasty left hook-right uppercut combination, which left the veteran flat on his back with his eyes glazed over.