By Cliff Rold
Cedric Agnew arrived with a decent game plan. A knockdown in the second round threw it out the window and he got a lesson in how hard it must be to be the heavy bag of Sergey Kovalev. Outside of a couple right hand counters, Agnew didn’t pose much threat offensively and Kovalev isn’t much on letting men survive.
The question now is what he can come up with for prey.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Kovalev B; Agnew B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Kovalev A; Agnew C+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Kovalev B; Agnew B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Kovalev B+; Agnew B/Post: A; C
To his credit, Kovalev handled the shell defense of Agnew better than some big punchers in recent memory. For instance, Omar Narvaez came to survive against Nonito Donaire and did while throwing what seemed as few punches as possible. Agnew isn’t the same caliber of fighter as Narvaez, which matters, but Kovalev showed off how to break the defense regardless.
The Russian has an excellent jab, puts together lethal combinations, and he cuts off the ring well. The few times he was clipped, it was mostly because he was too offensive and not respecting his foe. There were moments when Kovalev slipped shots and made Agnew miss as well. He was dominant in all facets against a fighter who had no path to victory anyways.
That should temper praise.
Kovalev did what everyone thought he was going to do anyways. On a night that was supposed to, and now doesn’t, set up a showdown with lineal World Champion Adonis Stevenson, it all comes off hollow. This fight wasn’t HBO caliber on paper but made sense as a stepping stone.
For Kovalev, the issue now is finding some new stone to step towards. Light Heavyweight is not a deep class in early 2014. With Stevenson, Bernard Hopkins, and Beibut Shumenov (the latter two unifying their belts in a few weeks) all over at Showtime, the chances for unification are limited for so long as Kovalev is strictly married to HBO. In terms of solid opponents, Jean Pascal is out there but may want to wait for Stevenson to open up for a Canadian duel.
The best competitive option available might be Isaac Chilemba. A winner on a Main Events card a couple weeks ago, he’s a legitimate contender (if on the fringe) and far more capable than Agnew.
The best Kovalev can do right now is win and hope. On the winning side, he’ll have to take the best available and hope for impressive outing that keep fans drooling about him in with the big names. On the hoping side, he’ll have to be looking for HBO to try to overpay for a Stevenson return or that a major Super Middleweight (Andre Ward, the winner of Carl Froch-George Groves II) moves up.
He took care of winning on Saturday.
Report Card Picks 2014: 11-6
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org