by Tim Harrison
This Saturday night, Russian sensation Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) will keep busy when he takes on undefeated Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) of Chicago, Illinois. The fight will be shown live on HBO starting at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT from the Ballroom at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Kovalev has been in the news as a result of rival Adonis Stevenson’s recent jump from HBO to Showtime. As a result of Stevenson’s move to Showtime, this fight will no longer serve as a potential prelude to the highly-anticipated Stevenson-Kovalev showdown. He is one of the recent crop of Eastern European fighters at whom HBO has thrown millions of dollars in hopes of building its next crop of stars. Kovalev fought a total of twelve rounds in 2013, and nine of those twelve rounds were spent dispatching of a former light heavyweight titlist, a rebuilding prospect, and then WBO-titlist Nathan Cleverly.
The 30-year old Kovalev has displayed freakish punching power so far in his career. As stated earlier, he fought only twelve rounds last year in an impressive bid of increased quality of opposition. Kovalev won the WBO title with a fourth-round stoppage of Nathan Cleverly in front of Cleverly’s hometown crowd. He closed out the year with a two-round destruction of The Boxing Tribune’s 2011 “2012 Should Be Their Year” Award winner, Ismayl Sillakh.
Agnew was brought in to make Kovalev look good on Saturday night. His undefeated record will open some eyes, but his resume is less than championship worthy. Of the many unknown fighters on his resume, Otis Griffin and Yusaf Mack are the two names who stand out. But prior to facing Agnew, Griffin had lost three straight and he’s lost five of six since, while Mack was 3-3 coming in (one win came against Griffin). Agnew has been out of action since his April 2013 win over Mack.
Offensively Agnew puts his punches together nicely when he chooses to let his hands go. He’s quick on his feet and keeps his hands high and tight when he’s not punching. He can fight from the conventional or southpaw stance, and when fighting as a southpaw he will use a quick right hook off his jab. The downside to Agnew’s southpaw stance is he squares himself up and presents a large target. Coming into Saturday night’s fight, Agnew is confident of pulling off the upset. Kovalev is a very disciplined fighter with tremendous power. He’ll go long stretches using his jab as his primary weapon as he looks for an opening for his big right hand. Kovalev also has good balance and good lateral movement. Against a mobile opponent like Sillakh, Kovalev had no trouble keeping Sillakh in front of him and cutting off the ring when Sillakh moved away from him.
Both men are mostly untested at this point in their respective careers. While Kovalev is the more experienced of the two, he’s fought only 63 rounds in his 24 professional fights. He hasn’t been in any serious trouble in his fights, so his ability to adjust to adversity is unknown. Agnew doesn’t possess very impressive power, so he likely won’t pose a serious threat to Main Events/HBO’s investment. In limited footage of Agnew, he appears to stand in front of his opponents in close range. Up to this point, he’s been good enough to pick off punches as they come in.
The big questions are whether or not Agnew can stand up to Kovalev’s assault and if he can hurt Kovalev. Expect Kovalev to go downstairs early, in an effort to bring Agnew’s high guard down. Agnew will look to counter Kovalev with a right hand over Kovalev’s jab to his midsection. If Kovalev can get Agnew to bring his hands down early, look for him to start shooting out a lead right a beat or two after he steps back away from Agnew’s counter right hand over his jab. It will only be a matter of time before Kovalev detonates a right hand on Agnew and sends him down, signaling the beginning to a quick end. Kovalev should win by way of fifth round stoppage before moving on to the next challenge of his career; finding a new big name opponent to work towards.
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