By Vladimir Lik
WBO Light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1, 27 KOs) defeats Igor Mikhalkin (21-2, 9 KOs) by seventh round TKO at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The official time of the stoppage was 2:25 of round seven.
Making his second defense of the title which was vacated by Andre Ward last year, Kovalev and Mikhaklin slugged it out in close quarters for most of the bout until Kovalev started to time Mikahlkin in round six and land the more hurtful punches bloodying Mikhalkin’s face.
Before Mikhalkin came out for the seventh round Referee Steve Willis asked the doctor at ringside to check on Mikhalkin’s cut. The physician allowed the bout to continue and while Mikhalkin tried to move his head he just could not get out the way of Kovalev’s power punches. After a succession of stiff jabs that snapped Mikahlkin’s head back referee Steve Willis paused the bout and asked the doctor at ringside to take another look at Mikhalkin’s cut and this time the doctor advised Willis to stop the bout.
The 34-year-old Kovalev threw more than doubled the amount of power punches according to compubox landing 165 to only 32 from Mikhalkin.
When Mikhaklin moved his head in the first and second rounds he found success landing his left cleanly on Kovalev’s chin and forehead even forcing Kovalev to move back at times. It was when Mikhalkin was hurt and abandoned his game plan to go toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed Kovalev that things got ugly for the 32-year-old Mikhalkin both figuratively and literally as his face was looking the worse for the wear.
“This was better work for me than my last fight,” Kovalev said immediately after the bout ended. “It may have looked easy but it was not easy tonight.”
Kovalev started to take control of the bout in the fourth round landing bruising power shots both to the body and upstairs. Even when the punches hit Mikhalkin’s gloves the thud reverberated throughout the arena.
Kovalev won the vacant WBO title last November over the Thanksgiving holiday by dismantling the Ukrainian Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in two rounds. Mikhalkin came in to this bout even more unheralded than even Shabranskyy was but the Russan born fighter who now lives in Germany was able to work off his southpaw stance to keep Kovalev off balance.
Mikhalkin came into the bout the winner of eleven straight since his lone defeat to Aleksy Kuziemski in eight years ago.
The question for Kovalev now remains is he all the way back after suffering back to back losses at the hands of Ward. The second of which was a stoppage loss that shattered Kovalev’s aura of invincibility.
Kovalev will turn 35 next month and there may be hope that reigning WBC champion Adonis Stevenson liked what he saw tonight when Mikhalkin had all types of success landing his left hook on a wide open Kovalev. If Stevenson can get past Badou Jack in their upcoming bout in April then perhaps Kovalev and Stevenson who have circled each other for the better part of three years may finally agree to meet.
Kovalev would not say if he feels he is all the way back or if he is ready for a big fight, but he made it quite clear that if it’s a big money fight than he is always ready for that opportunity.