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20 MARCH 2018

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Kovalev Vs Mikhalkin: Strengths And Weaknesses

Two-time Light Heavyweight Champion Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev returns to The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, March 3. Kovalev (31-2-1, 26 KOs) will put his WBO Light Heavyweight World Title on the line against Igor Mikhalkin (21-1-0, 9 KOs) of Russia. Below is the scouting report for this battle of former amateur teammates:
Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev
Igor Mikhalkin
31-2-1 (27 KOs)
21-1-0 (9 KOs)
"Krusher" Kovalev has a pair of the heaviest hands in the sport. Seventeen of his 27 career knockout wins have occurred in the first and second rounds. He has a sharp jab effective in keeping his opponents at bay, and he also has plenty of big-fight experience.
Mikhalkin is a disciplined and crafty southpaw fighter with a rangy jab and solid defense. He is an accurate puncher who uses his jab to perfection, and he is also an excellent counter-puncher as well.
Kovalev tends to leave openings in his guard, which could be costly considering his opponent is such an effective counter-puncher.
Mikhalkin lacks significant punching power in either hand. He lacks quality opposition on his resume when compared to Kovalev.
Kovalev has more professional bouts under his belt and has faced off with the best the competitive light heavyweight division has to offer. His previous 12 bouts have been world title fights.
Although he was active in 2017 with three fights, Mikhalkin will be at a disadvantage, as he has not faced the same level of opposition as his opponent.
The Krusher’s most notable strength is his power. He has bad intentions in every punch he throws, and can end the fight in an instant.
The challenger Mikhalkin will be at a disadvantage. He is not known to be a knockout artist. However, what he lacks in power, he makes up for in accuracy and timing.
Kovalev has average speed. The velocity of his punches turn up a notch when he senses the end is near for his opponents.
Mikhalkin will have a slight advantage here. He releases fast combinations and is quick on his feet.
Kovalev could find himself at a disadvantage. He has taken his foot off of the gas in the past and cannot afford to do so here, as his opponent is well versed in going the distance.
Mikhalkin has the advantage over the champion. He is a technical boxer who takes his time picking apart his opponents in route to decision victories.
Kovalev has a pinpoint accurate jab and delivers rigorous shots to the body that have ended fights in the past.
One of Mikhalkin’s main strengths is his accuracy. He has a precise, active jab he keeps in his opponent’s face all night.
Throughout his career, Kovalev’s best defense has been his offense and the power that comes with it. The brute force behind his shots has been a complete game-changer in bouts, forcing opponents to adjust their original game plan if it’s not too late.
Mikhalkin is a solid defensive fighter who is agile in the ring. He is always on the move, and sits behind his jab consistently, making it difficult for his opposition to set up their shots.
Kovalev has proven throughout his career that his chin is more than durable.
The strength of Mikhalkin’s chin has yet to be determined, Kovalev will be the biggest puncher he has faced thus far in his career.
Kovalev is an offense-minded fighter who prefers not to leave it in the hands of the judges. He wastes very little time in walking his opponents down and ending the night as early as possible.
Mikhalkin is a technically sound southpaw fighter with a rigorous jab. He is an effective counter-puncher and likes to throw punches-in-bunches rather than loading up for the big shot.
Crowd Support
The popular Krusher should have the advantage. He spent over three years as the champion at 175 pounds. He earned his title back just three months ago in the very same venue where he will defend it on March 3.
There will be a large contingent of Russian fans at MSG to see Kovalev, so Mikhalkin will have the chance to turn his fellow countrymen to his side if he can inflict some damage on the champion and turn this into a dogfight.
Unlike many titleholders in the sport today, Sergey Kovalev has managed to stay active and consistently compete in high level bouts. He seized the opportunity in November 2017 to re-capture his WBO title. Just three months later, the Krusher waits for nobody and will continue his reign as champion by defending the title against a challenger who has not tasted defeat in eight years and is currently riding a 10-fight win streak.
The window of opportunity for professional fighters can be very slim, and earning a shot at a world title is even slimmer. Igor Mikhalkin fully understands this, which is why he is embracing the underdog role and seizing this opportunity to fight for a world title on March 3. He acknowledges this may be his only opportunity. He firmly believes he has the ability to defeat Sergey Kovalev and become the newly crowned king of the light heavyweight division.
The Match-Up
  1. Will Igor Mikhalkin be able to handle the power of Sergey Kovalev?
  2. Will Sergey Kovalev be able to handle the southpaw style of Igor Mikhalkin?
  3. Will Mikhalkin be able to handle Kovalev’s come forward style?
  4. Will Kovalev be able to cut off the ring and attack Mikhalkin like he has done to opposition in the past?
According Main Events’ matchmaker and 2015 NABF Matchmaker of the Year, Jolene Mizzone, "The last southpaw Sergey Kovalev fought was in 2014. I can’t emphasize enough how it could give a boxer problems, but it is the fighter’s job to solve those problems.
"With Igor Mikhalkin, you have to give him all the credit for stepping up and challenging himself against one of the best light heavyweights in the world. You have a fight that is made to see, a guy in Sergey Kovalev who’s fighting his way back and a guy in Igor Mikhalkin who needs to rise to the occasion. Both guys want to fight the best, and you don’t get that very often these days. Mikhalkin should be applauded for his courage, and Kovalev should be applauded for wanting to fight the best, although he can only fight guys like Mikhalkin who will accept a challenge."

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