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.



SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Manny proves age is just a number

Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquaio outworked, outsmarted and outslugged Keith Thurman on Saturday night in Las Vegas to claim the WBA Welterweight Super Title and re-announce his presence to the rest of the division. Pacquiao looked like his old self, especially early in the fight, to win a clear but competitive decision over Thurman, who entered the ring ten years Pacquiao's younger. Ringside judges scored the fight 114-113 for Thurman and 115-112 (twice) for Pacquiao. SportsMap.com also scored the bout 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who now splits his time between boxing and senatorial duties in the Philippines, looked like vintage Manny in the early going, landing a right hook near the end of the first round that sent Thurman sprawling to the canvas. Thurman was up quickly and didn't appear to be badly hurt by the knockdown. Pacquiao continued the quick start by landing the harder, more damaging punches throughout the first half of the fight. Pacquiao routinely initiated the action by pressuring Thurman with flurries of combinations. The knockdown, paired with Pacquiao's early success gave him an advantage on the scorecards he would never relinquish.

Thurman began to feel Pacquiao out as the fight moved into the middle rounds, timing Pacquiao's volume combinations with well placed counters. While Thurman snapped Pacquiao's head back at times, he never rose beyond competitive and never seemed to take the fight back over from Pacquiao, who laid claim to it following the knockdown.

If there was any doubt the 40 year old could finish off the victory, it was removed in round ten, when Pacquiao badly hurt Thurman with a body shot. The blow left Thurman covering up to the body and leaving his head vulnerable to combinations for the remainder of the round. Thurman bounced back with a nice round 11 but the damage was done. Entering the final stanza Thurman needed a knockout. But once again it was Pacquiao who landed the heavier work.

Thurman was gracious in defeat, saying he felt the fight was close but acknowledged that he had lost. It was the first defeat in Thurman's career. He expressed interest in making a rematch.

By winning Pacquiao once again has claim to being a top-3 welterweight in the world, along with PBC stablemate Errol Spence as well as Terence Crawford. A unification bout with Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, would be easy to make. However it won't be made in the immediate future. Spence is set to fight WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in September. Spence would be a heavy favorite over Pacquiao. Because of this fact, paired with Pacquiao's marketability, a fight between the two would likely only be made it what would be Pacquiao's last fight. After Saturday's performance Pacquiao's career doesn't appear to be anywhere close to finish, so I would expect Manny to be back in the ring in the fall against the mandatory challenger for his WBA title.

UGAS DOMINATES FIGUEROA

On the undercard Cuban national Yordenis Ugas has no trouble defeating Omar Figueroa, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-107 (three times.) SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-107 for Ugas.

Ugas won every minute of every round, beating Figueroa at his own game. Figueroa, content to fight on the inside, was a step behind the quicker, more technically skilled Ugas. He was repeatedly countered with uppercuts up the middle, and never made any adjustments that led observers to believe Figueroa could solve Ugas. The fight makes Ugas the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title. Ugas fought Porter for the WBC title earlier in the year and lost a controversial decision.

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