Dawn of the Krusher
On Saturday 17th August, WBO belt holder Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO’s) makes the 5th defense of his world title against the highly touted Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KO’s). Nathan comes into this fight as the underdog - a telling fact for a defending champion in his hometown. On paper, it is by far his hardest and most gruelling challenge to date, the Welshman’s only other notable win being a 10th Round TKO victory over fringe contender Karo Murat. “The Krusher” Kovalev sent ripples throughout the boxing community with a tragic win over fellow countryman Roman Simakov (who fell into a coma induced by his loss, and unfortunately never recovered), and went on to create Tsunami by thoroughly dominating the perpetually unlucky Gabriel Campillo.
The announcement of this fight came as a surprise to many - Kovalev was being lined up for a mandatory shot at Bernard Hopkins IBF title, and Nathan Cleverly has grown a name in the sport as being a particularly soft champion. Kovalev was being compared to the likes of Lucas Matthysse and Gennady Golovkin for the amount of fear he placed in his contemporaries; Cleverly took this bout as a voluntary defense, and that alone needs to be commended. Here we’ll look at what makes each fighter dangerous, and what gives this clash potential to be Fight of the Year
As we can see from these stats, Nathan holds considerable natural advantages over his foe. A 4 inch reach advantage and an inch in height is never to be sniffed at, so long as Cleverly boxes like a man with such cards in his hand. If he dains to fight this foe like his previous punching bags, then his reach will be almost irrelevant; Nathan has drawn fans for his crowd pleasing, swarming style. He will need to box like a far more conserved fighter to evade the power the Krusher can deliver.
Speaking on the punching strength of the 30 year old russian, there are few men who have weathered his assault. His power is delivered with deadly accuracy (more on that later) and prepared at an efficient range. He is shorter, stockier, and not nearly as athletically toned as the Welshmen, but his hands thud with the power of the former soviet hammer, and strike as sharp as the sickle it crosses.
Age is also an interesting aspect. Kovalev has 4 years over the champion, but spent a considerable time fighting in the amateur ranks, which are far more prevalent in the eastern block. Cleverly turned pro at a very early age (18), and spent many of his early years sparring with Enzo and Joe Calzaghe, (around the time Joe was an undisputed champion) which undoubtedly offered invaluable experience.
|26 (12 KO's)
||21 (19 KO's)
Now onto the experience. Here the numbers are far more noticeably different. The one that stands out the most, and should have the biggest impact on the different scenarios of this fight, is the “rounds boxed” column. Nathan, for his lack of power, has racked up 3 times as many professional rounds as Kovalev in just 4 more fights. He has gone the 12 round distance 5 times, rarely showing a dip in stamina or conditioning. Kovalev, nor his opponents, has never seen past the 8th round in a boxing ring. For a man that punches in considerable volume, will he have the conditioning to survive the championship rounds, should Nathan’s chin weather the early storm?
Despite not charting much experience in the pro ranks, Kovalev has a considerable amateur career to draw his boxing knowledge from. In 225 fights as an unpaid fighter, he was never dropped to the canvas, and has only fallen once as a professional; Darnell Boone, a hard hitting gatekeeper, tested Kovalev early in his career by dropping him in the 7th round. (Boone has a habit of doing this to future stars, namely Adonis Stevenson and Andre Ward). In the rematch, Sergey gave him no chance to repeat his success, finishing him in just two rounds. As has been noted, Cleverly’s amateur career was short lived, a 32-4 record, with the young welshman rushing into paid fighting. To say Kovalev is a crude banger is a gross understatement of the man's abilities, and his considerable technical experience should be a factor in play.
So.. who’s going to win?
A tough call. Nathan holds many advantages on paper, including the intangibles that a home fighter often possesses; added to this is notable scrote Terry O’Connor, who will be referreeing this bout. Many will remember Terry for his atrocious Fury-McDermott decision, as well as doing his best to exemplify the stigma of a “British stoppage”. The cards are stacked in Cleverly’s favour, but the reality of the situation boils down to just two elements:
Can Nathan take Kovalev’s punch?
Can Kovalev apply pressure for 12 full rounds?
If the answers to this are..
- then Kovalev wins by early KO
- Kovalev by KO at any round
- 50/50 fight going to the better boxer, likely Cleverly UD
- Potential for a stoppage by Nathan or a dominant schooling going into the later rounds.
Based on what I’m aware of Kovalev’s power, I do not think any man could take multiple solid shots over several rounds. His punch is a thudding one, unlikely to put your lights out, but enough to positively shake you to your core. Cumulatively, this crumbles a fighter. If Nathan can box like a man of his reach and height, then he may just outpace and outwork the relentless Russian. If he attempts to engage Kovalev in a fight, then the WBO will be crowning the Krusher.