By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Oscar De La Hoya realizes Sergey Kovalev is favored, undefeated and has knocked out 23 of his 26 professional opponents.
Bernard Hopkins’ promotional partner still can’t see the legendary light heavyweight champion losing to the rugged Russian in their light heavyweight championship unification fight Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City (HBO; 10:45 ET).
“I can already see this fight panning out in a way where Kovalev, after three or four rounds, possibly gets frustrated, starts making mistakes and starts diverting from his original plan,” De La Hoya told BoxingScene.com. “Kovalev, I’m sure, is convincing himself, ‘I’m not going to get distracted. I’m not going to get frustrated. I’m going to stick to my game plan.’ But in reality, when you step up in the ring against a Hopkins he knows how to distract you, he knows how to frustrate you and he just knows how to push your buttons, without saying a word. The next thing you know, it’s the 12th round and you’re losing the fight.”
De La Hoya, knocked out by Hopkins in the ninth round of their middleweight title fight 10 years ago, expects Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) to struggle once he realizes he can’t take out the 49-year-old Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) the way he has other opponents throughout his five-year pro career. Hopkins has never been knocked out, despite boxing numerous punchers in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.
“He has a lack of experience,” De La Hoya said regarding Kovalev. “How will he react to a level of fighting he has never experienced? That all has to come into play sooner or later. Whether it’s the first round or the 10th round, it’s going to catch up to you. It’s starts taking over you and it starts becoming out of your control, because you’ve never experienced it. Can he adapt? Does he have Plan A? Does he have Plan B? Does he have Plan C? I’ve seen Kovalev and he has one plan, and that plan is to knock you out.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.