Sergey Kovalev, the recognized world light heavyweight champion, barely broke a sweat before dispatching the overmatched Nadjib Mohammedi in the third round of the HBO-televised card from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Mohammedi appeared timid early on and was unwilling to set his punches, allowing the defending champ to do whatever he pleased.
Kovalev took his time, though, looking to set up his vaunted right hand when openings arose. They eventually did and Mohammedi had zero chance when Kovalev capitalized. Midway through the second round of the scheduled 12-rounder, “Krusher” nailed his challenger with a right hand that instantly buckled the Frenchman’s knees. Mohammedi backpedaled into the ropes to recover, but the Russian destroyer was all over him, bouncing shots off his head and body until Nadjib fell.
Mohammedi climbed back to his feet and bravely fought on, but the end was near. Every punch Kovalev launched for the remained of the round had a convulsive effect on Mohammedi, who tumbled to the canvas twice more in the frame, but they were ruled slips and/or pushes by referee Kenny Bayless.
Kovalev, who said he wanted to get more rounds in, seemed to accidentally end things in the third. Mohammedi flicked out a rangy right hand and missed, allowing the perfect opportunity for Krusher to strike. Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) drilled Mohammedi with a textbook right/left to the head, sending Nadjib to the canvas again. Mohammedi fell onto his knees, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. He was knocked senseless and barely beat Bayless count, but the veteran third man intelligently waived off the mugging at 2:38 of the third, allowing Kovalev to retain his WBO, IBF and WBA light heavyweight titles.
“I’m very happy for the victory, I gave my best,” Kovalev said. “I told him to stand up. It was a short show. People didn’t see boxing. I wanted more rounds. I wanted him to look like a clown, to look foolish. I think I gave a good fight but I wish I would have had more rounds for the fans, and for the TV.”
Mohammedi (38-4, 23 KOs) said his vision was blurred when a Kovalev thumb poked him in the eye early in the fight.
Kovalev expressed his desire to fight only the best moving forward, including Jean Pascal again, or Pascal’s opponent earlier in the night, Yuniesky Gonzalez.
“I will fight anybody,” Kovalev said. “This is boxing. If the fans want it, I will fight anybody. I will fight anybody at any time.”
In the co-feature, former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) narrowly escaped an upset by out-pointing late-replacement Gonzalez over 12 rounds. The two tore into each other from the opening bell, resulting in one of the most action-packed wars of the year. Both were hurt, but neither was able to score a knockdown. In the end, judges Richard Ocasio, Eric Cheek and John McKaie all favored the Montreal-based Pascal by scores of 96-94. Cuba’s Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs) broke into tears when the verdict was announced.
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