Despite the difference in outcomes, Andre Berto and Sergey Kovalev are passengers on the same boat. While Berto was able to edge out Devon Alexander by way of an extremely dodgy decision, he was able to end the fight on his feet and had his hand raised as a result; the same couldn’t be said for Kovalev who was dropped three times and stopped at the hands of Eleider Alvarez.
At first glance, we would be quick to sound the warning bells for Kovalev whose decent from the top of the Light Heavyweight chain has been made apparent by going 2-3 in his last five fights with two stoppage losses coming from fighters who wouldn’t be mistaken as punchers. Berto’s win suggested that he still had something left after the vicious beating he received at the hands of Shawn Porter, and because a victory overshadows all things, he’s still in the mix in a talent heavy Welterweight division.
A closer look tells a different story.
As shocking as Kovalev’s loss was, let’s not forget for the sake of making an argument that prior to the stoppage there was no indication that Kovalev was being torpedoed by Alvarez. Many observers had the fight scored even through six and Kovalev had laid a beating on Alvarez in the fourth. To his credit, Alvarez weathered the storm and boxed intelligently enough to land the more precise shots in the rounds that lead up to the finish. Also, Alvarez hadn’t really accomplished much in his career ahead of this bout outside of stopping Lucian Bute and looking pedestrian against Isaac Chilemba and a shot Jean Pascal. Alvarez made the most of his moment, which is what champions do in their moment of truth.
Of course, Kovalev hasn’t been the same fighter he was before his two fight series with Ward and to say otherwise would be erroneous and stupid. Ward stripped away Kovalev’s confidence and tore down his aura of invincibility all while cracking his chin as well in their second fight. We weren’t going to see it against the middling foes he fought in the aftermath, and to be fair we only began to see the discouragement when he was stopped by Alvarez.
Kovalev’s circumstances was not the key factor in his loss, it was more of a contributing factor to go along with Alvarez being underestimated. Kovalev got caught by a great shot that he never recovered from. Shit happens.
When we look at the Light Heavyweight division, there are still plenty of fighters Kovalev can still beat, including the paisano HBO wanted to be the guy to topple him in Dmitry Bivol. Seeing how unpolished Bivol looked on the undercard, Kovalev beating him before getting a shot at Alvarez again wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Though there’s definitely some wear in the tires and the paint is starting to chip, Kovalev’s bad stretch is not indicative that he’s a spent force, not when a few good wins is all he’ll need to be re-established as the division’s best fighter.
On the other side of the fence, Andre Berto narrowly avoided disaster thanks to some questionable judging as well as Devon Alexander’s propensity to stay in first gear to steal a win and stay alive. He did so after being dropped by the light hitting Alexander and continuously being stunned throughout the fight. Berto’s desperation was able to keep him up as his plodding legs looked like they wouldn’t do the job, getting him in the only offensive position where he could sloppily work after wrapping Alexander up again and again.
There really wasn’t much Berto could be proud of, and it’s going to show when he gets his next inevitable fight against a live body. Unlike Kovalev, Berto against any top Welterweight right now would be met with harsh criticism of being a mismatch and compared to sending a lamb to the slaughter. Take a second to imagine Berto’s chances against Keith Thurman when he decides he wants to get back to work, or if Errol Spence has a free weekend.
The judges didn’t do Berto a favor by rewarding his ineffective plodding; they just set him up on a tee for a big hitter to send him back to the doors at the last chance saloon for another shot for another shot. Berto may have beaten Alexander, but he’s in no better shape to make a run than he was when he was mangled by Shawn Porter nine months ago, prompting talks of retirement.
A loss does not inflict critical damage, nor does a win erase the current circumstances. How Kovalev and Berto fare from this point forward is to be seen and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if both decided to call it a career, but I wouldn’t put it past them that they could still surprise us…or unfortunately live up to our expectations.