Tonight at 10:05 pm ET on HBO, it’s a world title doubleheader at 175 pounds, with Sergey Kovalev returning in the main event to face Igor Mikhalkin.
We’ll have live coverage of both fights.
Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KO) came back last November to scorch Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and win the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, which he’d previously lost to Andre Ward. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Kovalev, who looked as monstrous as ever. Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KO) is a fellow Russian and someone Kovalev considers a friend, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime for the underdog, as he’s said this week.
In the co-feature, it’s another 175-pound matchup, this one arguably the real main event for hardcore fight fans. Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KO), a rising star in the division and holder of the WBA “world” title, will face top contender Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KO). If Kovalev wins, a fight with the winner of this matchup would be big for HBO later this year.
- Sergey Kovalev def. Igor Mikhalkin via TKO (2:25 of round 7)
- Dmitry Bivol def. Sullivan Barrera via TKO (1:41 of round 12)
SERGEY KOVALEV vs IGOR MIKHALKIN
Round 1: Well, this first round is not looking good for Igor Mikhalkin. Kovalev not doing anything devastating or purely dominant (yet), but he’s in full control and Mikhalkin just flat out looks like he has nothing Kovalev needs to be remotely concerned about. Kovalev 10-9
Round 2: Honestly feel like Kovalev is being nice not just banging this dude out. Mikahlkin is kinda right there for him, has no power, doesn’t appear remotely capable of outboxing Kovalev. I hate to sound so negative, honestly, and it’s nothing against Mikhalkin, and it’s not any big surprise, but after that first fight, which was interesting, and what happened over on Showtime, this feels so anticlimactic. Kovalev 10-9, 20-18
Round 3: It’s hard to find any real enthusiasm for this. Even when Mikhalkin lands, he’s got nothing on his shots. Couple nice body shots, though. Kovalev’s not doing a ton this round. You might could give this to Mikhalkin, I guess? If you’re being generous? But I won’t. Kovalev 10-9, 30-27
Round 4: Mikhalkin isn’t a bad boxer at all. It’s just about levels, and this is not a level where he can shine. Kovalev dominates another round. He’s having no trouble at all, taking his time for now. Kovalev 10-9, 40-36
Round 5: This is reminding me of Kovalev-Chilemba. Like Chilemba, Mikhalkin is skilled enough to spoil much of Kovalev’s entertainment value at the very least. Kovalev’s gas tank looking a little questionable, to be honest. Mikhalkin slips, I think their feet tied up, but nothing happens out of it. Kovalev 10-9, 50-45
Round 6: Mikhalkin is fighting to the best of his ability. He’s not winning, but he is here and he is trying his ass off. Mikhalkin ends this round cut and bleeding from under his right eye. Kovalev is just too strong for him, but he is touching Sergey. Kovalev 10-9, 60-54
Round 7: Harold questions why the referee didn’t stop the fight between rounds because of how badly he’s getting busted up to the face. Kovalev is really starting to pound away now. This is really one-sided and Kovalev is looking for the stoppage, and working the cut(s) with his hard jab. Steve Willis stops the round with 35 seconds to take Mikhalkin to the doctor, and then he waves it off. Kovalev TKO-7
DMITRY BIVOL vs SULLIVAN BARRERA
Round 1: First minute is tentative stuff. Barrera wanting to avoid another early knockdown, it would appear. Which is smart. Who wants to get knocked down? Bivol flicking his jab out. Bivol unleashes a little combination late in counter, about 30 seconds left in the round, and he tries to take the lead the rest of the round, too. Bivol with a good right hand off the side of the head late. Bivol 10-9
Round 2: Right hand wobbles Barrera a little bit. Bivol starting to take the initiative a lot more, he looks very focused. Bivol cut over the right eye. Left hook from Bivol catches Barrera, who is working consistently but not landing a whole lot clean. Bivol fighting with some aggression thanks to the cut, which is in a bad place. Bivol 10-9, 20-18
Round 3: Cut ruled to be from a clash of heads. Bivol really starting to come forward more, leaning on his 1-2 and doing well. Bivol with a three-punch combination that doesn’t all land flush or anything, but there was basically nothing Barrera could do about it. Bivol’s skills are really good. Heads clash again, quick timeout for that. Bivol is rather handily winning this fight right now, and that’s impressive. He’s not beating Barrera up or anything, but he’s firmly in control, and this was another really good round. Bivol 10-9, 30-27
Round 4: Bivol with a hook that hurts Barrera, and another. Barrera surviving at the moment. Bivol’s just a better fighter so far, and again, this is impressive stuff. He’s still fully in control. And it’s not like Barrera has a bad plan, at least to my eyes, or is boxing poorly, or getting run over. He’s just being outboxed and outfought. Bivol 10-9, 40-36
Round 5: The hand speed and footwork of Bivol have really been too much for Barrera. And his power isn’t hurting things, either. Well, it’s hurting Barrera. Barrera is still fighting his ass off, too, he’s just losing. And Bivol’s defense has been very good. Bivol 10-9, 50-45
Round 6: Barrera, again, is still here. He’s not conceding defeat. And this is probably a better round for him than he’s had in the fight. Bivol maybe slowing down a bit, maybe taking a round to stay fresh with what is surely a 5-0 lead. Barrera lands a sloppy hook, not a huge shot, but it got there almost by accident. Bivol turns it up some late. Barrera with some decent body work. Still think Bivol won this round. Bivol 10-9, 60-54
Round 7: Bivol has out-jabbed Barrera significantly, and Barrera usually has at least a decent jab. That’s big for Bivol, he’s controlled the pace entirely. Barrera still fighting (again, I say the same thing, but it is what it is), and Bivol is fighting better. Bivol 10-9, 70-63
Round 8: Bivol swelling pretty notably over the left eye. You can see some fatigue in Bivol going longer than normal, and that’s something that, say, Sergey Kovalev’s team will notice, if Bivol and Kovalev both pull through tonight. Heads clash again. Bivol again closes the round strong to leave little doubt. Bivol 10-9, 80-72
Round 9: Bivol again seeming to take it easier this round, knowing he’s got three rounds left and is probably going the distance, but late in the second minute he opens up some and shows his aggression again. Heads clash again, and hard. You could hear that one. Another round in the bank for Bivol. Even when he doesn’t press as much, Barrera isn’t getting anything done, either. Bivol 10-9, 90-81
Round 10: There are still improvements Bivol can make. That’s scary, if you think about it, and this lead holds for a win. Bivol still boxing very well. Max Kellerman notes the story of the fight: Bivol, as the fight goes on, has become a pure boxer more than a boxer-puncher. And what Max is hinting at but doesn’t say, is that Bivol has done it very well. Bivol 10-9, 100-90
Round 11: Bivol continuing to more or less have his way. Barrera with a little flurry halfway into the round, but Bivol comes right back. Good hook from Bivol. Nice jabs from him. He’s turning it up again in the second half of this round. Another clash of heads, that one right on the hematoma, and it’s REALLY swelling up now. Bivol catches Barrera with a hard shot right at the end of the round. Bivol 10-9, 110-99
Round 12: Bivol coming out hard to start the final round, which is nice to see. HARD RIGHT HAND AND DOWN GOES BARRERA HALFWAY INTO THE ROUND! Barrera barely beats the count, and Harvey Dock waves it off! Dmitry Bivol TKO-12