By Derek Bonnett: HBO World Championship Boxing returned to Atlantic City, New Jersey to broadcast Sergey Kovalev’s second defense of his WBO light heavyweight title at The Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall. Unbeaten American contender Cedric Agnew hoped to extend Kovalev further than the Russian powerhouse’s previous four opponents in 2013. In the main supporting bout, Karim Mayfield and Thomas Dulorme squared off in a well-matched light welterweight contest between top contender and fallen prospect.
From the start of the first round, it was clear that Agnew, 27, was being underrated by many in the boxing world. While he did not win any rounds, he avoided an early exit and forced Kovalev to work harder for this victory than previously witnessed on HBO. In typical form, Kovalev used his strength and power to bully Agnew toward the ropes. The challenger, however, experienced success attacking coming off the ropes when the Russian stopped punching. More than once, Kovalev was pushed back on his heels after catching a taste of Agnew’s return fire. After three minutes, the two light heavyweights fought an even round on SecondsOut’s card.
Then Kovalev took over.
The champion began putting rounds in the bank, but he was forced to do so against a challenger who was not fighting scared. Agnew wisely fired back on the champion before he could unload his power in combination. As the second round pressed on, Kovalev began opening up more with more power shots. Almost on cue, Kovalev dropped Agnew with a right hand-left hook in combination. Agnew rose at the bell and was spared further punishment from one of the sport’s deadliest finishers. Agnew began the third with a strong left hook. Kovalev followed it with one of his rights, but was greeted with some leather from the right hand of his challenger. Agnew showed he was not there to lie down and he dropped the champion; however, the punch was low and no knock down was ruled.
Agnew countered well early in the fourth as Kovalev stalked him, closing the distance. The champion pumped his jab and began following it with the right hand. As the champion upped his attack, he could still not force Agnew into surrender. The challenger continued to fire his own punches and then further troubled the champion by opening up a cut over the right eye with a clash of heads. After five, Kovalev did not seem discouraged, but he looked every bit the fighter with more on his plate than he perhaps anticipated. In the sixth, Kovalev pressured Agnew back into the corner and forced the challenger to dip low to the canvas. A knockdown was ruled and Kovalev turned his attention to the body of the challenger full-time.
The end came in the seventh as Kovalev finally asserted himself over Agnew. Agnew was dropped again by a body shot and the referee counted him out at the :58 mark of the round. Kovalev did not lose a single round on the SecondsOut scorecard, but proved he could get tough when the going got tough for him. Kovalev raised his ledger to 24-0-1 (22). Agnew lost his unbeaten record and sank to 26-1 (13).
Earlier in the evening, Thomas Dulorme scored the biggest win of his career with a unanimous decision over Karim Mayfield. The offered Dulorme a measure of redemption after failing in his previous big test on HBO. The ten round affair featured low punch connects and lacked memorable action, but the win still had division shaping impact nevertheless.
Dulorme, 24, started the bout off well and set the tone of the contest. Keeping the fight at longer range to benefit his own physical gifts, Dulorme was able to keep Mayfield at the end of his punches. Dulorme wobbled Mayfield with a left hook early in the first. While the punch connects for the round were only a 5-4 advantage for Dulorme, his punches did the greater damage and his activity won the round. A right hand shook Mayfield to start the second. Mayfield seemed to be waiting on the outside too long and failed to close the distance. Dulorme controlled the round again at a distance.
Mayfield started the third with a nice right hand and the tone of the fight changed drastically. Dulorme appeared stunned several times as Mayfield increased in punch connects. Dulorme responded by forcing clinches to smother Mayfield’s attack, but the damage was done and Mayfield saw himself with a round in the books. Dulorme jabbed, but he was not landing in the fourth. Mayfield became a little wilder with his shots to work his way in on his taller opponent. The fourth concluded with both men pounding to the body during a clinch. After four rounds, Dulorme led 2-1-1 on SecondsOut’s scorecards.
Dulorme continued to hold on the inside once Mayfield got close. Mayfield did not do enough to break the clinches and punch his way out, which cost him a lot of time to work. Dulorme landed with a few good jabs and a nice left hook to regain control. He mixed in an uppercut on Mayfield as he came forward. The sixth began with Mayfield seemingly stunning Dulorme with a left hook. The favored was returned along the ropes as the two fighters mauled each other along the ropes. Mayfield turned things to his advantage when he made the fight more of a rough contest, but Dulorme was still allowed to control most of the rounds. After six, Dulorme led 4-1-1 on SecondsOut’s tally.
Mayfield, 33, came out of his corner with more vigor following a Virgil Hunter pep talk. He began living up to his name and became a "Hard Hitta" at close range. Dulorme’s holding persisted in the seventh and Mayfield’s defense tightened up a bit. Dulorme emerged from a clash of heads with a deep gash on his skull. A Mayfield jab wobbled Dulorme. Dulorme responded with a crisp one-two. Later in the round, he went low, but no warnings were issues by Steve Smoger. The total punch numbers after eight favored Dulorme 78-54.
Mayfield waited too long in the ninth allowing Dulorme to build his lead with a relatively easy round. Going into the tenth, Dulorme built enough of a lead to feel comfortable. He held mostly, allowing Mayfield to land only a couple meaningful shuts, but it was enough to win the round on SecondsOut’s scorecard. Dulorme won the fight by an unofficial tally of 96-95.
Officially, Dulorme prevailed by wider margins 98-92, 97-94, 96-93. Dulorme improved his record to 21-1 (14). Mayfield fell to 18-1-1 (11).