By David Greisman
Sergey Kovalev Boxes Way to Rematch Win Over Eleider Alvarez
There was plenty of reason to question whether Sergey Kovalev would be able to pull off a rematch win over Eleider Alvarez.
For one, the mystique Kovalev had when he was an undefeated power-punching unified 175-pound titleholder was gone.
Yes, there were caveats for each of his first two defeats. The first loss to Andre Ward was close and hotly debated. The second one came as a result of a mix of hard body shots and uncalled low blows. But the third defeat, to Eleider Alvarez last August, was particularly damaging. Kovalev had been ahead but faded, got hurt in the seventh round and couldn’t recover, going down three times and losing by technical knockout.
It was easy to wonder whether that would happen again, whether Alvarez would stop Kovalev once more and send him packing for good.
Kovalev had added Buddy McGirt to his team, the third trainer to work in Kovalev’s corner in the past year and a half. That’s rarely a good sign. And it had also recently been revealed that Kovalev is facing felony assault charges, accused of assaulting a woman in California last summer.
But Kovalev arrived in the ring focused and having clearly put in good work in training camp. McGirt installed a philosophy of boxing more rather than looking for the knockout. Kovalev listened, threw more than twice as many punches as Alvarez, landed nearly twice as many shots, didn’t fade, didn’t really get hurt, and coasted his way to a clear unanimous decision victory.
Kovalev often worked behind the jab. His 391 jabs made up nearly half of his 816 punches, according to CompuBox. Even though few landed — just 60 overall — they served to establish distance, keep Alvarez at bay, and set up the shots that came afterward, particularly right hands around the guard.
He wasn’t trying to land with big power on every shot. Instead, Kovalev built a lead and built up his confidence without overexerting himself. Alvarez had brief attempts at rallies, putting forth more pressure early in the fifth, scoring with a few right hands in the sixth, and trying to lessen Kovalev’s stamina with some body shots in the eighth.
None of that added up to much of anything.
Alvarez threw just 369 punches on the night, an average of about 31 per round. He landed just 111 total, fewer than 10 per round. If he was looking for the single shot that was going to change things, it never came.
Two judges had it 116-112, or eight rounds to Kovalev and four for Alvarez, while the other judge had Kovalev winning a 120-108 shutout.
Kovalev is now 33-3-1 with 28 knockouts and has steadied his ship. With a world title back around his waist, Kovalev can now aim for unification bouts against the likes of Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol or Oleksandr Gvozdyk. The light heavyweight division is rather packed, with contender Marcus Browne also among the top names.
All of that depends on what happens in the criminal case.
Alvarez, meanwhile, suffered his first defeat and is now 24-1 with 12 KOs. It’s a disappointingly quick end to his first title run, especially given how long he’d waited to get a title shot in the first place.
The good thing is that there are plenty of other opportunities. Hopefully he won’t have to wait as long for the next one.
Oscar Valdez Returns With TKO of Carmine Tommasone
Oscar Valdez came back from an injury and a long layoff by taking on a relatively soft touch, scoring a seventh-round technical knockout over the undefeated but unheralded Carmine Tommasone.
This was Valdez’s first fight since March 2018, when the 126-pound titleholder suffered a broken jaw in a victory against Scott Quigg. He came back after 11 months away and with a new trainer in his corner — Eddy Reynoso, who is renowned for his work with middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
Valdez had some rust to shake off. It helped that Tommasone wasn’t much of a threat. The challenger from Italy had never been in the ring with anyone of note, and he’d only scored five knockouts in his 19 wins against that subpar opposition.
Tommasone still tried. He soon learned what it was like to be in with someone on Valdez’s level. Valdez hurt Tommasone early in the fourth round. Soon afterward he responded to a Tommasone combination by landing a good right hand counter, sending Tommasone staggering backward and then down to the canvas. Valdez scored a second knockdown later in the round, landing a left hook to the body that led Tommasone to take a quick knee.
Valdez dropped Tommasone for the third time on the night in the sixth round. That was a flash knockdown compared to the blow that ended things one round later. Valdez started the seventh round with a jab followed by a right uppercut. Tommasone collapsed. The referee waved things off immediately. Tommasone quickly rose and protested, but it was in vain. There was no need for this mismatch to go on.
Valdez is now 25-0 with 20 KOs. He named two featherweights in particular afterward: fellow titleholder Josh Warrington and former titleholder Carl Frampton.
Tommasone is now 19-1 with 5 KOs. At least he left the ring in Texas with one cause for celebration: He proposed to his girlfriend during the post-fight interview. She said yes.
Commey Blitzes Chaniev, Earn Unification Bout with Lomachenko
Richard Commey came into his fight with Isa Chaniev knowing that the winner would not only pick up a vacant lightweight world title, but would also likely go on to face the best 135-pounder in the world, Vasyl Lomachenko. It didn’t take long for Commey to show why he deserved that opportunity more than Chaniev.
Commey dropped Chaniev late in the first round, floored him again early in the second round, and continued to pummel Chaniev until the referee had no choice but to end the fight.
Chaniev had stood in with the heavy-handed Commey at the start of the fight, getting a feel for what he was in against. He soon got too much of a feel, getting caught with a flush punch at one point, then put down with another later. Commey set up the first knockdown with a left hook that fell short, but that shot served to distract Chaniev from the right hand that came right down the middle. Chaniev got up quickly on unsteady legs, though he was able to survive until the end of the round.
The bell rang for the second round, and then Commey rang Chaniev’s bell again, this time with a left hook. Chaniev got up quickly again. Commey knew he had a vulnerable opponent and came forward with the intent of closing the show. Chaniev tried to hold, but he couldn’t stem the onslaught. The referee jumped in just as Chaniev began to go down again.
Commey is now 28-2 with 25 KOs. His two losses came back to back in the span of three months in 2016. There was a close split decision loss to then-titleholder Robert Easter in a highly competitive battle, and then came another split decision defeat to contender Denis Shafikov. This win makes four straight victories.
He’ll have his work cut out for him against Lomachenko, a highly skilled boxer widely regarded as one of the best fighters in the world.
That fight is expected to take place on April 12. However, first Commey will need to have his right hand looked at, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com.
“He said he hurt a knuckle on his right hand in the first round,” Rafael tweeted on Saturday night. “He said he didn’t think it was anything big, but he will have it checked out.”
Chaniev is now 13-2 with 6 KOs.