With a young lion on the verge of stripping his title and perhaps the biggest fight and payday of his career hanging in the balance, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev dug down deep, rallied back, stopped the young lion that was Anthony Yarde, and retained his belt, saved his mega-fight with Canelo Alvares as well as won our fighter of the week award. The now 36-year old Kovalev made the first defense of his WBO light heavyweight belt, a strap he won in Texas back in February when he put together a masterful performance in outpointing Eleider Alvarez, getting his revenge on the man who took his belt from him just six months earlier via seventh-round KO in Atlantic City.
It was business as usual for the first six rounds as WBO light heavyweight champ looked sharp. Working behind a jab he was able to keep a game and aggressive Anthony Yarde at bay. Yarde was competitive but likely not winning too many rounds through the first half of the fight as he was not consistently able to get past the long shotgun jab of Kovalev. That seemed to change in the round number seven as Yarde was able to get into the inside in the second half of the round and started to slow down the 36-year old Russian. Although Krusher had built up a sizeable lead on the cards the momentum had seemed to shift a bit in the seventh. As the eight-round began a confident Yarde picked up the pace and had his best round of the fight landing several powerful right hands that completely stopped the Russian in his steps and seemed to have him on the verge of being stopped as Yarde poured on the power shots. In between rounds eight and nine, the champions trainer Buddy McGirt threatened to stop the fight. Kovalev heeded his trainer’s warning got back to working off the jab to survive round nine and gained control of the fight in round 10 as he rocked the exhausted challenger several times with right hand after right hand and out-landed him 41-4 in the round. The 11th proved to be the final round, Yarde started the round on wobbly legs, and it took only a clean and stiff left jab from Kovalev to drop and finish the game challenger as he was counted out by referee Luis Pabon.
Sergey Kovalev will look to put the finishing touches on what is likely a hall of fame career, the next stop is likely a December 2nd mega-fight with unified middleweight champ and Mexican Icon Canelo Alvarez. A Canelo fight will give the Russian champion one more all-time great name on his resume and will award him the biggest payday of his career. A Canelo-Kovalev showdown has seemed to be the only fight that the Mexican icon wants and has been rumored and talked about for months. The rumors now seem to be a reality as Kovalev responded “Canelo” when he was asked who he wanted next. The light heavyweight champ went on to say “I will fight anybody. Canelo is a great fighter and if he wants to fight, I am ready. I will fight Canelo… I want the biggest fights for my career. It is my career. I have not much time left, so I will fight the best fights I can.”