May 19, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Images from the HBO World Championship Boxing card featuring Terence Crawford vs Felix Diaz at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/HBO

Sergey Kovalev Chops Up, Stops Igor Mikhalkin

Inasmuch as any card can be a commercial for the future, tonight’s HBO card from Madison Square Garden Theater in New York was that. For seven rounds, Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KO) beat up his former amateur team mate Igor Mikhalkin. Mikhalkin (21-2, 9 KO), came into the fight with his only positive attributes being a good record, southpaw stance, skill, and name that would give Joe McCarthy ragegasms. He was there to make Kovalev look good. In fact, if you listened to the HBO announcers closely, he was there to make Kovalev look super human. 

Kovalev didn’t look super human, but he did look much better than his foe. From the first bell, Kovalev leapt forward landing hurtful punches, slowly churning Mikhalkin’s face into a chopped up, bloody mess. Mikhalkin was examined by the doctor a few times, and finally, mercifully, referee Steve Willis stepped in and ended the matter in the 7th round. It was utterly one sided, but it was somewhat revealing about the winner. Kovalev still can’t use angles and seldom throws his left hook. Against the right guy though, he’s still fun.

The man that commercial set up for Kovalev is Dmitry Bivol. Bivol was fighting his first contender, Sullivan Barrera. If you believed the commercial’s voice over, Bivol is also super human. He did not look it either.

Bivol (13-0, 11 KO), dominated and ultimately knocked out Sullivan Barrera, but he needed twelve rounds to do it. Barrera (21-2, 14 KO) is a top five light heavyweight. His only loss before tonight was to Andre Ward. He’s not supposed to be an easy night for anyone. He didn’t win a round against Dmitry Bivol. 

From the 1st round, Bivol was quicker than Barrera. He owned the range and timing by turning Barrera, and by subtly stepping back when he wanted a pause, but never so far away that Barrera wasn’t still in danger. Barrera fought back, but was outlanded over 3/1.HBO’s crew rightly noticed that Barrera was not throwing his jab nearly as much as in previous bouts. The reason for that was Bivol, who was sharply countering it with his right hand over the top. Despite landing many more hard punches, it didn’t appear that Bivol would be able to get rid of Barrera, but halfway through the 12th round, he landed a spearing jab that stunned Barrera. Bivol followed with a four punch combination that contained a huge right cross that caught Barrera on the side of the head and sent him sprawling. Barrera rose slowly but referee Harvey Dock waived it off, sparing the Cuban more punishment.

I’d love for Kovalev to be next for Bivol. He’s obviously ready and I’d make him the favorite. He has a lot of tools and is never discouraged.

(Dmitry Bivol (r) lands a punch on Sullivan Barrera (l), via)