Each Sergey Kovalev-landed punch tested the acoustics of the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. They came with dull, reverberating thuds off the head of Gabriel Campillo. Off Campillo’s body. Off his arms. Off the side of his head. Off his chin.
Finally, the Russian expatriate stomped on the cagey, reputable Campillo with an emphatic barrage of shots, bouncing the former titlist off the canvas three times before the fight was stopped by referee Michael Ortega at 1:30 of the third round Saturday night.
By pummeling THE RING’s No.3-rated light heavyweight contender, Kovalev has placed himself in the argument with Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud and Bernard Hopkins in the world title picture.
“I didn’t want this to go the distance, I didn’t want anyone to say Campillo got robbed again like he did the other times,” said Kovalev, through his manager Egis Klimas. “I wanted to show what I can do, and in the third round, with the one power punch, I saw I could hurt him.
“I would want the winner of the Cloud-Hopkins fight on March 9. I would fight anyone, but whether Cloud or Hopkins will fight me, I don’t know. In boxing today, a lot of fighters are very protected. I think I have all of the tools to beat them. It depends whether or not they accept it.”
The 29-year-old Kovalev (20-0-1, 18 KOs) never gave a chance to Campillo (21-5-1, 8 KOs), who just arrived in the United States on Wednesday from Spain due to visa issues.
Whereas Campillo’s two previous fights in the U.S. were disputable, in controversial split-decision losses to Cloud in February 2012, and the other to Beibut Shumenov in losing the WBA light heavyweight title in January 2010, Kovalev erased all doubt from the outset.
He landed a total of 77 punches out of 227 thrown, to Campillo’s mere 13 punches landed out of just 59 thrown. Kovalev had Campillo reeling from the first round, attacking and coming straight forward.
Kovalev stopped his fourth-straight opponent by getting inside Campillo’s 3½-inch reach advantage. From there, it seemed a matter of time.
That started in the third with a sharp, short left to Campillo’s chin. The shot sent Campillo retreating off balance back into a corner, where jumped him with numerous shots, one a right to the chin which sent Campillo down for the first time.
The second knockdown came as a result of an overhand left, crumbling Campillo to the canvas, stunned and dejected. Kovalev then won the biggest fight of his career with a huge right to the face and Ortega quickly intervened and waved it over.
Campillo did not want to talk after the fight.
On the undercard, Curtis Stevens made very short work of Elvin Ayala. Stevens (23-3, 17 KOs), fighting for the first time at middleweight, clipped Ayala (26-6-1, 12 KOs) with a blunt, left hook that short-circuited Ayala.
Referee Tony Chiarantano let Ayala continue, though he seemed clearly out on his feet and on very shaky legs. Stevens immediately attacked, but this time, Chiarantano knew enough to step in and wave it over at the 1:10 mark of the first round.
Stevens had been stymied by some promotional entanglements. Now he feels he’s ready to become a player in the 160-pound class.
“I don’t get paid for overtime; no one can take this punch at 160,” Stevens said. “Once I got out from under that contract, I was okay. I feel good and I’m ready to take over. I blocked a few of [Ayala’s jabs] and saw an opening, and hit him. I’m ready to take on anyone at middleweight.
“I believe it shows everyone that I’m back and I’m focused. I think the layoff made me a better man and made me more humble, and I had to slow down a little and get some things back. I’ve been boxing since I was five years old and I think I got a little bored with it, been granted with another chance to show what I can do.”
There was a strange happening immediately after the fight. As Stevens was celebrating in a corner, someone from the stands rushed the ring, later identified according sources at ringside as Ayala’s brother, jumped in the ring and attempted to tackle Stevens. Team members from both sides spilled into the ring, and what appeared to be a potentially dangerous, volatile situation cooled quickly when security and sober heads prevailed.
Ayala had no explanation for the first-round knockout.
“I just got caught, I got careless, and I got caught,” Ayala said. “Anyone can get caught like that and go down. I had a gameplan and I didn’t stick with it.”
Photo / Emily Harney – Click here for a gallery from both fights