BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Little did Bryant Jennings know he was in there with the Russian George Chuvalo Friday night at the Sands Casino Resort.
But during the third round of Jennings’ scheduled 10-round NBC Sports Network Fight Night main event against Andrey Fedosov spelled it out. A Jennings’ right uppercut, followed by a left hook had stunned Fedosov, and just when it looked like the plodding, meaty Russian would topple – he came firing back at Jennings.
And so it went. For three more rounds, the two pounded on each other, until referee Steve Smoger, at the advice of ringside physician Tom Mitros, waved it over after the sixth round when a cut eye impaired Fedosov’s vision, giving Jennings the victory.
Jennings (17-0, 9 knockouts) remained undefeated, though he’ll remember this one for some time. Fedosov (24-3, 19 KOs), his left eye closed and bleeding in the raucous third round, his lower lip fat and spilling blood from the corner of his mouth, extended “By-By” more than anyone so far in his brief pro career.
“It took me a couple of rounds to get adjusted and he had a tight defense that I had to break through,” Jennings said. “He was a tough guy. I just have to keep winning and be better than I was the last time. I think I learned you never underestimate a fighter. He was short and compact, and I like fighting bigger guys. I worked and did what I was supposed to do, coming out with the win.”
For as long as it lasted, it was action-packed. Jennings was ahead at the time of the stoppage 59-54 on two scorecards and 58-56 on the other.
Ask yourself how long has it been since anyone has seen heavyweights throw punches at that volume?
Fedosov proved he can punch – and take a punch. The third round was memorable. Jennings had stunned Fedosov early in the round, wobbling him. A dazed Fedosov retreated against the ropes, but in the last minute of the round, he summoned up the energy to fight back and began bouncing punches off of Jennings.
“The guy could take a punch,” Jennings said. “I stayed with the game plan, but that guy was a lot tougher than I thought. Like I said, you never underestimate anyone.”
In the co-featured bout of the Main Events-promoted show, as expected, light heavyweight contender Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs) made easy work of Cornelius White in an IBF title eliminator, putting Kovalev in line to fight titleholder Bernard Hopkins.
Kovalev stopped White in the third round, after knocking down White three times. Referee Gary Rosato saw enough and stopped it at 1:42 of the third.
“Kovalev got touched a few times, and White had a good jab, and that exposed Kovalev a little, because the jab kept touching him,” said John David Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer. “We have to work on that. Kovalev has unbelievable power. He punishes people so hard that they think about survival.
“I give Kovalev an A-minus. He didn’t get a chance to show his true boxing skills. This kid stood in there and got hit in the first round, and they he started going backwards.”
Jackson, a former junior middleweight and middleweight titleholder who fought Hopkins in 1997, likes his fighter’s chances against the 48-year-old boxing marvel.
“People are going to ask the question if Kovalev’s ready for Bernard Hopkins, but the real question is if Bernard Hopkins is ready for him,” he said. “Hopkins isn’t going to want to fight for 12 hard rounds, especially against a guy who can punch like that. Kovalev is Russian. He’s led a hard life, too. He can care less who Bernard Hopkins is.”
In the first two rounds, Kovalev pounded White at will. White was knocked slightly off balance in the first 10 seconds of the fight, but the tall, sinewy light heavyweight from Houston, Texas hung in there another two rounds.
Each round, Kovalev stalked, then struck, nailing White (21-2, 16 KOs). All three knockdowns came in the third. The first time Kovalev downed White came off a jab. Yes, that’s right, a jab. The second knockdown was the result of a left hook, and the third came courtesy of a fusillade of punches.
“I missed a couple of punches,” Kovalev said. “I think I did all right, but this is my criticism of myself. I don’t like taking any punches at all. I felt a couple of punches. I need to work on my mistakes, and I need to move my head more, and change my punching power, easy and then hard, easy and then hard. I don’t like to throw punches [with the same intensity].”
When posed the question about Hopkins, Kovalev smiled and said, “I think I’m ready for anyone. Because I’m here in the United States, I want to fight the best fighters, and I’m in America and I want to fight [Hopkins]. The bones in my hand are heavier than normal human beings. I’m very skinny, but I have weight in my hands.”
White came away convinced Kovalev can beat anyone at 175.
“I’m going to give him his props, Kovalev hits hard, even his jab was hard,” White said. “I tried to get up, but the power he possesses is a gift. I felt I put my little damage in, too, and I could have fought a little smarter. But when he hit me with the jab, it went from my head to my legs. His power was just overwhelming. I was hit by some heavyweights, and they don’t possess the kind of power he possesses. I felt like I got hit with a brick.”
On the undercard, welterweight Raymond Narh upset the apple cart of local favorite Ronald Cruz (18-2, 12 KOs). Narh used a great game plan, keeping the short, limited, slower Cruz away with a steady jab.
It led to a great, spirited showing by Narh (26-2, 21 KOs), who won his first time in over two years. It was pretty remarkable, considering it’s the first time Narh was in the ring in two years.
Prior to Cruz, Narh’s last fight was a third-round knockout loss to Mike Alvarado, back on May 7, 2011 on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley show.
The partisan Cruz crowd made it sound like their boy was the next coming of Felix Trinidad, but Narh dimmed that sentiment quickly by dominating the majority of the fight.
Judge Julie Lederman scored it 98-92, which is the same way Ring scored it, while Pierre Reneist had it 100-90, even though Narh clearly won the third round, and Clark Braslow scored 96-94.