Atlantic City, New Jersey– The jaws of all boxing fans hit the floor just as Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev hit the canvas for the first time in the seventh round by a heavy right hand from Eleider “Storm” Alvarez. Kovalev managed to get up before the ref count was over, only to be put down again by a crisp right-left combination. This time, however, Kovalev went down sideways and without using his hands to cushion the fall, a clear sign he was severely hurt. The referee allowed Kovalev to continue fighting, only to immediately get sent face first to the canvas for the third and final time with a vicious overhand right by the Colombian.
After three tremendous knockdowns in a single round, the referee finally waved off the fight, making Alvarez the new WBO Light-Heavyweight Champion of the world.
Since the first round, Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) began getting caught with clean, sharp jabs from Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) that popped his head back and led him to come forward with a more cautious approach. In the second round, Alvarez landed a two-punch combination that seemed to have slightly hurt Kovalev but didn’t stop him from coming forward with efficient counters of his own.
The fourth round was action-packed as both fighters traded thunderous punches in the middle of the ring, with Kovalev landing the more significant punches of the exchanges. Kovalev landed a combination of colossal shots that seemed to temporarily stun Alvarez and caused him a cut on the left side of his face.
In the following rounds, it seemed as Kovalev had found his rhythm and successfully reasserted dominance over his opponent by pummeling him with grueling shots that made the fans think “The Krusher” was back. The feeling soon surpassed as Alvarez delivered a trio of knockdowns that would put an end to the fight in minute 2:45 of the seventh round.
Though Alvarez out-landed Kovalev on total punches by almost three percent, Kovalev was up on all three judges’ scorecards before the knockout.
Without taking anything away from Alvarez, Kovalev’s devastating loss against a tough avoided contender only promotes the narrative that the Russian knockout artist was never the same after the back-to-back losses against Andre “SOG” Ward. After witnessing the new Colombian champion’s skills, it’s not difficult to understand why Adonis Stevenson paid him step-aside money and “ducked” him for over two years. Alvarez finally got a shot for a title and crushed “The Krusher” for a well-deserved win.
An immensely emotional Alvarez thanked the fans, his trainer, and God for their support after his impressive upset victory.
“I can’t describe how I feel,” said an elated Alvarez, “I wanted to show him I’m strong, I have a good chin, and I’m ready for big things.”
Kovalev took to Instagram to apologize to his fans for his loss, but assuring them he was okay after the severe punishment from Alvarez.
“I am on my way to the hospital to check my head, check my body,” Kovalev told his followers. “… I feel OK. Thank you, everyone, thank you very much to all the fans around the world for your support. I love you, and I’m fine.”
When asked about the possibility of fighting Bivol in a light heavyweight unification bout, Alvarez seemed enthusiastic about the idea of facing the winner of the co-main event.
“I’m ready for the best in the world,” Alvarez said. “I’m ready for the best in the division. I’ve been waiting for five years. I’m ready for anybody.”
In the co-main event, WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion Dmitry Bivol delivered a dominant performance against a tough three-times world title contender Isaac Chilemba. Bivol set the pace and effectively took control for the entirety of the fight, successfully defending his title and remaining undefeated by way of unanimous decision.
Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) came out aggressive in the early rounds, backing Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) against the ropes and unleashing a fury of shots that made fans wonder if the bout would go the distance.
Chilemba already had a reputation of being a legitimate contender, especially by also going the 12 rounds against Kovalev in the past, but having Roy Jones Jr. in his corner surely helped Chilemba adapt to Bivol’s game plan and survive for the remainder of the fight.
Though Bivol slowed down in the second half of the fight and Chilemba managed to land clean body shots, Bivol continued to outshine his opponent and win the majority of the rounds.
After 12 dominating rounds by Bivol, the judges had him winning 120-108 on two cards, and 116-112 on the third.
Though Bivol appeared discontent about the 116-112 scorecard, he still gave Chilemba the credit he deserved for going the distance.
“Chilemba is a good fighter and he had champion spirit tonight,” said Bivol. “He is a strong fighter. I want to fight more good fighters. I don’t know who my next opponent will be.”
Chilemba, however, took opportunity of the post-fight interview to demand a rematch, claiming he won the second half of the fight.
“I believe I won every round from the fifth,” Chilemba said. “I pushed Bivol backwards and made him miss. I deserve a rematch.”
In the non-televised portion of the card, Kazakh middleweight Meiirim “The Sultan” Nursultanov (8-0, 7 KOs) defeated his opponent Jonathan Batista (17-15, 10 KOs) in only two rounds by corner stoppage.
Though no knockdowns were scored by Nursultanov, the punishment Batista was receiving was vicious enough for his corner to protect their fighter by stopping the fight early.
Nursultanov was unsatisfied by his opponent’s corner decision to stop the fight, expressing he was robbed out of the opportunity for a real knockout victory.
“I didn’t like that he quit,” Nursultanov said. “I wanted a real knockout, so it is not how I planned. I was ready, 100 percent. Thank you everybody, thank you Atlantic City. It’s a very good place and I hope to come back here again.”
Bakhram Murtazaliev (13-0, 11 KOs) of Grozny, Russia scored a fantastic first-round knockout against Fernando Carcamo of Mexico (23-9, 18 KOs) to extend his knockout streak to eight in a row. It only took 41 seconds for Murtazaliev to stop his opponent and successfully retain his IBA Junior Middleweight World Title.
Murtazaliev came out of his corner with no intentions other than to hurt his opponent, who was immediately overwhelmed by the Russian’s power.
“It happened so fast, I still don’t understand,” Murtazaliev said. “I just left, and I am in the dressing room already. Of course, I’m very happy. A win is a win. We are moving forward fast.”
Murtazaliev expresses interest in pursuing a world champion next and thanked his fans for their ongoing support.
“Thank you very much for supporting me,” said Murtazaliev. “Please continue to support me, I promise I will show you the best fights.”