Courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank
If you don't wanna read more about the safest Storm in history and Kovalev's off-putting-but-excellent return, skip down to the fun Russian fight facts below. Otherwise:
I wasn't entirely surprised by the Kovalev-Alvarez II result -- or at least, I wasn't by the last bell, if only because Sergey had by that point so forcefully reminded us he'd hided Alvarez once before that I already felt stupid for having picked against the racist man from the former USSR (although to be fair to nearly all oddsmakers, in crafting constant excuses for his lapses, Kovalev seemed to be prepping already for an inevitable new disappointment).
Meanwhile, Alvarez showed us in Atlantic City and then again in the wee Sunday morning hours that -- minus well-timed counters -- he's a slightly bulkier Charlo brother -- he isn't nearly active enough to claim rounds, and his few sallies seem dinger-designed, as if the only punch worth throwing is the one that ends it all -- or, as he called his overhead counter heading into the first Kov-clash, "the macintosh."
I picked Alvarez for two related reasons -- the rationales we all shared -- the first having less to do with him and more with Kovalev's mid-fight wobbles, Sergey's tendency to begin cratering in on himself like a poorly-made soufflé halfway through bouts, his heaving chest in the corner now collapsing, concave, his in-round huffing like the belabored breathing of a household chemicals substance-abuser. Or a mare in the midst of a difficult birth.
And the second reason was merely an extension of the first: I figured Alvarez would land a few haymakers and they'd suffice. It never occurred to me he wouldn't throw enough of 'em or that Kov could stand up to a few solid ones - or that if Kov did, Alvarez would have no other resources at his disposal -- no way of tagging Sergey consistently as if he were 5 Pointz incarnate.
After the fight, I suggested on Twitter that Top Rank match Kovalev with rising 168-lb. champ Zurdo Ramirez -- not because it's an obvious or sensible fight for the latter but because it's the opposite -- Ramirez in tough immediately at his new weight. I wanna see a callow kid face an old champ at a crossroads, and I don't wanna wait years.
But more realistically: what about Top Rank pairing long-protected Zurdo with our feckless loser, Alvarez? Alvarez doesn't have the output to overwhelm Zurdo, it seems, and Ramirez could collect a big name at 175 immediately. I think the risk in that one matches up nicely with the potential reward. But no one has ever called me a matchmaker.
Meanwhile, I am not convinced Kovalev is really back in any meaningful way. Any other top-5 opponent isn't gonna be outlanded by 450 punches. This victory elongated his career but may ultimately subject him to more cumulative career damage.
Why the hell am I writing an article on my own site? Let's just say the home of my boxing work for the past two years, a company to which which I contributed a hell of a lot, is currently disinclined to reward that effort commensurately. Writers may be mostly powerless in the Internet age -- and I may be especially so, given my intermittent output/the fact that my brain's on fire. But I'll be damned if I'm gonna let anyone do me dirty based on those factors.
So for this moment, at least, here I am.
Remember that very recent phase when Kov was of the opinion that he needed a trainer who wouldn't tell him what to do, and he wound up, as a result, under the tutelage of Eastern bloc coach Abror Tursunpulatov -- as in, this guy?
Well, Abror was working at the Ford Center last night, despite having been ditched by sunken-sternum Kov. Tursunpulatov also trains Main Events' young undefeated Chechen super-welterweight Bakhram Murtazaliev, who fought and won on the undercard (incidentally, it's crazy how much Main Events has riding on each of its few remaining pugs -- it's a small family company without the resources to buy free agents a la Al and Eddie, so these shot-in-the-dark unusual Eurasian Steppe suspects have to pan out).
I think the boxing media has rightly shied away from asking Eastern fighters pointed political questions or connecting them in anyway with the election-interfering, destabilizing forces that have dominated our news for the last couple of years. Sport stars shouldn't have to answer for policies they've not penned nor had occasion to modify (under most circumstances). And boxing often requires a life lived in a vacuum, apart from worldly affairs of any kind.
But sometimes such connections are hard to ignore, as I found after Abror started posting celebratory videos last night, hashtags included. Most of the social-media-mumbo-jumbo I understood, but what the hell was #Boxing911? I wondered.
The short answer is that it's a big Russian boxing web site -- an Eastern alternative to BoxingScene or Fightnews or The Ring. But the better and longer answer is that it's the fun-loving fight reportage Borat would read if he were into bloodsport. If that reads slightly xenophobic, please understand that I am reveling in the gleefully foreign coverage -- it's like boxing cast through the prism of the Eurovision song contest (due to take place this year in Tel Aviv in May, by the way).
