ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Sergey Kovalev has a subdued way about him. The Russian expatriate will stalk in measured steps. He’ll wait, and wait, and wait some more until that sliver of daylight appears, and like a cobra, he’ll strike with sudden, emphatic, alarming power.
It’s concussive, bone-shattering effects are immediate. Kovalev is the most devastating puncher in boxing today. He says it’s nothing he intends to do each time he enters the ring. It just happens that each time his hands connect, they incapacitate.
Cedric Agnew just so happened to be Kovalev’s latest victim before a sellout at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall on HBO on Saturday night. With Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), it’s not a matter of how. It’s a matter of when.
The when came at :58 of the Round 7. The how was the result of a paralyzing straight left to the liver – a jab, according to Kovalev’s trainer, John David Jackson. The result seemed a foregone conclusion.
Agnew (26-1, 13 KOs) came in with a propped up undefeated record of Chicago cab drivers and one name victory on his resume, a 12-round decision victory over journeyman Yusaf Mack last April. Otherwise, it was a ledger filled with indistinct names from the Midwest and Texas.
In the opening round, Agnew showed Kovalev a lot of respect, but came back and countered a few times. An Agnew counter left even had Kovalev back pedaling at one point. Agnew landed a low blow with about five seconds left in the round, and was quickly warned by referee Sammy Viruet. But Angew did enough to win the first round.
At 2:18 of the second, Agnew was warned again by Viruet to keep his punches up. Midway into the second, Kovalev began finding his range. That comfort zone where he hones in and his punches land with thuds.
Then it happened – a picturesque Kovalev left hook on the jaw. Down went Agnew.
In Round 3, Agnew tried turtling-up behind a high guard. But Kovalev lowered that with body shots. In the last 15 seconds of the round, Angew was hanging on for dear life as Kovalev closed and fired to the body and his head.
Agnew, to his credit, was game. After getting up from Kovalev’s left hook in Round 2, and surviving a barrage in the third, he countered Kovalev in the fourth, cutting him with an accidental headbutt (though Viruet said it was caused by a punch) that opened a cut on the corner of Kovalev’s right eyelid.
In Round 6, Kovalev split Agnew’s high guard with piercing rights to the face, and forced Agnew to lower his guard with body shots. Agnew’s eyes were puffy and on the verge of swelling shut. But an Agnew elbow did manage to open another cut, this time over Kovalev’s left eye.
Agnew was dropped by Kovalev a second time with a left to the body, followed by a left hook to the head. Agnew, his mouth agape, was laboring. Kovalev smoothly closed and chopped away, attacking the body and switching up to the head.
By Round 7, Agnew, however courageous, had nothing left. That’s when the end arrived. When Kovalev, in typical fashion, landed a straight left to the liver and felled Agnew a third time. He grimaced as he took a knee, and Viruet counted 10. He was down several minutes before he was able to regain his feet, and eventually was taken afterward to the hospital to be evaluated.
“Once I got the two cuts, one from his head, and on the left eye from his elbow, I think, I touched the floor and I don’t like it,” Kovalev said. “This was good for me. I was ready for 12 rounds. I saw his open waist and I went to the body.”
When the subject of Adonis Stevenson was broached, Kovalev replied, “Adonis Stevenson is a piece of s___. They aren’t fighters. They’re businessmen, looking to get easy money.”
It’s the first time Kovalev went seven rounds since he stopped Roman Simakov on Dec. 5, 2011, in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
“The Krusher” threw 402 punches, landing 107, for a 27-percent connect rate. Agnew landed 31 of 109 for 28-percent. Kovalev’s jab was especially effective. He landed 71 of 206 jabs – for a 34-percent rate. It’s the most jabs he’s thrown in some time, according to Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer.
“That’s something we worked on for this fight is the jab,” said Jackson. “He showed me he can get past six rounds and still punch at a high rate. I could tell [Agnew] was trying to ride the storm. The guy was gallant. But we worked on that straight left to the body [that finished Agnew]. And from [Kovalev], that can cripple anyone. That was a left jab to the body – and we worked on pushing that in. By that time, the kid was ready to go anyway.”
In the main undercard feature, Thomas Dulorme (21-1, 14 KOs) outlasted Karim Mayfield (18-1-1, 11 KOs) for a regional junior welterweight title. Dulorme won by scores of 96-94 from Joseph Pasquale, 97-93 from judge Ron McNair and judge Waleska Roldan somehow had it 98-92. THE RING scored it for Dulorme, 96-94.
“I’m a lot stronger and a lot faster; I was able to take his punches and come back,” Dulorme said.
Dulorme threw 308 punches, to Mayfield’s 284, and also connected at a higher rate, landing a total of 83 (27-percent), to Mayfield’s 61 (21-percent).
“We’ll fight whoever HBO wants him to,” said Gary Shaw, Dulorme’s promoter. “I thought he was much improved; his movement was much improved. I thought he could have gone to the body a little more.”
In Round 8, Dulorme landed a few low blows, but Mayfield said that didn’t sidetrack him.
“I thought I fought a good fight, and it could have gone either way,” Mayfield said. “The low blows hurt a little bit, but I can’t use that as an excuse.”
On the undercard, undefeated middleweight Ismael Garcia (6-0, 3 KOs) won a six-round unanimous over Dushane Crooks (6-1, 4 KOs). Junior welterweight Wellington Romero (3-0, 1 KO) beat Gerald Smith (3-1, 1 KO) by a four-round decision, and super middleweight Michael Mitchell (3-3-2, 1 KO) stopped Rafael Jastrzebski (4-8-1, 1 KO) with a second-round TKO at 2:53. Portly heavyweight Adam Kownacki (6-0, 6 KOs) beat Excell Holmes (2-3-1, 1 KO). A very spirited eight-round junior middleweight brawl between Wilky Campfort (17-1, 9 KOs) and Khurshid Abdullaev (6-1-1, 3 KOs) was originally announced as a draw, but later was changed to a split-decision victory for Campfort, who knocked Abdullaev down in the first round. Light heavyweight Radivoje Kalajdzic (15-0, 10 KOs) won an eight-round decision over Lionell Thompson (15-3, 9 KOs) to close out the undercard non-TV fights.