by David P. Greisman, live from ringside
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Sergey Kovalev’s next fight, against Bernard Hopkins, was announced the day before Kovalev’s fight with Blake Caparello had even begun. And so when Caparello scored a surprising flash knockdown on Kovalev halfway through the first round, it would’ve been rational to wonder whether Kovalev vs. Hopkins had been jinxed.
You wouldn’t have wondered that for too long. The fight was over before the second round was, ending with Kovalev the technical knockout winner and the Hopkins fight still a go for later this fall on HBO.
Caparello was a boxer in against a brawler. But from the beginning of the first round he sought to get Kovalev’s respect and attention, landing a southpaw left cross as a counter shot when Kovalev tried to come forward. Kovalev responded with a right hand to the body, and Caparello moved away.
Soon, however, Kovalev was on the canvas. Caparello had landed a straight left hand while Kovalev was off-balance. Kovalev stumbled backward and steadied himself with his glove.
Kovalev tried to make up for it. He landed a right hand, then leaned down atop the ducking Caparello and threw a punch to his head. The referee warned Kovalev, who apologized by touching gloves with Caparello.
Kovalev got the knockdown back legitimately in the second, and then he got even more.
Kovalev landed a right hand early, then began to toy with Caparello, winding up his right hand and landing it as Caparello stood in a neutral corner. Caparello attempted a one-two, and Kovalev landed a right hand to the body that hit in the area of Caparello’s liver. Caparello took a knee, rising before the referee reached the count of eight.
Kovalev landed another right hand, and Caparello was back on the ropes. Kovalev landed a pair of left hands to the body, as well as a few head shots. Caparello waved Kovalev in, a motion that Kovalev soon responded to with a right hand. The referee ruled that Caparello’s knee had touched for the second knockdown of the round.
The end soon came. Kovalev poured on the right hands. Caparello bent down back and against the ropes. The referee jumped in, and a small towel appeared to also have been thrown in from Caparello’s corner at about the same time.
The official conclusion came with 1 minute and 13 seconds left in the round. Caparello had lasted a total of four minutes and 47 seconds.
This paves the way for Kovalev to face Hopkins in a bout that will unify Kovalev’s World Boxing Organization title at 175 pounds with Hopkins’ International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association belts.
Kovalev had once sought to fight lineal light heavyweight champion (and World Boxing Council titleholder) Adonis Stevenson later this year. They were to fight keep-busy bouts in the first half of 2014 on HBO, with Kovalev defending against Cedric Agnew and Stevenson meeting Andrzej Fonfara.
Yet Stevenson wanted more money for the Fonfara fight than HBO was willing to pay, and Showtime stepped in with a bid. Kovalev beat Agnew in March, Stevenson struggled with Fonfara en route to a victory in May, and it seemed as if Stevenson would be going on to face Hopkins instead.
That won’t be happening.
Hopkins and Stevenson hadn’t made a deal. Hopkins had a coming deadline to either make a deal for a unification bout or otherwise be ordered to defend against his IBF mandatory challenger.
Golden Boy Promotions, which works with Hopkins, made the deal with Kovalev and Main Events on the day before Kovalev-Caparello, an unusual move that had Kovalev signing the Hopkins contract on Friday during his fighter meeting with HBO’s commentators.
Kovalev’s win over Caparello came in front of an announced crowd of 1,603 at the Revel casino in Atlantic City. His bout with Hopkins could end up in Atlantic City or at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Kovalev, 31, of Chelyabinsk, Russia, improves to 25-0-1 with 23 KOs, with that draw coming in the form of a technical draw against Grover Young in 2011 following an early clash of heads.
Caparello, 27, of Greenvale, Victoria, Australia, suffered his first pro defeat and is now 19-1-1 with 6 KOs.
Hopkins, a living legend at 49 years old, is 55-6-2 with 32 KOs and 2 no contests. He is a former middleweight and light heavyweight lineal champion. After dropping that throne to Chad Dawson in 2012, Hopkins rebounded by winning the IBF title in early 2013 with a win over Tavoris Cloud, defending it with a decision over Karo Murat last October, and then unifying it with a split decision over Beibut Shumenov this past April.
