Home Columns Why Bernard Hopkins is a better opponent for Sergey Kovalev than Adonis...

Why Bernard Hopkins is a better opponent for Sergey Kovalev than Adonis Stevenson

Credit: Will Hart - HBO

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev was back this weekend, disposing of undefeated-but-unheralded Blake Caparello. That marks two-for-two in the Krusher’s outings on HBO against fighters who, like the Russian himself, may have suffered draws, but have never been beaten.

The result only confirmed boxing fans in their desire for a match-up between the top-ranked Kovalev and the 175 lbs division’s other big puncher, World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson. Yet Stevenson has since gone off to Showtime in search of bigger and better paydays, and Kovalev is an HBO guy. That television divide is sufficient to guarantee that these two will never fight each other for the time being, no matter how much they trash-talk each other, simply because Stevenson vs. Kovalev isn’t lucrative enough to make the two cable giants think about sharing the pot.

So Kovalev won’t get “Superman” Stevenson in the ring any time soon. Instead, he is now set to face ageless wonder and grand master Bernard Hopkins later this year, and that is probably the best thing for his career. If you examine Kovalev’s recent performances, he would have good cause to worry in a fight with Stevenson.

Kovalev is easily in my Top 3 list of active tough guys in boxing today. He is rugged, happy to get nailed if it means he has a chance to return fire, and packs the kind of hurting bombs that ought to daunt any opponent, no matter how capable. Yet even with all that going for him, it’s the part about “happy to get nailed” that spells potential disaster for him in a fight with Stevenson, because Stevenson would hit him with explosive power over and over and over again.

Look at Kovalev’s last two fights. Australian Blake Caparello’s most noteworthy opponent before Kovalev destroyed him was Allan Green, a trial horse who has been dribbled like a basketball by a bunch of super middleweights, from Andre Ward to Edison Miranda. Cedric Agnew had more respectable credentials but was far from a world beater himself.

Still, both Agnew and Caparello damaged Kovalev on their way to knockout losses. Kovalev’s Round 1 knockdown in the Caparello fight was more slip than punch, but the point is that he was still there to get hit, off-balance and with bad footing. Agnew managed to cut Kovalev over both eyes before the Russian took him out. Kovalev can be hit, but so far he hasn’t been hit by someone with dynamite in his gloves. Stevenson has that.

Of course, that point must be counterbalanced by the fact that Stevenson has been stopped in his career. The fact that each of those huge punchers also has the potential for vulnerability was what made that potential clash all the more appealing to begin with.

So now Kovalev gets his big fight against Bernard Hopkins, and the truth is that it’s a better match for him. Conventional wisdom says that Hopkins’s craft skills might bamboozle the crude Kovalev out of his undefeated status, but it is far more likely that B-Hop would find getting hit by Kovalev’s thudding blows on the arms and shoulders far too debilitating to endure it for 12 whole rounds. It is also hard to see “The Alien” pick off sneaky fouls on Kovalev without getting mauled in the clinches in retaliation.

Kovalev just might be the guy to overwhelm Hopkins, who needs to fight at his own pace to win a fight. Tavoris Cloud couldn’t do it, but the Krusher might. A fight with Stevenson, on the other hand, would be a short, sharp shoot-out that could very well see Kovalev counting canaries from the canvas.