November 6, 2014

Bernard "The Alien" Hopkins vs "The Krusher" Kovalev — KO Staff Picks

The Executioner predicts a bold statement
When Bernard Hopkins steps into the ring Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey to face Sergey Kovalev, he'll have to beat more than just the power punching Russian in front of him, he'll have to beat the legions of critics and skeptics who (again) insist he'll lose, possibly by knockout. Make no mistake, Hopkins is an underdog in this light heavyweight title unification bout but he likes it that way and the 49-year old living legend thrives on the competition, both in the ring and in the court of pubic opinion.

"I have the same thoughts on Kovalev that most people do," Hopkins said. "He's a dangerous puncher. We won't take anything away from him. He's a real threat. It won't be an easy fight, even if it looks easy. I don't just have to beat the man, I have to beat a lot of people. They're either going to watch me win or lose, and I don't mind playing that game. People believe that Adonis Stevenson jumped ship because he didn't want to fight Kovalev. Fans believe Kovalev is the most dangerous light heavyweight in the division. I will not go back on my word that the man who beats the man becomes the man. That's the political part but I'll gain strong support from boxing fans by beating Kovalev. It will open up a lot of debate about where I stand in the division."

Kovalev predicts he'll kick some ass
Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) fights. Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs) talks and fights.

It's been an enlightening promotion but the "Krusher" doesn't expect much in the way of resistance, clean or otherwise: "Nothing dangerous from Hopkins. He's already old. I don't have any strategy, just street fight. My hands are my weapons. I'm going to kick his ass. I'm 100% sure this will not be a clean fight from Hopkins. Something will happen. If he is feeling like he can't do something legally, he starts playing like actor, complaining about pain or low blow or like in his first fight against Chad Dawson. Who is the referee in the ring? Who are the judges? If I lose, I lose but I'm not going to."

If you lose, you lose? No strategy? If that sounds familiar it's because American President Barack Obama made some scary headlines over the summer in Washington D.C. by declaring to the White House press corp that he had no strategy ("yet") to ultimately "degrade and defeat" the the genocidal terrorist Caliphate known as the Islamic State. Yes, of course Kovalev has a strategy. Along with John David Jackson, he is cornered by no less of a boxing wizard than Don Turner, best remembered for helping Christian warrior Evander Holyfield defeat Mike Tyson in 1996. Hopkins and Tyson are both Muslims who converted while incarcerated in America.

The Russian readies for war
Krusher Kovalev, 31, is a cold warrior with no love lost for Chechens or anyone like them.

"I'm going to fight a clean fight but if Hopkins fights dirty, I will be fighting dirty."

"When I step into that ring I'm at war with everybody," warned Hopkins.

David McLeod will be ringside in Atlantic City to report on the hostilities for KO.  

We polled the remaining KO Digest staff for predictions:

Terry Strawson, Spotlight On Boxing's Up & Comers: I cannot remember a Bernard Hopkins bout (or a light heavyweight contest for that matter) that has drummed up such excitement personally and in the mainstream media. It has the potential to etch itself in the history books. Hopkins, pushing fifty years old, has been out-smarting and out-boxing quality opponents for what seems like an eternity. His opponent, the calculated and concrete-fisted Sergey Kovalev, has been swarming and storming through his opposition thus far. His come forward, power punching style of fighting should suit Hopkins well. I see the "Alien" disrupting the rhythm of the "Krusher" through his movement, counter punching and a variety of other wily techniques. It may not always be the prettiest but it will certainly be effective. I'm taking Hopkins to execute a near perfect fight en route to a unanimous decision.

Mark A. Jones, The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science: Sergey Kovalev is tailor made for Bernard Hopkins because he's front foot heavy and has significant defensive liabilities, but you can't fool Father Time or Mother Nature. Kovalev wins by TKO in ten. 

Alien vs Krusher 
Chuck Marbry, KO's Pastor of Pugilism: Sergey Kovalev will start hard and fast, so Bernard Hopkins will struggle early trying to find his rhythm. Hopkins will most likely hit the canvas in the early going. The key test will be whether "B-Hop" gets up from a knockdown clear-headed or not. My thoughts are that Hopkins will stay cute enough in the ring to last the distance, but that Kovalev's youth and power will win in a tough contest by decision.

