If I Were a Boxing Matchmaker: Sergey Kovalev

If I called the shots

Howdy folks. Back at it again and looking forward to making some matchups for Sergey Kovalev this time.

Sergey Kovalev 33-3-1 (28 KOs)

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Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev is well known for his punching power and rightfully so. However, he is also a very skilled boxer. Kovalev has been highly successful in the sport for several years due to that basic combination of attributes, which is not a knock on him at all. They have served him well against elite competition such as Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins. Most fighters who are aggressive and have heavy hands don’t usually have the boxing ability to stay at the championship level. They usually rely on their punching power to get them out of trouble if they are getting outboxed by a skilled boxer/mover. As much as I like him, David Lemieux is a perfect example of this (watch the Billy Joe Saunders bout). Although, I think Lemieux is skilled, he relies on those heavy hands too much.

Sergey Kovalev has proven that he doesn’t need to only rely on his destructive ways. He can patiently dismantle his opponents like he did Eleider Alvarez in their rematch. Although Kovalev has fought guys like Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins, it would be a tossup at this point to really say if he is a future Hall of Famer. I think he may need a couple more of these top championship level fighters on his resume first.

“The Krusher” is getting older and probably only has a few good scraps left in him. He might have defeated Alvarez in his last bout, but I still didn’t really like the way his legs looked. They have some give and he seems on the verge of getting “Krushed” himself one day. Hopefully not, but that is just my gut feeling.

Let’s see if we can help the “Krusher” push to get a call to The Hall.

#1 Matchup: Oleksandr Gvozdyk 17-0 (14 KOs)

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Oleksandr Gvozdyk is currently the WBC titleholder who defeated Adonis Stevenson and is rightfully one of the top 175-pounders in the world. Some will argue that he is the best after his victory over Stevenson. I personally rate fighters a little different than most and I believe that Kovalev is still the number one light heavyweight in the world.

Gvozdyk and Kovalev are similar in many ways. They both have good boxing ability and both are heavy-handed (Kovalev more so), which is why this would be a very good matchup and also have significant implications. Most likely this ends with a knockout victory for one of them. It’s kind of a coin flip who would come out victorious. This is the way us fans want the odds to be, 50/50 or close to that. My burning question would be, is Kovalev shop warn, or does he have enough left in the tank to pull out another big victory using his experience and skill? Let’s get this one put together so we can answer those questions and to clarify who the best is at 175.

#2 Matchup: Artur Beterbiev 14-0 (14 KOs)

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If I were advising Kovalev, I would try and go after Artur Beterbiev before going after the other contenders, or titleholders. Although Callum Smith could be a great option at this juncture, Beterbiev might be a more favorable match for Kovalev to succeed compared to a match against Dmitry Bivol, Gilberto Ramirez, Marcus Browne, Callum Smith, etc. Beterbiev is a little less active, a little easier to hit and has a suspect chin. He is also 34 years old, which means he is not a young sprout, just like Kovalev. Those are the basic reasons he should go after Artur.

It would still be a tough fight that also looks like it won’t last the distance. Beterbiev is either the third or fourth best light heavyweight right now and currently holds the IBF title. That would make this fight have some “implications” due to the belts involved, however despite that, they are both legitimate top five light heavyweights. Both are similar in style in many ways, but to me Kovalev is a little quicker and moves better. However, it will only take one or two clean shots for one of these two to end up on the canvas and that would need to be determined by them which one that will be.

#3 Matchup: Dmitry Bivol 16-0 (11 KOs)

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The good thing about making potential matchups for Sergey Kovalev is that they are a little easier and more obvious, like this one with Dmitry Bivol. No matter how you line them up, they should all happen at some point in time, unless Kovalev calls it quits soon, or gets beaten up really bad by any of them. The good thing about the light heavyweight division is that the top four fighters are currently the ones who hold all of the silly trinkets. So, it makes it a little easier to unify the division if the best fight the best, though it’s still nonsense and we should only have one champion per division, not four. In this case Sergey holds the WBO title and Dmitry holds the WBA title.

Like most of these Eastern Bloc fighters, they have fairly similar styles. Bivol is a little more well-rounded than the other top guys at 175. He is more defensively aware than the others. He also has more variety in his punch selection. The main issue with Bivol is that he is not as “exciting” to most fans watching because of his more cautious approach. However, to me that’s why he is possibly more dangerous. The question here, is Dmitry Bivol smarter and wittier than the elder Kovalev and can he catch him with a variety of different punches and break him down throughout the fight? Not an easy task.

#4 Matchup: Marcus Browne

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Marcus Browne is a legitimate threat in the light heavyweight division. He doesn’t have as good of a resume as some of the others, but he seems to have the potential to be a player in the division. This is an opportunity for Kovalev to prove that he is still at the top of the food chain and it would be an opportunity for Browne to prove that he belongs with the big boys.

Marcus Browne is a solid boxer, who utilizes his jab well and has a strong straight left. Part of his issue though, is that he tends to load up with that left hand too much and square up or even turn orthodox after throwing it. That’s what can get him in trouble in this bout. Kovalev would need to use his boxing smarts to move in on Browne and throw some combinations. Browne got rocked a couple of times against “Hot Rod” Kalajdzic. Kovalev hits harder than Kalajdzic and has better technical boxing ability. The main chance Marcus Browne has in this bout would be if Sergey looks old and warn, which could happen at any time at his age.

#5 Matchup: Gilberto Ramirez 40-0 (26 KOs)

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Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez is a really good fighter who definitely has the potential to be fighting at the world championship stage. To me, he was the most talented fighter at 168 pounds. It’s unfortunate that him and Callum Smith, or David Benavidez didn’t ever fight to sort out who the best in that division is, but we all are fully aware of the absurd politics that are involved in the sport and shouldn’t have too many expectations for it to change anytime soon. Now that “Zurdo” officially moved up to light heavyweight, there are still many options on the table for him to make some top-quality matchups, such as this one.

Ramirez is a very good combination puncher who has a  great punch selection, including mixing in uppercuts and body blows. He also tries to consistently throw a jab. That is a recipe for success. The main thing I notice with Ramirez that Kovalev can try to take advantage of, is throwing punches in bunches. Ramirez tends to freeze up and keep a high guard when guys are throwing multiple punches at a time. If you give him the opportunity to work, he will continue to do so. The interesting thing is that I think both men have the power to hurt or stop the other. What needs answering is can Sergey split the high guard of Gilberto and catch him with a pinpoint shot that puts him down, or out?

This would be a great name to have on both men’s resume and could end up going down as one of the best opponents for Kovalev to have on his list of opposition, as I believe Ramirez will probably be at, or near the top of the division very soon and could stay there for a while.

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