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Kovalev finishes Cleverly in Wales



This past Saturday night HBO’s Boxing After Dark gave us a triple header treat of tantalizing fights. Two of them were live from the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, with a third one taped delayed by a few hours from Cardiff, Wales. This is HBO’s version of rising prospects and veteran fighters either making one last run or providing a test for a younger fighter. Sometimes it is two undefeated rising stars clashing.

This was the scenario for the fight from Wales to kick off the night’s telecast. Let us take a little closer look at that fight. It featured the undefeated Welsh light heavyweight champion, Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs), taking on the undefeated Russian, Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs). There is little doubt that Kovalev holds the edge in power going into this fight. The question was whether or not Cleverly could keep him from landing it.

Right in the opening moments of this bout you sense that Cleverly might be in trouble. Jim Lampley is telling the viewing audience that Cleverly is the more accurate and higher volume puncher of the two fighters. What’s unfolding on the screen is Kovalev being the more active fighter of the two. This trend continued throughout the fight and was backed up by the Compu Box numbers as Kovalev landed 100 punches to Cleverly’s 37 in this short fight. Both Lampley and Roy Jones Jr. were criticizing Cleverly for not keeping the fight at distance, noting that he is just using his jab but not much else. Max Kellerman was the only one to give Kovalev credit for confusing Cleverly with his subtle movement and boxing IQ.

It is easy to overlook what Kovalev does from a boxing skill standpoint and get mesmerized by the power. He did not dance around nor did he use a natural fluidity of motion that instantly grabbed your eye. What he was doing was just slipping punches enough so they miss. He used deft footwork, and angles to cut Cleverly off. It was subtle but very effective. It was Kovalev that controlled the distance and the pace of this fight.

The flip the script type of first round was further solidified by the numbers also. Lampley informed us that Kovakev threw 95 and landed 35 while Cleverly threw 55 and landed 13. He also added that Cleverly averages 80+ punches a round over his career. The second round looked much like the first. The big difference is a cut over Kovalev’s right eye. It was just a nuisance and never in danger of stopping the fight. The first two rounds had plenty of action as far as punches thrown but neither fighter was close to being hurt. That changed in the third round.

The first two minutes of the round were just a slightly slowed down version of the opening two. hen, with just over a minute left in the round, Kovalev sent Cleverly down to the canvas. The set up was a perfect example of his sublime beauty of timing, distance and accuracy. He threw a right that Cleverly ducked under and Kovalev followed with a left he half threw but did land. Instead he stepped back and this brought Cleverly into him. Again, he threw a right hand with a little more on it. Cleverly ducked forward again and Kovalev again unleashed a left hook, this one with bad intentions. It caught Cleverly coming forward and rocked him. Kovalev reset himself and went left hook head, left hook head, and left hook to the body. He followed this with a flurry, and then for a moment, he channeled Elvis and used a pelvic thrust feint, left hook to the body, then right hook to the head followed by a clubbing right hook to the dome that sent Cleverly down. The pelvic thrust was one of the odder almost surreal things. Maybe he was just very proud of his shiny red shorts. He sensed that the end was coming quickly and he wanted to make sure that Cleverly saw them. Whatever the reason he clearly looked at Cleverly and moved his hips and then threw a combo that just missed. Moments later he landed the combo that sent him down for the first time.

Cleverly got back up and seemed to be a little woozy.He bounced around like he was trying to wake himself back up. They tied up for a moment then were separated. Kovalev caught him with a left to the body, and then a grazing left hook. Cleverly tried to duck under it but it just clipped him a little. He tried to stay crouched down to weave and duck under the punches. Instead, Kovalev caught him on top of the head with a left and right hook that sent him down again. Once again they tied up after the standing eight count, and again Kovalev punished him after they were separated. He landed several more shots to the body and head. It was hard to tell whether or not the fight was over as the round came to a close. The ref seemed to be stopping the fight right as the bell sounded. As he stepped in to separate them he grabbed Cleverly and then deposited him in his corner.

They came out for the fourth round but Cleverly did not look good. Right away Kovalev moved and swarmed Cleverly raining blows from all angles. leverly again tried to crouch, duck and weave with the same results. When his hands hit the canvas the ref had no choice but to wave his hands and call the fight. If there was any doubt about the stoppage, Cleverly’s slow wobbly walk to his corner confirmed that it was time to stop the fight.

The talk before the fight and in the first two rounds seemed to focus on Cleverly. They wanted to see how Kovalev would respond when Cleverly started to take him into the later rounds. Would Kovalev start to tire or would he step up to the challenge or would Cleverly wear him out and get the win? Kovalev had no interest in those plans and instead took control of the fight in the opening moments. From there he used some deft awkward movement, mastery of angles, and timing to score the TKO win. He reminds one of a boxing version of Kevin McHale. When he played he was master at disrupting his opponents timing and kept them off balance. This was exactly what Kovalev did to Cleverly in the ring. It was dominating performance from the puncher who out boxed the boxer to score the impressive TKO victory. Kovalev looked poised to take the face his next challenge. He made this one look almost too easy.

via Dwayne Wolff

image via msn.foxsports