Edwin "Ace" Ayala: Bernard Hopkins certainly has the experience and the skills but Sergey Kovalev's crushing power wins this one by a ninth round technical knockout.

Steve Bridge, KO Digest Dream Fights: Bernard has had more resurrections than Freddie, Jason, and Mike Meyers combined. Each time we think he's finished, he comes back stronger against a more dangerous opponent. He’s become an archetype, used by trainers to scare young up & comers, "If you don’t train hard, the B-Hop will getcha!" I’m not 100% convinced he can pull off the miracle this time. I suspect that as wily as "B-Hop" is, he'll have trouble with the younger, stronger Kovalev. Hopkins has a history of destroying young punchers, but I don’t think that will happen with Kovalev. I see a close tough fight. The old man pulls out every last trick in the book. In the end it won’t quite be enough. Kovalev will stay poised and will keep his hands busy; doing just enough to take a close split decision.

Duva says she has no concerns about the judges
Joel Sebastianelli, KO Digest Interview: It seems as though we ponder the same doubts before every Bernard Hopkins fight over the last few years, and more often than not, I’ll admit that I’ve doubted him and his ability to defy age and the odds to continue going strong at 49. Still, it’s hard for me to pick against the promising Sergey Kovalev. Hopkins’ boxing IQ is still one of the highest in the sport, but it will be difficult to slow the fight to his preferred tempo with the power of Kovalev stalking him down. Hopkins has never been knocked out and he’ll keep that streak alive, but I think the Russian can put together enough solid punches to earn a gritty victory on the scorecards.

Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest Editor-in-Chief: This is a scary boxing blockbuster in the making! Here's a sneak preview of coming attractions: a 49-year-old Bernard "The Alien" Hopkins gets launched from the ring by the crushing power of a real-life killer with an ass-kicking strategy, Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev. In Atlantic City, the Russian will execute the former executioner from Philadelphia with a prophetic injection of phantom punching precision. It's a black and white remake of Rocky Marciano knocking out Joe Louis except this "Krusher" sheds no tears. To him, it's a dark comedy, or worse, a dirty movie. Wherever his spaceship crash-lands inside old Boardwalk Hall, the "Alien" will be writhing around in agony, but this time it's no act. Closing credits: If the fight somehow makes it to the scorecards, the rotten tomatoes review was written and executive produced by judges Larry Layton, Carlos Ortiz Jr, and Clark Sammartino.

Looks like Marciano KO's The Brown Bomber  
Kovalev by TKO in four.

Guest Writer Predictions:

Michael Woods, Editor-in-Chief of The Sweet Science: The youngest old man in sports. I like that tag better than "The Alien." So, on what night will Hopkins join the rest of us, be unable to hang with a young bomber? Saturday? Entirely possible...but I'm not willing to do more than thoroughly entertain that result. Nope, the things that give Hopkins the most trouble, athleticism, hand speed, volume, above average movement, those aren't Kovalev's strengths, on surface. Maybe Sergey has more of some of those attributes than I have noted...or maybe a well placed combo renders all that stuff moot, and the Russian gets to be the one to be able to proudly say he messed up Hopkins' chin wiring. Maybe. Lotsa maybes.

I will go with the youngest old man, by decision, believing he will be able to defuse yet another young bomber.

Woods and Revolver see Hopkins with his hands raised
Edward Revolver: Sergey Kovalev is a threat, but he still lacks the experience of fighting world-class fighters, with TKO wins over shopworn Gabe Campillo and vulnerable beltholder Nathan Cleverly being his biggest two wins to date. Kovalev has never been past eight rounds. How will he react, in case an experienced Hopkins will be able to take him in deep waters? Unlike Beibut Shumenov or Tavoris Cloud, Kovalev is not a one-dimensional fighter. He actually had a pretty good, underrated amateur career. A volume-puncher Kovalev has solid fundamentals and has impressive punch variation. Will Hopkins be able to sustain the pressure of a skilled, hard-punching fighter? He might. Even at this age. It will be very difficult but I think that Hopkins will take Kovalev the twelve round distance and then it all depends on the judges. A toss-up fight, tough to predict, but we all have a bitter experience of betting against Hopkins. For some reason, I don’t want to bet against him in this one. Hopkins W12 in a tough-tough fight.

Written and compiled by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest