Who will win the big fight on Saturday?
Duan and I made our predictions on the latest edition of FGB Radio. However, here’s a more slightly fleshed out version of those predictions.
Kovalev by 7th round KO
I think sometimes we take what Bernard Hopkins does for granted. This is a guy who has been routinely beating opponents 15+ years his junior throughout the later stages of his career. Opponents like Pascal, Cloud, Murat and Shumenov – not just anybody, but good quality fighters. That’s something that’s just not supposed to happen in this sport.
You’ve got to remember this is somebody who, six years ago, when he faced Kelly Pavlik, people believed it was the end of the line then. Here we are ten bouts later and just two months shy of his 50th birthday, and B-Hop is ready to go to war with one of the most intimidating and brutal punching fighters to come along in a long time.
Kovalev in many ways fits the mold of opponent Hopkins thrives against. A heavy hitter, slow of both hand and foot, not a big mover and easy to find. It’s Hopkins’s ability to stop the puncher from punching which has led to his biggest triumphs of recent years. He shuts down a fight like nobody else. He knows how to make things scrappy and grind out a result. When he has struggled in the past, it’s been against guys like Taylor, Calzaghe and Dawson who had the speed to get off first and rattle off shots before he could close them down. That route isn’t open to Kovalev.
The Krusher is a very different beast though. He is for my money, the top 175 pound boxer around. Kovalev is so far untested against the true elite, but he has shown the power to wreck world class fighters and do it quickly. Good, durable light heavyweight can’t take his best shots. His is the type of power that even a sparse connection is enough to starch. He doesn’t need a lot of space to generate it either and that is key here.
I believe what we will see is Hopkins take this to close quarters, shell up and try make this his usual type of fight. I think what he will find though is that Kovalev’s punches, even from short range, are a problem for him to deal with. Kovalev will land with clipping shots, cuffing shots, shots thrown through the guard and especially short shots to the body, and ultimately he will breakdown the older man and get the knockout. At some point the hill becomes too steep to climb for everyone. This is that point for Hopkins. The Russian takes this one stopping the great man for the first time in his hall of fame career.
However, if we get four or five rounds in and Kovalev’s power has yet to register then it won’t at all. And then we’re in a Hopkins fight, and once that pattern is set, it’s almost impossible to break. If Hopkins finds a way to do that. If he once again upsets the apple-cart, it will be his biggest victory of all. It will be something nobody has ever done. Something nobody has ever even come to close to. It will become that the most remarkable boxer of this era is neither Floyd Mayweather nor Manny Pacquiao, but Bernard Hopkins.
Kovalev by 9th round TKO
For once, most casual fans will love Bernard Hopkins’ suffocating, non-entertaining style. Hopkins won’t change the way he’s been fighting his entire career. He transforms great fighters into modicum ones. And outside of boxing aficionados who enjoy seeing his strategy work time and time again, most people hate it.
On the other hand, everyone loves Sergey Kovalev’s style. He goes in and throws bombs and people fall down. But this is one of the few times that people will want the guy with the entertaining style to lose. Why? Because Hopkin’s story is so easy to tell and relate to. It’s the old man vs the young man in a young man’s game. I don’t think most want to see Hopkins get destroyed. If he’s able to rally late in the fight, the crowd might go ballistic.
And all that is something to look forward to. But I think some of it is fairy tale. Much like Duan described above, Kovalev’s style does play into Hopkins’ hands. But the problem is, Kovalev’s power can’t be understated. He may not be able to rip a left hook and connect with Hopkin’s head, but he will be able to do so to the body. And he’ll be able to wear Hopkins down when most will think it’s happening the other way around.
I think Hopkins is going to fight a great fight for about half of it. But I also think that once he starts slowing down and Kovalev’s shots start landing cleaner, it’s going to be up to the referee to decide when enough is enough for Hopkins. And I don’t envy his position.
I’m going to love this fight for all that it is. And the human interest side of me is going to hate the outcome. But it’s best for boxing.