By: William Holmes
Tonight was one of the most anticipated fights to be held in Atlantic City in quite some time as the legendary Bernard Hopkins took on the devastating knockout artist Sergey Kovalev to unify the IBF, WBA, and WBO Light Heavyweight Titles.
Boardwalk Hall was packed with more fans than usual in comparison to the other fights held here in the past five years, as most of the fans arrived an hour before the start of the televised portion of the card.
The national anthems of Russia and the United States were sung before the television cameras started rolling, and the first bout of the night was for the WBO Intercontinental Welterweight Title between Sadam “World Kid” Ali (20-0) and Luis Carlos Abregu (36-1).
Abregu looked to be the bigger man inside the ring and both boxers fought out of an orthodox stance. Ali was short with his punches in the first round but he was the more active fighter. Ali landed a straight right as the round came to an end, but the crowd was already booing the action, or lack of it, inside the ring.
In the second round it was clear that Ali had the faster hands of the two but he was still having trouble finding his range. There was a lot of missed punches from both boxers, but Abregu was able to land a decent left hook near the end of the round.
Both boxers continued to show a lot of movement in the third and fourth rounds but the crowd was not pleased with the lack of exchanges. Ali was landing at a higher percentage than Abregu.
Abregu came out aggressive in the fifth round but was unable to trap or catch the elusive Ali. The action picked up in the sixth round when Ali landed a clean straight right hand to Abregu’s jaw that sent him down to the mat. He was able to beat the count and survive the round but he was clearly badly stunned.
Ali came out strong in the seventh round and had Abregu backing up and trying his best to avoid Ali’s quick combinations. The crowd stopped booing and started to cheer for Ali who displayed incredible ring awareness throughout this fight.
Abregu was starting to fight desperately in the eighth round but couldn’t match the hand speed of Ali who was landing good punches and made Abregu miss badly. Abregu was able to land a few punches here and there, but they weren’t having any significant effect on Ali.
Abregu started off the ninth round strong by landing a few punches on Ali when he had him trapped momentarily in the corner, but he got rocked with a left hook that had him on wobbly legs again. Ali later followed it up with a straight right hand that rocked Abregu and sent him down to the mat. Abregu beat the count of ten but was badly hurt. Ali pressed the action and landed several more straight right hands that had Abregu badly stunned before the referee stepped in to waive off the fight.
Sadam Ali wins by TKO at 1:54 of the ninth round.
After six and a half hours of fights the main event between Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2) and Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1) began.
Sergey Kovalev was the first man to walk into the ring and he did have a surprisingly large number of Russian fans cheering him on. Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins came out second with his now standard alien mask and was greeted by the vocal support of the Philadelphia boxing fans in attendance.
Several fans in attendance were chanting “USA” during the referee introductions, but Kovalev quickly quieted the crowd with good body shots in the first round and had Hopkins backed into a corner. Kovalev scored a knockdown in the first with a right hand to the temple of Hopkins, but Hopkins was able to get back up and did not look greatly affected from the knockdown.
Hopkins came forward with the jab in the second round but Kovalev was able to easily brush it off. Kovalev focused on the body of Hopkins, and landed several times with a heavy jab that slowed Hopkins down. Kovalev continued with his body attack in the third round but was tripped by Hopkins which the crowd wrongly thought was a knockdown. Kovalev continued to land punches from a good distance and had Hopkins slightly stunned as the third round came to an end.
The crowd was loudly chanting “B-Hop” at the start of the fourth round but Kovalev again quieted them by staying to the body. Hopkins was showing good head movement but Kovalev was moving Hopkins with his jab around the ring.
Hopkins was able to land his lead right hand in the fifth round, but Kovalev still won the round based on activity and hard clean punches. Kovalev stayed again to the body in the sixth round and Hopkins waived him forward, but Kovalev stayed patient and stuck to his gameplan.
Kovalev continued to throw combinations in the seventh round but was sweating profusely.
Hopkins had the crowd chanting his name whenever he landed his right hand in the seventh, but Kovalev was landing harder and crisper punches.
Kovalev opened up the eighth round with a lead right hand and two more crisp right hands. Kovalev had Hopkins stumbling in the eighth, but Hopkins was able to land a right hand over the top as the round ended.
Kovalev saw the ninth round for the first time in his career but kept the pressure up and was mixing up his punches to the body and head of Hopkins. Hopkins’ best round of the night was the tenth round when he landed a straight right hand that caught Kovalev off guard and momentarily stunned him, but Kovalev ended the tenth round with a hard right uppercut.
Hopkins was on the offensive in the final two rounds and Kovalev was warned for punches landing behind the head in the eleventh round, but Kovalev stuck to his jabs to the body and stayed with a measured offensive attack.
The twelfth round was the best round of the night as Hopkins stunned Kovalev with a straight right hand but Kovalev was able to stay on his feet. The crowd rose to its feet in anticipation of possible fight ending knockout, but Kovalev quickly turned the tide of the fight back in his favor as he landed severeal hard punches on Hopkins by the ropes. Kovalev had Hopkins badly stunned by the ropes and at times it looked like he was closing to stopping him, but Hopkins somehow was able to survive.
Kovalev was very impressive tonight in his first ever fight to go twelve rounds against a cagey defensive wizard.
The judges scored it 120-107, 120-107, and 120-106 for the still undefeated Sergey Kovalev.