After defeating Hopkins, family comes first for Kovalev, then future
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – After having hammered Bernard Hopkins over the course of 12 one-sided rounds on Saturday night, Sergey Kovalev yearned to hold his wife as well as the newborn son he had yet to meet.
When his wife, Natalie, gave birth to their son, Aleksandr in Los Angeles on Oct. 20, a determined Kovalev still was training in Fort Lauderdale, Fl.
Kovalev’s dedication paid off with a shutout unanimous decision over Hopkins, unifying the IBF and WBA light heavyweight titles with the WBO belt Kovalev already owned.
“What I do right now is my job. I think that my son will understand everything and my wife understands everything because what I’m doing right now, I’m doing for my son and my wife and for my future and the future of my family,” said Kovalev during the post-fight press conference at Boardwalk Hall.
“If I don’t fight, then I will be with my wife and my child. No fight, where do I get more money and where do I get my two more titles, on the street? No, I did enough jobs in Russia on the streets. Now I want to fight with the best fighters in the world on HBO.”
Despite injuring his left hand in the second round of the victory, Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 knockouts) out-landed Hopkins 166-to-65 in total punches, comprised of an advantage in power shots (121-to-40) and jabs (45-to-25).
Kovalev dropped Hopkins with a right hand in the first round and pummeled him with 38 blows in the 12th. No other fighter in 41 bouts tracked by CompuBox had ever landed that many punches against Hopkins in a single round.
“I tried to finish this fight in less than 12 rounds but I didn’t because Hopkins has a very, very hard head. I hurt my hand, you know. I hurt my hand in the second round from my jab…It was not easy, the fight. He got a lot of hard punches from me but he stayed on his legs. It’s unbelievable but I tried,” said Kovalev, 31.
“I am happy for this victory because this was a big fight. I’m sure that this was a very interesting fight. Everybody was asking, ‘Can [you] box for 12 rounds with Hopkins?’ and I learned how I may need to box for 12 rounds. I showed them that I could fight for 12 rounds, so I have this experience now.”
Hopkins, 49, had twice set the record for becoming the oldest man to win a major title at ages 46 and 48 and had also become the oldest man to unify. But the aging warrior nicknamed “The Alien” was denied another otherworldly performance by “Krusher.”
Kovalev nevertheless showed his respect for Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs).
“You know, he’s a professor of boxing, like I said before the fight. Yes, that’s true and sometimes the student can be better than his teacher, yes? But what I got from this lesson was 12 rounds of boxing with a legend,” said Kovalev, who had gone 13-0-1 with 13 knockouts in his previous 14 fights.
“I was ready for the 12 rounds and I was ready to fight the best fighter in the world at light heavyweight, Bernard Hopkins. It was as tough as I thought it would be. Right now, I think that Bernard needs to stop now, his career. He’s 49 years old and he has the greatest result for a guy his age in the boxing world at 49. Holding two titles, he’s a very great boxer,” added Kovalev.
Known for his unique blend of cerebral toughness and guile in the ring, Hopkins has long drawn inspiration from his past as a former Philadelphia street thug. Hopkins already had endured two stabbings by the age of 17, when he was jailed for five years in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison.
Similarly, Kovalev said his early life as a child in Chelyabinsk, Russia, steeled him mentally for the grueling sport in which he now makes a living.
“Bernard grew up in some sort of ghetto here in America but where I grew up is maybe the same. My mind was ready for everything that he can offer,” said Kovalev. “My mind was already ready for everything. When I grew up with my past in my life, that made me very strong, you know. That was not a problem for me. That helped me to make an adjustment and to be stronger.”
Kovalev shed light on his youth, where he was raised with his mother minus a father figure.
“I washed cars and I sold newspapers when I was a child but not for my whole life. I began to get some money from the boxing from at 14 years old or 15 years old. Small money but it was a little more motivation,” said Kovalev.
“If you win the Russian championship, then you have a bonus. That was a big motivation but right now, this is much more motivation. Different money, different team, different motivation.”
Among Kovalev’s goals is unifying the division, perhaps against RING champion Adonis Stevenson, 37, a southpaw who also owns the WBC’s title. Aligned with Showtime, Stevenson will make his next defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky on Dec. 19.
“Right now, maybe there is a chance for me to fight with Stevenson and the WBC. Maybe he will be the next opponent; we’ll see,” said Kovalev, who is promoted by Main Events. “Maybe you should ask my promoter…I feel very comfortable in my division. I didn’t finish cleaning up this division. One more title is my next goal. Welcome to the light heavyweights.”
Whatever happens next in the ring for Kovalev, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said it has to be lucrative.
“I would like his next fight to be for the best deal,” said Duva. “This fight was for the glory; the next one is for the money.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda