Sergey Kovalev gave the great Bernard Hopkins the most thorough beating of his career tonight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, outclassing and overpowering the 49-year-old living legend en route to a shutout win on scores of 120-106, 120-107, and 120-107. BLH had it 120-107.
The night didn't start well for Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KO), as he was dropped on a right hand in round one. With that as proof that Kovalev's vaunted power was no mirage against overmatched opponents, the next few rounds were tense every time Kovalev (26-0-1, 24 KO) got Hopkins on the ropes, which frankly was the majority of the fight.
A patient attack saw Kovalev dominate the entire bout, keeping range, and never letting Hopkins get into his game plan. With long rights, good left hooks, and a solid jab, Kovalev fought a technical masterpiece of a fight. He at times flurried and tried to get Hopkins to open up in counter attack, giving Kovalev greater chances to score another big shot, but Hopkins was exceptionally patient, too. He threw a very low number of punches, but he survived as well as he could, and at times, did land clean shots.
The fight was never competitive, though, and as HBO's Jim Lampley put it after the fight, it was simply cold, hard reality: the younger, stronger man was the winner, and old Hopkins was just outgunned -- even outclassed, as much as he can be.
Kovalev and Hopkins were both pleasant after the fight. Asked how he won the fight, Kovalev told Max Kellerman, "Simple. I'm kidding. He's a very tough opponent. He's very good at keeping distance and control. We respected him before the fight, but he needs to stop his career, I think. He's given a lot to the boxing world, and he needs to give an opportunity to the younger guys to be champions. I'm next."
Kovalev admitted that in a furious 12th round, which saw him club Hopkins repeatedly with hard shots that would have knocked out just about anyone imaginable at 175 pounds, he was trying to knock Hopkins out, but couldn't quite do it.
For his part, Hopkins gave Kovalev 100 percent credit for a masterful performance.
"The better man was Kovalev," said Hopkins. "He had a good game plan, nice and rangy, he stayed outside when he got hit with punches. Not that many, but when he did get hit, he didn't try to engage the fight when he got hurt. He definitely has his mechanics and he has patience, and every time he got hit with punches from me, he did the right thing."
He continued, "He did it on his terms. When I tried to pull him in and fight my fight, he took a step back."
The punch stats told much of the story. Hopkins landed just 66 of a paltry 195 punches thrown over 12 rounds, a decent 33% connect rate, but obviously not nearly enough output, throwing an average of 16.25 punches per round. He landed 40 of 111 (36%) of his power punches.
Kovalev landed 166 of 585 (28%) of his total punches, and 121 of 341 (35%) of his power shots.
With the win, Kovalev now owns the IBF, WBA, and WBO light heavyweight title belts.