THE BOXING REPORT

Kovalev's career and life at a crossroad

Sergey Kovalev's boxing career is at a crossroads. The one-time unified light heavyweight champion has lost three of his last five fights. He's been knocked out twice. First in his rematch with then pound for pound star Andre Ward in June of 2017. Then Kovalev (32-3, 28 KO) tasted the canvas again last August, when Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KO) stunned Kovalev in the seventh round, ending his run as World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champion. Kovalev exercised his right to an immediate rematch, which takes place Saturday at The Ford Center in Frisco. The main event and co-feature will air on ESPN+, with further undercard fights airing on ESPN.

There are many factors that would lead one to believe that Kovalev is poised for a big comeback this weekend. The 35-year-old Russian national was ahead on all three judges' scorecards when Alvarez stopped him last time out. Going into round seven I had Kovalev up five rounds to one. But it was all erased when Alvarez landed a huge right down the middle, flooring Kovalev. It was by far the biggest punch Kovalev took in his career and he never recovered, failing to make it out of the round. Kovalev also showed confidence in ordering an immediate rematch. Oftentimes a fighter who has been knocked out will take a soft touch fight in their first return to the ring before trying to reclaim their belt. Kovalev wasn't interested in a tune up fight.

But despite several signs pointing to Kovalev bouncing back in a big way on Saturday, a huge distraction looms over Kovalev now and for the foreseeable future: Kovalev's trouble with the law. Less than two months after Kovalev's Saturday date with Alvarez, he'll be in a courtroom facing felony assault charges. Kovalev was arrested in June in Big Bear, CA (home of most of his training camps) for allegedly punching a woman in the face and attacking her dog. The alleged victim has filed an $8 million dollar civil lawsuit on top of the pending criminal action. The case is due in court on March 11.

Kovalev's only response to charges has come via instagram. Last week he ambiguously addressed the charges, saying among other things "Doesn't it seem strange to you that the incident happened in June of last year, and they announced it on the eve of my rematch against Alvarez?"

Over the next few months, Sergey Kovalev's life will change. Maybe he'll reclaim his WBO light heavyweight title belt. Maybe he'll join the ranks of former world class fighters who can no longer compete at the highest level. Maybe he'll be cleared of his alleged assault charges. Maybe he won't. The first two questions will be answered Saturday. As for the rest we will have to wait and see.

UNDERCARD REPORT

Immediately prior to the main event on ESPN+, boxing super prospect Teofimo Lopez will fight Diego Magdaleno in the co-feature bout. Lopez (11-0, 9 KO) is taking a big step up in competition in fighting Magdaleno (31-2, 13 KO) who is 11 years older and has previously challenged for a world title.

Before the action on ESPN+, regular old ESPN will carry the first two fights of the evening, headlined by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KO) defending his belt against Carmine Tommasone (19-0, 5 KO.) It's the first bout back Valdez, who hasn't fought since breaking his jaw in a gritty victory of Scott Quigg in March of last year. The 28 year old Valdez always puts on a great show and will be ready to do so once again following an 11 month layoff.



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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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