Kovalev KOs Shabranskyy

Photo by The Sun

Sergey Kovalev Kos Shabranskyy, But Is He Back?

By Derek Smith

Saturday night 3,307 fans, at Madison Square Garden, witnessed the return of

Sergei Kovalev.

Fighting for the first time, since his humbling defeat at the hands of the light-heavy

weight champion Andre Ward, Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 Kos) was fighting

for the WBO light-heavyweight belt, one of the belts vacated by Ward when he made his

retirement official last summer. His easy two round stoppage of Vyacheslav

Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 Kos) left a lot of questions unanswered.

There was such a disparity in skill set, this fight could hardly be an

accurate barometer of any residual effect of the Ward defeat.

Kovalev, well-conditioned and sharp, found an opening for a right hand lead

that put Shabranskyy down. Arising immediately, and taking the mandatory eight

count, the dazed Ukrainian was hit with a left-right-left combination, and finally two

lefts that dropped him on his hands and knees. Round' s end found Kovalev

working around Shabranskyy, and punching him as if he were a heavy bag.

The warning buzzer, to begin the second round, found referee Harvey Dock

and the ring doctor conferring with Shabranskyy as he stood awaiting the bell.

Pronounced good to go, Kovalev then walked to Shabranskyy and began brawling,

finally hitting him with a chopping right that put him on the canvas once more.

Regaining his feet Shabranskyy found himself being driven across the ring and

mugged along the ropes. Seeing that Shabranskyy was too game for his own

good, Referee Dock wisely stopped the mismatch at 2:36 of the second round.

By regaining one of the three belts he formerly held, Kovalev takes the first

step toward a hoped for unification of the light-heavyweight title.

Main Events spokesperson Kathy Duva spoke of a spring extravaganza in 2018

showcasing Russia’s Kovalev against an as yet unnamed opponent,

WBC champ Dmitri Bivol (12-0-10 Kos) in a mandatory defense against Sullivan

Barrera fought and won a decision on the undercard, and Artur Beterbiev

(12-0 12 Kos) the IBF champion . WBC king Adonis Stevenson is M.I.A. preferring to

take the low-risk moderate yield route.

Assessing Kovalev for any psychological damage incurred from the Ward defeat

would seem premature. Intangibles like psychology, courage, and the will to

weather a storm can only be measured when the skill level and experience are

more evenly match. Shabranskyy was just not on the same level as Kovalev.

Although Kovalev fired his trainer, spent some time in a monastery in Greece,

talked of campaigning as a heavyweight, and accused Andre Ward of dishin'

the dirt, it isn't known if the psychological trauma was temporary or an actual scar.

It won't be known until a storm brews on the horizon whether Kovalev brought his

umbrella, and those water droplets are really coming from the sky or from Kovalev.