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Kovalev Krushes Shabranskyy In 2

Pics David Spagnolo
Pics David Spagnolo

By Jason Pribila – Ringside in New York – Sergey Kovalev looked invincible as he rose up the pound for pound ranks while collecting light heavyweight titles. Then he faced Andre Ward and suffered controversial back to back defeats. Since being stopped by Ward, Kovalev survived a car crash and a break up with his longtime manager, John David Jackson. On Saturday Night, Kovalev answered many questions as to where he was at physically and mentally when he needed less than two frames to stop Vyacheslav Sabranskyy.


Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) dropped Sabranskyy three times total before the assault was called off by referee Harvey Dock at 2:36 of the second round.


Kovalev ate a few flush jabs in order to position himself to land a clean right hand that dropped Sabranskyy a minute into the fight. The second knockdown came after another pair of rights followed by a left robbed Sabranskyy of his equilibrium.


The minute in between rounds ticked off the clock too quickly, and soon Sabranskyy was again in harm’s way. The right hand was the weapon of choice for knockdown number three. Sabranskyy rose, but when he was unable to deter Kovalev from teeing off, the fight was stopped.


Along with the victory, Kovalev regained possession of the WBO title that was vacated by the retirement of Ward. He made it clear that it is his goal to unify the division.


“I’m happy that the belts have different owners and it makes everything interesting and we can make better fights” Kovalev said following the fight. “We have a bunch of belt holders and we can now find out who is the best.”


One of those belt holders, Russia’s Dmitriy Bivol, was ringside. reported that Bivol and Kovalev could both appear in the same ring in New York on March 3, 2018. Bivol could defend his title against mandatory challenger Sullivan Barrera, who was also victorious on Saturday night. Bivol-Barrera would support a Kovalev title defense in the Main Event.


Other titlists include Artur Bierbiev, who twice defeated Kovalev when they were both amateurs. There is also the lineal titlist Adonis Stevenson, but that fight doesn’t seem to be any closer to being made since both fighters were circling each other for years.


Kovalev also gave a lot of credit to his new trainer Abror Tursunpulatov, who replaced longtime trainer John David Jackson. Kovalev stated that he feels more comfortable with a corner man who also speaks Russian.


While both were satisfied with the results, one has to wonder if Kovalev’s lack of defense was an exception or the norm. They will need to tighten up the defense against any of the other belt holders, as each possesses exceptional power.


Main Events also needs to figure out a way to build up the Kovalev brand. Amid the fallout after the losses to Ward, were also accusations of Kovalev being racist.


There were several factors to the dismal crowd of 3,307: holiday weekend, lack of local fighters, MSG-fatigue (this was first of 3 fight cards in 4 weeks at the venue). At this point Kovalev may have to be the B-side to ticket sellers Stevenson and potentially Bietbiev.


As for now, it is great to have the “Krusher” back at the head of a division loaded with fighters who aren’t much interested in judges’ determining their fate.




The co-main event featured Cuba’s Sullivan Barrera (22-1) in a light heavyweight battle against the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera (15-2, 13 KO).   Barrera found himself on the canvas in the first round, but he would rebound to win a comfortable decision.  All three judges favored Barrera by scores of:  98-88, 97-90, and 97-89.


Barrera’s only loss came via decision against recently retired Andre Ward.   With the victory, Barrera remains the mandatory challenger for Dmitriy Bivol’s portion of the light heavyweight title.


Bivol was ringside, and prior to the fight he made himself available to the media backstage inside Madison Square Garden.   The idea is for Bivol to fight at the venue in March, while serving as main support for a Kovalev Main Event.


Gamboa Gets Gift over Jason Sosa:


Despite being dropped and having a second point deducted for delivering a low blow, Yuriorkis Gamboa (28-2, 17 KO) kept his once promising career on life support.   It has been years since Gamboa awed fight fans with his blazing speed.  He has simply not been the same fighter since being stopped in a violent firefight against Terence Crawford in June of 2014.


On Saturday, he threw more punches than Sosa, but his aggressiveness was less effective and borderline dirty.   Sosa was the more accurate punches, and many believed that the additional 2 points should have been enough to get his arm raised in victory.


Gamboa will no doubt get another big fight because although he is faded, he still has a attractive name to be added to a resume.


Sosa is a throwback fighter who is willing to fight anyone at any time.   With Hall of Fame promoter, Russell Peltz guiding his career, we will see Sosa again in a meaningful bout.


Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the BWAA.  He could be reached for question or comments at   He also tweets @PribsBoxing on 





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