Sergey Kovalev has regained some of the light heavyweight crown that he lost to Andre Ward back in the summer. Kovalev defeated Vyacheslav Shabranskyy via second-round TKO to win the vacant WBO and IBA Light Heavyweight Championships on Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
After back-to-back losses to Andre Ward, once via controversial decision and another via controversial TKO, Kovalev’s performance in this bout echoed that of his “Krusher” nickname.
While Shabranskyy delivered a few power shots of his own in the opening round, he was noticeably reddened by several of the combinations worked on him by Kovalev. Kovalev utilized the jab, putting it out there before landing another hand or two.
A hard right hand from Kovalev forced Shabranskyy to go to the canvas on a knee about halfway through the first. Kovalev was not done there, as he landed a hard, stunning right hand and follow-up combination that sent Shabranskyy to the mat once again with seconds remaining in the first.
After Shabranskyy was cleared by the doctor, round two began with Kovalev focusing on the body before delivering punches upstairs. Shabranskyy was dropped for a third time in two rounds by another solid right from Kovalev. But after a stunning flurry of punches forced Shabranskyy off balance once more, the fight was called off and Kovalev was awarded the titles.
In the co-main event of the evening, Sullivan Barrera scored a unanimous decision win over Felix Valera. No time was wasted in this bout, as both fired hard and scored knockdowns in the opening round. The hard shots and theatrics continued into the second, but Valera landed a low blow and was warned by the referee.
Barrera was in control for the third round, but Valera landed another low blow and a point was deducted. Valera seemed to lay off a bit in the fourth, allowing Barrera to continue his momentum and chase his opponent down. Valera is the victim of an accidental low blow in the fifth, and he wasn’t happy about it. Valera danced around, forcing Barrera to miss and Valera landed some credible counters.
Barrera was hit with another blow, and another point was deducted from Valera’s score, prompting the referee to warn another low blow would result in disqualification. Both fighters, however, then fire away in the center of the ring, with Barrera seemingly getting the better hand. After taking Valera off balance and dominating the seventh, the eighth round saw yet another blow and point taken away (rather than a DQ) for Valera.
Barrera, strangely enough, lands a low blow and gets a point taken away in the ninth. But at this point, there was nothing Valera could do other than try for a knockout, and while he got a nice flurry at the end of the 10th, it wasn’t enough.
All three judges ruled the bout in favor of Barrera, with scores of 98-88, 97-90, 97-89.
In the opening televised bout, Yuriorkis Gamboa did battle with Jason Sosa, a bout which Gamboa controversially won via majority decision.
Gamboa seemed to be doing well at the start, scoring with the faster hands in round one. Gamboa proceeded to work the body in round two, while Sosa focused on head punches. The third round, though, was a sloppy one, featuring Gamboa slipping, and throwing punches to the back of the head.
Gamboa was warned in the fourth for clinching up with Sosa too much, but it allowed him to work the jab and produce more in the fourth than Sosa. By the halfway point, it was clear that while Gamboa was moving around and throwing shots, he definitely seemed off balance.
The sixth round saw more clinching from Gamboa, and the referee warns Gamboa again. To make matters seemingly worse for Gamboa, his glove touched the canvas after a blow from Sosa, prompting a knockdown. Gamboa was warned once more, and the referee said the next warning would result in a point deduction.
Sosa showed off the speed he still had in the eighth, putting pressure on Gamboa. Sosa takes control again in the ninth, and the referee gives one last warning to Gamboa for clinching. Gamboa clinches in the tenth, and he ends up getting a point taken away in a close final round.
While one judge saw the bout a 94-94 draw, the other two ruled in favor of Gamboa, 95-93 and 96-92.