I'm all for the polyglotism in pug matters (it's why tri-lingual Linares will always have a place in my cold heart).
Take this video Boxing911 posted a month ago of cruiserweights Oleksander Usyk and Murat Gassiev dancing to techno:
Or if these moves don't pique your Slavic interest, may I suggest a look at an English-language poster Boxing911 released of Usyk whose message seems to have been lost in translation (and of course, I'd sound totally idiotic if I tried to write in Russian)?
It probably goes without saying that I want "feel" to catch on as badly as Gretchen wanted "fetch" to do the same.
How's that heavyweight?
Oh, he's feel. Very feel.
I could spend hours diving more deeply into comrade combat culture (and the perils Murtazaliev is gonna face in the Western media if/when Chechnyan strongman -- and fight fan -- Ramzan Kadyrov takes real notice of him).
But instead, let's show two Cold War movies some love -- because two titles come to my mind from 1967 that sum up last night's event (and anyway, I effing want to go there; film's a passion I'll maintain no matter how many "Alita: Battle Angel" sequels they make -- but please pray for our collective well-being the answer's none).
The first has a title whose relation to Kov's career renaissance is too obvious (and speaking of obvious, how about "Storm Drain" as the backpage wood of a sportscentric tabloid today, Super Bowl be damned -- wouldn't that be nice):
How good is the sea funeral cold-open from "You Only Live Twice," by the way? Easily one of my top-five opening sequences.
This second film comes with a summary first -- so, spoiler alert, in case you still haven't caught in theaters "The Double Man," which featured Yul Brynner as a CIA agent whose 16-year-old son plunges down a ski run in the Alps, a fatal accident that Brynner doesn't deem one.
Investigating, Brynner penetrates the Commies' mountain lodge -- a trap from which there seems no escape -- but escape he does, though the viewer isn't shown how.
Soon, Brynner is telling a former British spy he plans on returning to the lodge and raiding it alone. It's a nonsensical move -- back-up is arriving, and Brynner -- whose sharp features -- #chrome dome -- my beloved paternal grandmother found attractive -- seems screwed.
Only when Brynner does enter the bungalow we see two of him -- the Reds have performed extensive plastic surgery on a man so that he resembles Brynner perfectly. The real CIA agent never did escape the baddies' clutches the first go-round. And the impostor's raid was merely a public way of demonstrating that he's the real McCoy and no phony.
It's obviously a farcical conceit -- akin to Julia Roberts pretending to be Julia Roberts in "Ocean's 12."
But I also feel the story serves as a nice metaphor for Eleider Alvarez's putrid performance. When Alvarez KO'd Kovalev last fall, we believed he was the agent of that destruction. Turns out, an inauthentic Alvarez had appeared briefly, in part because Kovalev allowed him to.
The real man was still a musclebound, low-volume puncher with a Ferris wheel radius on his overhead rights anyone with a sense of distance could avoid. Wasn't pretty. I'll take the fake any day.
If there's anything I like as much as old films and primal, anachronistic combat, it's playing oldhead despite being in my 30s (I also wanna relive the year I was 23 -- at least those parts of it that went down in The Collective in the Meatpacking, before the location turned into Bagatelle -- but we can discuss my desire for a do-over decade another day; I will add, however, that one of my best experiences there involved convincing a Brazilian woman to let me join a party she was attending by naming most of the top-flight soccer clubs in her home country -- go Botafogo go!).
So after facing Oscar Valdez on ESPN last night, Italian non-stallion Carmine Tommasone proposed to his wife in the ring. Beautiful little moment after Tommasone's defeat -- but I've already seen it.
Four years ago, I went to a Salita-promoted card at NYC's Webster Hall with a then-Wall Street Journal columnist. The fights stunk -- wasn't Dmitriy's fault --he didn't have the financial backers yet to own a stake in Big Baby or Claressa Shields.
The WSJ writer split early. I stayed till the bitter end, a main event featuring a part-time pizza-maker named Floriano Pagliara -- a super-featherweight from Tuscany without power or speed who managed a win because his opposition was even worse. It was Pagliara's second-to-last fight. Afterward, he drew Stefania Fuselli into the ring and dropped to one knee.
More amazing than her "yes" was the length of their relationship -- they'd been dating for 11 years. Equally notable: the very ominous (almost stereotypically sitcom-Italian) way Floriano characterized the long courtship: "We have spent happy moments, others stormy, especially in recent times."
Perhaps he was alluding to his suspension in Italy for having taken a banned diuretic. In any event, ESPN's announcers last night wondered where Tommasone had the ring. Can't speak for him, but Pagliaria hid his in a baby carrier.