By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I can’t be the only one, can I?
Though I sat down like a good HBO subscriber Saturday night and awaited tumult as Sergey Kovalev approached the ring on the Jersey seashore, I walked away 30 or so minutes later with something less than the post-apocalyptic afterglow I’d been led to believe I’d experience.
I know he stretched his consecutive stoppages-in-victories streak to 12. I know he was never in danger of losing the fight, in spite of blood over both eyes and a visit to the canvas from a nasty low blow. And I know his opponent leaned more toward Josh Clottey than Mike Tyson when it came to engagement.
But still, somehow I expected more.
Given that Agnew came into the ring with a middling stoppage history, only 13 KOs in 26 wins, against opposition that can hardly be deemed world-class in nature, I figured he’d provide a negligible level of dissuasion to a guy who’d been tagged coming in with words like animal, beast and monster.
Based on the ferocity with which Kovalev had erased Nathan Cleverly and Ismayl Sillakh – both of whom had arrived with at least equal (and in Cleverly’s case, far more) fanfare – I actually thought I’d leaned conservative in forecasting the Russian would be chatting up Max Kellerman inside of nine minutes.
Not only did it end up closer to 21 ticks before “Krusher” got to deliver the Adonis-baiting line that became the event’s most memorable takeaway, but he got hit enough times and looked vulnerable enough in spots to make think he’s something inferior to the Ivan Drago clone he’d been billed.
Made me think of another guy the Network of Champions has been salivating over lately.
When Gennady Golovkin met a similarly anonymous Osumanu Adama on Feb. 1 in Monte Carlo – a bout that HBO thought better of covering in person – the dual-belted middleweight phenomenon ultimately pounded into dust a guy most folks wouldn’t have assumed would last more than a couple rounds.
After all, Golovkin was coming in with a similarly lengthy KO streak. He’d laid waste to a carbon-copy cavalcade of mostly unheralded challengers. He was being talked up as the anathema option to a fellow champion in his division who ultimately chose to make his money in another, less-threatening direction.
But what I noticed was that Adama didn’t bolt through the ropes in fear when Golovkin was introduced. He didn’t fall down the first time the Kazakhstan slugger hit him. And in the time between the opening bell and the final wave-off, he hit Triple-G enough to make me think others could do so, too.
And the more I thought of it, the more an idea popped into my head.
Rather than collectively bumming over the reality that guys named Stevenson and Martinez want no part of these guys at either 175 or 160, why not go ahead and cut them from the equation completely – and just match the two together on some pre-negotiated weight-class Crimea.
Kick the idea around in your head and it feels more and more logical.
They’re both children of former Soviet Union republics. They both have amateur pedigrees that stretch over more than 200 bouts. They’ve both got ties to the same premium cable network, which eliminates that pesky “Sorry, we just can’t make that fight happen” baloney.
And they’re both guys that, well, no one else seems to want anything to do with.
From a fight fan’s perspective, it’s Rodan vs. Godzilla… with a handy rematch clause.
And if Golovkin’s guru, Abel Sanchez, is to be believed, they’ve already got a dais-ready back story.
“Kovalev was afraid of Golovkin when they were in the ring,” he told HustleBoss.com, referring to spar sessions over an 18-month period in Big Bear, Calif. “When he did spar Gennady, Sergey would fall apart and wouldn’t pose much of a challenge for Golovkin. It was either too much respect or too much fear.”
I didn’t ask the Florida import about it when we spoke last week, but something tells me that he might have remembered it a trifle differently. And if someone suggests that he take another swipe sans headgear and with a few hundred thousand on the line, I doubt he’ll change networks to avoid it.
As for me, rather than seeing either continue to feast on light heavyweight flotsam or middleweight jetsam – or get strategically undressed by Andre Ward, for that matter – I’d sooner see them fight each other to determine a worthy successor to Lucas Matthysse for the “most avoided fighter” strap.
And I’m guessing that if it does occur, no one will roll over unsatisfied.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Akira Yaegashi (champion) vs. Odilon Zaleta (No. 8 contender)
Yaegashi (19-3, 9 KO): Third title defense; Held WBA title at 105 pounds (2011-12, zero defenses)
Zaleta (15-3, 8 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside of Mexico (1-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Yaegashi has fought and beaten a better grade of opposition than a foe who comes in off a long plane ride and having lost two of his last three bouts.” Yaegashi by decision
WBC light flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Adrian Hernandez (champion) vs. Naoya Inoue (No. 4 contender)
Hernandez (29-2-1, 18 KO): Fifth title defense; Second WBC reign at 108 pounds (2011, one defense)
Inoue (5-0, 4 KO): First title fight; Second fight scheduled for 12 rounds
Fitzbitz says: “Though the recent Lomachenko misfire at 126 pounds is a warning shot, it’s too tough to shy from another high-end prospect making a bid against a veteran champ.” Inoue by decision
Last week's picks: 2-0
2014 picks record: 18-4 (81.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 565-198 (74.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.