NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sergey Kovalev hears about who the fans and the boxing media want to see him fight next. “Krusher” just pushes it away, like he’s done his last eight opponents, all vanquished within the distance.
Kovalev’s sole focus – right now – is Blake “Il Capo” Caparello, who the unbeaten light heavyweight titleholder will face on Saturday on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” from Revel Casino in Atlantic City.
Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 knockouts) will be defending his WBO belt for the third time and southpaw Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) will be out to shock the boxing world and jostle Kovalev’s plans for light heavyweight domination.
Yet all Kovalev kept hearing about was IBF/WBA titleholder Bernard Hopkins and THE RING/WBC champ Adonis Stevenson during a media session at the Affinia Hotel prior to the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Geale fight last Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Kovalev and his manager, Egis Klimas, had enough. They put their fists down.
“Look, I have to fight Caparello next, I don’t want to speak about any other fights right now,” Kovalev said, through Klimas, who interpreted the more complex questions. “I don’t want to really speak about anyone else – my focus is on the next fight, and that’s Blake. He’s good and a challenge. Why speak about somebody if it cannot happen at all? We’re fighting Blake Caparello, understand me?
“My feeling right now is Blake Caparello. It is my job – and my focus has to be put on him. He is an undefeated guy who is very underrated. He is a defensive fighter. We’ll see if he can get away. I want to put on a good show – but knockouts, I don’t go into every fight looking for the knockout. Blake is left handed and there is one more in the division who is left handed [Stevenson].”
Caparello feels he can frustrate Kovalev. Their plan is to take the template Cedric Agnew had against Kovalev in Krusher’s last fight and use that against him. The idea is to try and frustrate a stalker like Kovalev with lateral movement and tag him using angles, picking away and forcing Kovalev into making mistakes.
“In terms of knockout power and ruggedness, Kovalev is right there with anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Lou DiBella, Caparello’s promoter. “Kovalev is an incredibly strong guy, a tremendous puncher, he’s a dangerous guy. I think Blake will beat him – and I think Blake is going to give him a tremendous fight. I really, really believe that.
“But I’m not going to lie to you. I’ll be worried until the final bell rings in the last round, because the guy can freakin’ punch holes through walls. You can be up nine rounds to none, you can be up 11 to nothing and there is always that danger a combination from this guy who is sort of a relentless stalker can do you away. But I really believe what I’m about to say – Blake Caparello is the best guy he’s ever fought. He’s the best style to beat him. If you stand in front of Kovalev, or like someone like [Golovkin], you’re going to lose. Period. If you’re not fast enough or agile to give angles and move laterally, and pop two or three punches and get away, you’re going to lose. Agnew showed a little bit of some vulnerability in Kovalev. Usually, there’s not that much vulnerability in a guy that’s nicknamed ‘Krusher’ and earned it.”
Agnew didn’t throw any punches, but for six rounds, he did seep into Kovalev’s punching psyche somewhat by not being a stationary target. Caparello plans on scoring by being active without retreating. He’ll need to throw jabs and land them. He’ll need to earn Kovalev’s respect with his power punches. Then he’ll have to get out of harm’s way before the monster unleashes and lands something flush.
Whether that plan can actually be implemented against Kovalev is another story.
“Unfortunately, this fight does fall in the category of the Agnew fight,” said John David Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer. “Caparello likes to every now and then come forward. What Sergey needs to do is cut the ring off, hit him in his chest, hit him in his arms, just touch him. Make the evening short. Don’t hit him in the head so much, because we’ll get to that point. The plan is to chop him down with those good hard shots and get him out.”
The biggest question is how Caparello will react once he’s hit.
“Sergey said it best, ‘When I hit him, he’s going to be looking for that fifth corner,’ because he’s going to look to get out,” Jackson said. “We don’t underestimate Blake. He can box very well. Blake won’t frustrate Sergey. He’s gained patience and he sees the money growing with each fight. Where you come from Kovalev has come from, he wasn’t fighting for much money. He’s had to be patient. He tells me now he’s going to do what he has to do. You won’t slow Kovalev down one bit.”
Video by Bill Emes