Last week Sergey Kovalev said he would knockout defending WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly in five rounds or less.
Kovalev (22-0, 20 KOs) delivered on his promise by overwhelming hometown hero Cleverly (26-1, 12 KOs) in four rounds at a hushed Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, UK.
BoxNation provided the live telecast.
The fight started quickly.
Cleverly, 26, snapped off a half-dozen jabs in the first minute of the opening stanza. Kovalev measured him and fired his power punch, the right hand, consistently to the head and body.
In round two, Cleverly attempted to establish his boxing skills. It seemed that his best bet was to use the ring and box. He landed a double jab, but also ate a clubbing right. Kovalev backed Cleverly into the ropes and worked the body.
Both fighters exchanged punches, but Kovalev, 30, was obviously stronger. He was throwing punches in bunches which seemed to surprise Cleverly. Near the end of the round a slight cut appeared near the right eye of the Russian challenger.
Kovalev kept up the volume in round three. Cleverly tried his best to catch up. He bounced on his toes and searched for some rhythm. His jab continued to be his most effective punch. The problem was none of his punches were having much impact. Kovalev, like a lumberjack, chopped at him with heavy blows. A big left uppercut staggered Cleverly. Two more right hands put him down. Cleverly got up and indicated that he was okay. A few seconds later a barrage of punches floored him for the second time. He managed to rise, but was extremely wobbly. The bell (and the referee) saved him.
The respite was brief.
Kovalev wasted no time jumping on his wounded prey. A salvo of rights and lefts knocked Cleverly to his knees.
This time the referee waved off the contest.
The time was 21 seconds of round four.
“This is the first title I’ve ever won, “said Kovalev on the ring apron. “Everybody was talking about Nathan. I said, wait, after.”
“This belt is for all of the people who believed in me,” he added.
Kovalev clearly showed that his power is no mirage. It will be interesting to see if he becomes the light-heavyweight version of Gennady Golovkin.
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