Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sergey Kovalev vs. Cedric Agnew… Can Agnew Derail The Krusher?

By Peter Silkov

This Saturday, March 29,  at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey,  Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21kos) makes his first appearance of 2014, when he defends his WBO world light-heavyweight championship, against unbeaten, but largely unknown challenger, Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13kos).  Kovalev will be making the 2nd defence of the title that he won in dramatic fashion from Welshman Nathan Cleverly, last August, 2013.  In taking the title, the now Florida-based Russian did not just beat Cleverly, he ‘krushed’ him, living up to his nickname, ‘The Krusher’with a display of punching power that was quite chilling in its brutal simplicity. 

Kovalev is not flashy, or given to throwing wide and wild, Marcos Maidana-like swings from each hand.  The Russian is a neat and measured fighter, whose punches tend to be straight and short, with a relaxed accuracy that can be overlooked. What marks Kovalev out from most of his contemporaries, and makes him one of the most exciting fighters of today, is the reaction of his opponents, when he lands his punches. ‘The Krusher’ has a habit of wrecking a man when he lands his gloved fists upon him.  In his 24 fights so far, of a pro career, which began in 2009, only four men have managed to make it past the 3rd round.  It is this stunning power that has made ’The Krusher’ into one of boxing’s fastest rising stars, since he ripped the WBO title from the grip of Nathan Cleverly. 

After having what was basically his ’breakout’ year in 2013, Kovalev starts 2014 looking for a big fight to take him to the next level as a champion. Kovalev has made no secret of his wish to have unification fights with the other light-heavyweight world titleholders, especially Adonis Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins. The Stevenson fight especially is one that has boxing fans salivating at the thought of a clash between two of boxing’s most exciting punchers, who both just happen to each own a world title at 175 pounds. However, for now, the proposed Kovalev vs Stevenson fight is just talk and nothing more, as Stevenson  seems to be more interested in taking on the wily professor Bernard Hopkins, rather than the big-punching ’Krusher’. Stevenson’s recent switch from HBO to Showtime also makes a Hopkin’s fight more likely and a Kovalev clash harder to make. One has to wonder whether Stevenson wants a Kovalev fight at all.

While he is waiting for a big fight, Kovalev wants to remain busy, (much like his fellow Eastern European sensation, WBA world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin,) hence his fight with Agnew. This is a fight, which aside from supplying yet another short and concussive addition to the champions highlight reel collection, offers no real gains for Kovalev. His challenger Agnew is unbeaten, but he is also largely unknown, and untested himself.  Chicago born, Agnew, who now trains in Houston Texas, has built up his career largely unnoticed by the public since turning professionally in 2006.  He is a solid all- round boxer, who seems to do nothing spectacularly. Agnew’s standout win so far is his victory last year over tough, but faded perennial contender, Yusaf Mack, whom he outpointed over 12 rounds, for the USBA Light-heavyweight title last March 2013.

On the face of it, Agnew has little chance of causing what would be a major upset if he were to beat Kovalev. While he seems to be a solid boxer, Agnew has shown neither the kind of outstanding boxing ability nor punching power that could trouble the champion. Agnew’s challenge is made all the more difficult by the fact that Kovalev is not simply a rough and tumble slugger, like so many other big punchers, but is a well-schooled boxer, with underrated technical ability, which often gets overlooked due to his punching ability, and the brevity of his fights.

Agnew’s biggest chance comes from the fact that few give him much hope of winning at all. As Mauricio Herrera showed in his WBC and WBA world light-welterweight title fight against Danny Garcia almost two weeks ago in Puerto Rico, the underdog is a dangerous animal. In addition to being the underdog, Agnew is undefeated. There is always a bit of mystery surrounding an undefeated fighter, as one never knows quite how good they are until they have been pushed that extra bit by an opponent who either brings out the best in them, or else exposes their flaws for all to see. 
When Kovalev challenged Nathan Cleverly last August for the world title, it was he who exposed the unbeaten Cleverly, while showcasing his own, until then, largely unknown ability. However, the chances of Agnew exposing Kovalev in a similar way to how ‘The Krusher’ exposed Cleverly last year seems distinctly remote.

If Agnew is able to negotiate his way past the early rounds and take Kovalev into the later rounds, and what is for him foreign territory, then we may see ‘The Krusher’ asked some questions that he doesn’t usually have to answer. 

Kovalev does not seem to be the kind of fighter who would run out of steam if he was taken into the later rounds of a fight, like so many other ‘punchers’. Unlike so many other big punchers, Kovalev does not waste many punches or swing wildly; he is instead a relaxed boxer whose punches are delivered with economy and accuracy.  Perhaps this should not be such a surprise, in addition to having an excellent amateur career before turning professional, Kovalev is also trained by former world champion John David Jackson, who was one of the best technicians of his era, in the 1980’s.

In the face of winning so many fights in a sudden and dramatic style, it has been asked of Kovalev how he will react when he finally comes up against a challenge inside the ring? Those wondering about Kovalev’s mental fortitude  would do well to remember that although he has won all his fights (save for a drawn contest early in his career),  he has already faced a huge challenge in his life and career, when opponent Roman Simakov, died after their fight in 2011. The mental fortitude that Kovalev needed to show in order to overcome this tragedy and carry on his boxing career, seems to show that he has the mental strength to deal with mostly anything that an opponent can do to him inside the ring, during a fight.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Agnew so far, in the run up to this fight, has been the quiet confidence that both he and his team seem to hold. Indeed, they seem to be revelling in having flown in under the radar for this fight. It could be a case of supreme confidence, borne from the fact that they know something that everyone else doesn’t know yet, or else, it could be that like some previous opponents they are actually underestimating just how good the ‘Krusher’ actually is. Kovalev can look even workman-like at times, but behind his no-frills approach, there is a craftsman with a knockout punch in both hands.

‘The Krusher’ needs only to look back to Danny Garcia’s recent defence against Herrera to see how easily future plans can almost be derailed by an underdog with the hunger to win. Although Garcia retained his title, his win was controversial and his reputation has taken a hefty knock in its wake. If Kovalev can keep his crown and continue his dramatic destruction of everyone put into his path then his star will continue to rise and the big fights, whether they will be against Stevenson or not, will eventually materialize. ‘The Krusher’ will be hoping to steer clear of any such slip-ups, or controversies this Saturday, and decide matters with the most conclusive judge a boxer can have, the knockout power in his gloved hands. All boxing fans love a puncher, and Saturday could be just the beginning for Sergey Kovalev, and his climb to elite stardom. 

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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