One of the most interesting storylines in the sport of Boxing continues to be the potential full unification of the Light-Heavyweight division. The division’s two central figures Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev have continued to defeat all challengers placed before them, but have yet to turn their attention to each other to fully unify the World Light-Heavyweight championship.
The next chapter in this storyline will take place on Saturday night as the undefeated WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev defend his world title against IBF number one contender Nadjib Mohammedi in Las Vegas, Nevada. In his last fight in March of this year Kovalev successfully defended his title for the fifth time scoring an eighth round stoppage of former WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal.
Much like undefeated unified WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, Kovalev has carved out a reputation as one of the sport’s feared knockout artists registering a career knockout percentage of 86% scoring knockouts in twenty-four of his twenty-eight professional fights. Since becoming a world champion in August 2013 Kovalev has only been taken the distance once, it is unification bout with Bernard Hopkins in November of last year.
What has made Kovalev such a difficult fighter for opponents to combat is not just his reputation as a power puncher, but also his ability to be tactical in his approach in attacking his opponents. Kovalev is the kind of fighter who can get an opponent out of there quickly or gradually break an opponent down. Although Jean Pascal was able to have periodic success against Kovalev earlier this year, the question remains as to whether or not an opponent can have sustained success against a champion who thus far has dominated most of his opponents.
The opposition standing across the ring from Kovalev on Saturday night will come in the form of IBF mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi. Mohammedi, who will enter the fight ranked number one by the International Boxing Federation (IBF), number two by the World Boxing Association (WBA), and number four by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) is riding a thirteen fight win streak and has knocked out six of his last eight opponents. In his last fight, Mohammedi scored a six round stoppage of Lee Campbell on the undercard of Sergey Kovalev’s fight with Jean Pascal in March of this year.
Although Mohammedi a former French Light-Heavyweight champion, who will enter the fight with a record of 37-3, with 23 Knockouts has been on a hot streak and has earned this title shot, one does have to wonder whether or not the challenger will be able to deal with the consistent pressure attack of Sergey Kovalev. Despite earning the number one ranking in the IBF’s Light-Heavyweight ratings, several of Mohammedi’s previous opponents are not particularly well-known. Mohammedi’s best-known opponent came in the form of former WBO Light-Heavyweight world champion Nathan Cleverly, who defeated him via twelve round unanimous decision in December 2010. As most Boxing fans know Kovalev knocked Cleverly out to become a world champion in August 2013.
The key to this fight in my eyes will be whether Mohammedi will be able to avoid Kovalev’s consistent pressure and figure out a way to nullify the champion’s power. Although the challenger has knocked out his last four opponents, it is logical to assume that Mohammedi may look to box Kovalev from the outset. Mohammedi has an awkward style in which he throws punches from odd angles and uses head movement. Although Mohammedi does have the ability to be aggressive and execute his offense in spurts, it will be interesting to see if his style can nullify Kovalev’s pressure.
The most important question however, might be whether or not Mohammedi who has suffered two knockouts in his three career losses will be able to take Kovalev’s power punches. Mohammedi was last stopped in October 2011 in his fight with former world title challenger Dmitry Sukhotsky in two rounds. Mohammedi’s first knockout loss came in September 2009 when he was stopped in the first round by Thierry Karl.
Although Mohammedi does have an awkward style and looks to execute his offense in spurts, it is logical to assume that if he leaves an opening for Kovalev to counter his offense that the champion may look to end this fight early. Although one might argue that Mohammedi is a much more improved fighter than he was the last time he was stopped in a fight, Kovalev has the kind of power that makes him dangerous both early and late in a fight and one has to wonder even if Mohammedi is able to have success in this fight whether or not he will be able to avoid Kovalev for the entire twelve round bout.
Even though this fight has the appearance of an undefeated unified world champion fulfilling his mandatory obligation by defending his championship against a sanctioning organization’s top contender, what is also at stake for Sergey Kovalev in addition to his unified world championship is the potential fight that Boxing fans and experts alike have been calling for. A battle with WBC world champion Adonis Stevenson to determine an Undisputed Light-Heavyweight world champion.
An argument could and perhaps should be made that Kovalev needs to look impressive in this fight in order to keep a bout with Stevenson in high demand. If Kovalev however, is looking past Mohammedi, a potential lucrative battle with Stevenson may be put in jeopardy. We will see what happens when Kovalev and Mohammedi do battle on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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