Junior-middleweight prospect Dmitry Mikhaylenko scored a clear eight-round decision over the returning Sechew Powell, winning 80-72, 79-73 and 78-74 on the cards.
In general, Mikhaylenko’s volume punching had Powell on the ropes, where he would cover up, take shots and try to land the occasional reply, though never anything near enough, or near hard enough, to keep Mikhaylenko off him for long.
Mikhaylenko, 28, of Gelendzhik, Russia, moves to 17-0 with 6 KOs. Powell, 35, of Brooklyn, New York, drops to 26-6 with 15 KOs.
This was Powell’s first fight in 26 months, dating back to his stoppage defeat to Gabriel Rosado back in June 2012. The Rosado loss had been his third in a row. Powell was already past his best days then and is clearly so now. More than nine years have passed since his highlight reel double-knockdown first-round win in his first fight with Cornelius Bundrage.
- Light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba scored a seventh-round stoppage over Cory Cummings, hitting his outmatched opponent with pretty much everything until Cummings’ corner finally decided to stop the bout.
The end came 2 minutes and 28 seconds into the round.
Chilemba had a draw and a loss against Tony Bellew back in the first half of 2013, rebounding with a decision over Michael Gbenga in November and a decision over Denis Grachev this past March.
Chilemba, a 27-year-old from Malawi now living in Johannesburg, South Africa, moves to 23-2-2 with 10 KOs.
Cumming has been a designated opponent dating back to 2006, losing decisions to guys like Keith Holmes, Montell Griffin and Chris Henry. He drew with the faded William Joppy in 2010 and then lost a decision to Joppy in early 2011. He then spent more than three years out of the ring before returning this past June with a decision loss to Azea Augustama.
This latest defeat drops the 34-year-old from Baltimore to 17-7-1 with 13 KOs.
- Adam Kownacki (258 pounds) scored a fifth-round stoppage over Charles Ellis (233 pounds), a stoppage that appeared to these eyes to come too early.
While both Kownacki and Ellis were out of shape, their styles were made to entertain: They pummeled each other. Kownacki got the better of Ellis in the first two rounds, then Ellis was able to land a pair of right hands and a left hook that had Kownacki hurt early in the third. Ellis lost his mouthpiece, though, giving Kownacki some time to recover. Ellis then went to Kownacki’s ample body a few times, only to have Kownacki roar back with an uppercut and right hand that had Ellis hurt and set up more shots that had Ellis reeling.
The back-and-forth nature of the bout continued in the fourth. And then early in the fifth, Kownacki threw a right hand and followed it with a left hook, then repeated the combination. Ellis was hurt and fell backward to the canvas, where he was on his back. Referee Randy Neumann quickly waved it off, but Ellis immediately began to attempt to get up off the mat.
The official end came 15 seconds into the round.
Kownacki, a 25-year-old Polish fighter who now calls Brooklyn, New York, his home, is now 7-0 with 7 KOs. Ellis, 39, of Wichita, Kansas, is now 9-2-1 with 8 KOs.
- DeCarlo Perez (158 pounds) won a six-round majority decision over Marcus Willis (158.5 pounds). The scorecards were an even 57-57, countered by 59-55 cards from the other two judges.
Perez, 23, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, is now 12-3-1 with 4 KOs. Willis, 27, of Fort Myers, Florida, is now 13-4-2 with 3KOs.
- Joey Dawejko (236.5 pounds) scored three knockdowns in 108 seconds against David Williams (233 rounds) en route to a first-round stoppage win.
Dawejko, 24, of Philadelphia, is now 11-3-2 with 4 KOs. Williams, 37, of Philadelphia, is now 7-9-2 with 2 KOs.
- In the show’s opener, Hakim Bryant (155 pounds) scored a fourth-round stoppage over Anthony Watson (154 pounds).
Bryant put an utter beating on Watson in the third round. For some reason the referee didn’t see a reason for mercy during the round, nor did Watson’s corner afterward. Fortunately for Watson, the ref jumped in to halt the action 38 seconds into the fourth and final round.
Bryant, 24, of Middletown, N.J., is now 2-0 with 1 KO. Watson, 23, of Philadelphia, is now 0-2.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]