BOXING

Kovalev Is “Krusher” Again; Barrera Wins UD10 From Valera; Gamboa Gets MD10 Over Sosa

Sergey Kovalev got back into the winner’s circle, and re-claimed, to a degree, the “Krusher” nickname, after stopping Vyacheslav Shabaranskyy Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden Theater, in Manhattan, and on HBO.

In round two, Krusher knocked the loser to the mat. The Ukrainian boxer rose, but the Russian pummeled him and the ring doc hopped up to the apron to end it, while the corner threw in the towel.

Slava was sent to the mat twice in round one, and he pretty much looked chinny from the start. The end came at 2:36 of the second, and Kovalev snagged the WBO title, which was vacated by Andre Ward’s retirement.

“I’m ready for any champion,” he said after, to Max Kellerman. “It’s good for boxing, let’s do it, I’m ready.”

Kovalev (30-2-1 entering, with 16 KOs) had been neck and neck with Andre Ward when they met in 2016 and lost a narrow decision. In the rematch, Ward elevated and bettered the Russian in a street fight featuring “body” work which skirted the line beween fair and foul. Now 34, Kovalev, the stud in the Main Events stable, said coming in that he’d seen the light, gotten a wakeup call from God, telling him to smarten up, and focus more on his craft.

Shabranskyy had to lift himself out of funk after his “O” got snatched by Sullivan Barrera in December 2016. He’d shaken it off, trainer Manny Robles said, and worked on the defensive side of the game, so as not to be a target for right hands which had been so enjoyable for Barrera. Two wins over out of the top 20 types led him back to a TV slot.

In the first, a counter right from KK was clean. K was jabbing, to head and body, and so was Slava. Down went Slava, and he was up, clear eyed. Nope, he looked wobbly still. Down he went again. He clinched to finish the round. The replay showed a glancing right did the first one, and three shots the second.

In round two, another knockdown, off a right. Slava was up, but he got pummeled, and the doc hopped up the stairs as the corner readied the towel.

Sullivan Barrera came in with lots to lose, in his HBO semifinal scrap against Felix Valera, in a light heavyweight tango that unfolded before the main event Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden Theater, in Manhattan.

Valera as a dance partner was fairly dreadful, looking to survive and not thrive, while throwing low blows time and again. There was no drama as we heard Michael Buffer read the cards…98-88 (Don Ackerman) 97-90 (Glen Feldman), 97-89 (Tom Schreck), and announce Barrera the victor.

No, Valera didn’t act as if those sky-high rankings were his for the taking from the Cuban.

The Cuban living in Miami came in at 20-1, the “1” being a loss to Andre Ward in March 2016, which is no vicious blemish on anyone’s resume. He’d beaten Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, set to tango with Sergey Kovalev in the night’s main event, last December, and bested Paul Parker and Joe Smith after that. Barrera was rated No. 1 by the WBA, with Dmitriy Bivol owning their strap, and No. 3 by the WBC, where Adonis Stevenson holds the throne.

At 15-1, the Dominican boxer tasted loss when he met Dmitriy Bivol in May 2016, but he went the distance, so that spoke for his chin. He scored two confidence builder wins after that against sub A grade foes.

In the first, we saw Valera, with a super wide stance, go lefty mid-round. He dropped his hands, and then went back righty. A left hook put Sully on his butt. Barrera chose to fight it out, and he was quickly edging forward. The down went Valera, a balance issue, near the bell, and he took an eight count. Dueling knockdowns. I have the round to Valera.

In round two, a low blow had Barrera getting a breather. He then started rocking. After a windmill motion from Valera, Barrera was the aggressor, and he was pushing Valera back, bullying him.

In the third, Barrera absorbed another low blow. The ref took a point from the transgressor.

In the fourth, Valera wanted to slide to his left, minimize interaction; he then went lefty and did nothing…except get hit. To the body too, left hooks from the Cuban landed nasty and clean. We saw Valera moving excessively, not adding in effective aggression enough. A lefty Valera got smacked back to righty. No, he stayed lefty for a long spell. But didn’t win the round.

In the fifth, Barrera went low with a left, as the ref was on the other side. Valera was comfy trying to stay aloft, throwing some occasional offense at the Cuban, but mostly swinging from the outside with an eye to staying clear of counters and nasty leads.

