Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) of Russia delivered another trademark crushing performance with a seventh round stoppage of Igor Mikhalkin(21-2, 9 KOs) of Russia at The Theater at Madison Square Garden to retain his WBO World Light Heavyweight Championship.
Despite their friendship, there was no love lost between Russian countrymen as Kovalev made Mikhalkin feel the heat from the opening bell. Through the first six rounds, Kovalev out landed Mikhalkin 145 to 25 punches, according to CompuBox. Nevertheless, Mikhalkin is a world champion, and stayed in Kovalev’s face. A cut opened below Mikhalkin’s right eye, and as Kovalev continued to punish him, referee Steve Willis stepped in to have the ringside physician examine Mikhalkin. He determined Mikhalkin could not continue, delivering a TKO victory to Kovalev at 2:25 of the seventh round.
“It was better work for sure than the last fight,” said Kovalev of his win over Mikhalkin. “This might maybe have looked easy, but it definitely was not. He doesn’t hit the hardest, but I could feel his punches and he has a lot of movement and he is a great boxer.”
In the exciting co-feature, WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) of Russia battled Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14 KOs) of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba down to the final round before scoring a TKO victory at 1:41 of the twelfth.
Bivol found a home for his powerful right hand at several points throughout the bout, but the resilient and dangerous veteran fighter Barrera stayed competitive until the moment he could not continue. At the time of the stoppage, all three judges’ scorecards were overwhelmingly in favor of Bivol.
“He was a really great opponent,” said Bivol. “Sullivan Barrera showed me a lot of things tonight I need to work on when I go back to the gym. So thank you, Sullivan, for that.”
(Source for results above: Main Events)
Kell Brook marked his super-welterweight debut with a ruthless second-round stoppage victory over Sergey Rabchenko. The Sheffield man has stepped up in weight after losing his IBF welterweight title and sent out a message to his new rivals after halting Rabchenko with a big right hand. Following two career-threatening eye socket injuries, the 31-year-old also overcame any lingering mental scars from back-to-back losses to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr with a dominant performance. (Source: Sky Sports)
In the co-featured event of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, Jose Uzcategui (27-2, 23 KOs) defeated Andre Dirrell (26-3, 16 KOs) via TKO two seconds into round nine, upon the request of Dirrell’s trainer, Virgil Hunter. The win, which makes Uzcategui the interim IBF Super Middleweight World Champion, puts the hard-hitting Venezuelan in position to fight for the super middleweight title that Caleb Truax earned via a majority decision over James DeGale in December.
Saturday night’s fight was a rematch of the hotly contested May 2017 bout, in which Uzcategui was disqualified for landing a punch after the bell sounded to end the eighth round. In the rematch, Uzcategui dominated the action from start to finish, using his powerful right hand to set the stage for the withering assault which led to Dirrell’s corner stopping the fight two seconds into round nine. Uzcategui out landed Dirrell 169-141 in total punches, including a huge 112-51 discrepancy in power punches landed.
“I was a little surprised they stopped it in the ninth,” said Uzcategui. “I had said it would be the third round that I would knock him out. It took a little longer, but it finally came.
“I think it was very clear in the first fight that I did my job. In the second fight I showed even more, so there’s going to be a lot of Uzcategui from now on.”
Dirrell, a native of Flint, Michigan, found Uzcategui’s length and aggression difficult to deal with.
“I’ve been in there with long fighters before, but he was especially long,” said Dirrell. “I think I was a little heavier than I wanted to be tonight, but that’s no excuse. Uzcategui did a great job.
“We knew we needed a knockout. The way it was going I needed to at least pick it up. I felt a little sluggish and he hit all the right shots. None of them really hurt, but he hit me where he was supposed to.” (Source: Showtime)
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