Last weekend’s expert picks were a close vote for the light heavyweight clash between WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly and hard-hitting Sergey Kovalev, with 10 of the 17 boxing insiders believing that Kovalev would dethrone Cleverly.
A 26-year-old Welshman who was fighting before partisan fans at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, Cleverly is a volume-punching boxer who entered with a record of 26-0 that included 12 knockouts.
Kovalev, who is 30, had won nine of his past 10 fights by stoppage with the other being a draw, and had an overall recod of 21-0-1 with 19 knockouts.
Kovalev destroyed Cleverly, whom he dropped twice in the third and once more in the fourth and final round of a technical knockout win. Of those who selected Kovalev to be victorious, nine predicted that he would do so by knockout.
Panelist Keith Idec was convinced that Cleverly would not “be able to withstand Kovalev’s power,” and went with the eventual winner by fifth-round stoppage.
But only Jack Obermayer was dead on with his prediction:
Sergey Kovalev KO 4 Nathan Cleverly: I don’t think the unbeaten Nathan Cleverly will be clever enough to avoid the heavy hands of Sergey Kovalev, who I have seen live in his last four bouts.
Kovalev is a long-armed, persistent puncher who takes no prisoners, so I don’t expect Cleverly has the toughness to survive. I am impressed by Kovalev’s “bad intentions,” and Cleverly has not seen his likes before. Kovalev by KO, maybe in Round 4.
“It was a replication of some of his previous performances. He wears you out quickly. He doesn’t bomb guys out in the first round, but he has so many precision punches that you’re worn out by the third round,” said Obermayer, winner of the Long and Meritorious Service Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2010.
“The quality of Cleverly’s recent opposition hasn’t been great, but neither had Kovalev’s. But it’s just the way that he’s been doing it. Cleverly has just won fights, but hasn’t looked spectacular. I just didn’t think he had the arsenal to keep a guy like Kovalev off of him. Cleverly was never in that fight on Saturday, in my opinion.”
Obermayer said he fully anticipated the severity of Kovalev’s dominance.
“I figured that Kovalev would beat him up and destroy him, because, I mean, those punches that he throws are poisonous. He throws everything with bad intentions. I like the way that he doubles up. He throws in combinations, but he also goes to the body and brings it upstairs, too. So you don’t know where the punches are going to land. Cleverly had his hands up so much that he had no time to be offensive,” said Kovalev.
“His work rate with those devious, hurtful punches is really upscale, so I wasn’t surprised at all. Kovalev comes out there taking no prisoners. That’s his style. I mean, he just demands your respect right from the get-go. I can’t say that I’m surprised, because he’s done this to guys before. I mean, he just breaks them down early and takes out whatever will or heart they might have had. He takes the fight right out of you.”
[Note: Martinez-Burgos was a draw, meaning all who selected otherwise received a loss]
Photo by Scott Heavey, Gettyimages.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org