In round six, the ref took another point from Valera, for straying low. Barrera landed clean late and thought he had the defensively minded Valera weakening, but the round ended.

In the seventh, Barrera stalked, patiently, but his foe mostly wanted to survive, not thrive. He’d throw low, pop a stay away from me jab, clinch, slide left…and not win the round.

In the eighth, Valera was slick with his tactics of evasion but not so much with the “O.”

In round nine, Valera had ANOTHER point taken for going south of the accepted border. Then, Barrera went low and ref Mike Ortega snagged a point. Valera won’t be invited back, I don’t think, he wasn’t fighting with urgency to win.

In the 10th, Valera slid, covered up, clinched, allowed himself to be clinched, and then taunted Barrera with low hands…but he lost the round. No drama as we went to the cards.

***.                ****             ****              ***********************.       *******             *******          **********.     *******

Leave it to the judges and you may well not like what they tell you; Jason Sosa sure as heck didn’t Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden Theater, and on HBO.

Yuriorkis Gamboa was slick and cute and won a majority decision after ten rounds of sub scintillating but not sleep inducing super featherweight action.

One judge had it 94-94 (Robin Taylor), but scores of 95-93 (John McKaie) and 96-92 (Don Trella) for the Cuban gave the slickster another W. (See stats, below.) There were plenty of boos from those in attendance. The rooters weren’t that lively in a tango that didn’t very often achieve liftoff, but raised their decibel levels, many of them, to hoot at the arbiters.

Gamboa (130.6 on Friday; living in Miami) came to the building with his chances at a re-ascent dwindling, though not as drastically as some would argue, because he’s a known name in the game. His record was 27-2, with 17 KOs, while the New Jerseyite Sosa (131.2 on Friday) held a 20-2-4 mark.

A 2014 loss to current pound for pound Terence Crawford in retrospect is no scarlet letter L, but his May loss to Robinson Castellanos had some whispering, loudly, that the 36 on Dec. 23rd years old Gamboa seems to be running on fumes, near E. He came back with a win, in a chippy affair, versus Alexis Reyes in August.

The 29 year old Sosa came in off an L, no small disgrace at all, being he looked not out of his depth in getting stopped by Vasyl Lomachenko in April. He’d scored wins over Javier Fortuna and Stephen Smith, good grade victories, before that. His promoter, Russell Peltz, had high hopes that tis one would steal the show and that his Jersey boy would rudely usher Gamboa to pasture.

In the first, it was tightly matched. Sosa landed a couple clean blows, same with Gamboa, but it was mostly a get warmed up session.

In round two, they got to business quicker. Gamboa was staying smart defensively, cracking and then sliding. He made Sosa look wild missing. Sosa liked how his left hook landed late and the crowd wowed when a right landed clean on Yuri and he was near buzzed.

In the third, Yuri heeded the corner advice, to set the tone. He’d make Sosa miss and then whirl away, duck under and then reset himself.

In the fourth, Gamboa’s movement and slipperiness, and ring generalship had him feeling in command. He felt a right uppercut, though.

In round five, we saw Sosa seek to press more, interrupt Gamboa’s flow. We had more clinches, was this fight going in that direction? A three punch combo by Gamboa late may have given him the round.

In the sixth, Gamboa had the look of a confident athlete, one who knew what was going to be coming at him and who wasn’t flustered by it. Was he getting a bit tired late in the round, though?

In round seven, Gamboa was “knocked down.” Then a right buzzed him, subtly. Replay showed that his glove touched canvas, off a balance issue, though from a landed punch.

In the eighth, Gamboa was back on track, his vibe that of dominance of the real estate. Yuri was making Sosa miss but a right CLANGED to the body late.

In the ninth, we saw a banging of heads. The ref warned Yuri and the crowd didn’t dig it.Sosa was told to “keep working,” his peeps knew he could maybe out work the Cuban, win a FIGHT.

In round ten, Sosa acted like he was down on the cards. The ref took a point from Gamboa for holding, ouch. The action was lively, the crowd finally perking up. Gamboa was too clinch-y, in this and many rounds. We’d go to the cards…

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Michael Woods.

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