Sergey Kovalev’s nickname is “The Krusher.”
According to FightNews.com, he lived up to his moniker on Saturday. He pummeled the will out of previously undefeated WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly, to prove he’s clearly the best up-and-coming light heavyweight in the division, as he bludgeoned the poor slickster down to the canvas three times in just four rounds, as he obliterated the hopes and dreams of a fellow unheralded competitor – well, it was easy to see why.
Really, really easy.
Still, there is something more to this Sergey Kovalev than just crushing things, more than the simple use of brute force. He is not just a man cracking eggs ruthlessly with a hammer.
No, Kovalev is more akin to a butcher. Yes, that’s it. To uninitiated eyes, he swings hard and wide. But to those that know the science of slicing, he’s an artist with a paintbrush, a surgeon with a scalpel.
But when he’s done, instead of a beautiful painting or a well-healed patient, Kovalev's masterpiece is devastation.
Cleverly was dead meat from the beginning. He just didn’t know it.
During the pre-fight buildup, he told the media he was seeking respect. He said it has been extra hard for him to land fights against top contenders, despite the alphabet trinket he lugged around his waist. In fact, he said a fight against Kovalev would finally give him the opportunity to show the world what he was truly made of.
In an interview posted on The Sweet Science, he said:
We’ve tried making the big fights but the names have avoided me. It’s been frustrating but this is a massive breakthrough fight me. I’m fighting the most dangerous [man] in the division - Sergey Kovalev. The Russian is building a big reputation in America, and his punch is even bigger. Nobody else wants to say Kovalev’s name, let alone fight him but I will beat him to show I am the best light heavyweight in the world, and I will force the big names to fight me.
From the opening bell, Cleverly tried his best to not be made of meat. He took the fight right to Kovalev, but “The Krush—err—Butcher” easily exercised his authority over the Wales native. While Cleverly was peppering Kovalev with a high but soft volume punches, Kovalev was content to rain heavy-handed blows down upon him that did real and serious damage.
The lesson? Do not start a fistfight with a man carrying cleavers.
By the end of Round 1, Cleverly knew he was out of his depth. This Kovalev was different. This Kovalev was a beast.
For his part, Kovalev had told the press beforehand that he had started his career as an 11-year-old street fighter. He credited time spent in the Russian amateur system with his transformation to what he is today. He left country and family in 2009 to “make it big as a professional fighter” in America, per The Sweet Science. His wife Natalia joined him three years later.
He said, "It's hard to be away from our families and friends in Chelyabinsk but we've found a nice group of friends here."
As he was pillaged from pillar to post on Saturday, Cleverly probably wished he was part of that nice group of friends, too.
Rounds 2 and 3 were all Kovalev. He battered his helpless opponent around the ring. Cleverly hit the deck twice in the Round 3, but it might as well have been 100 times.
The brave Cleverly was helped to his corner at the end of the third round and came out for the rest of his beating in Round 4. Kovalev dropped the Welshman one final time at the start, and the contest was wisely halted at 21 seconds of Round 4.
It was another huge win for Kovalev, who burst onto the world boxing stage in January when he dismantled veteran Gabriel Campillo in just three rounds.
It was a fantastic victory over someone who had fought at the highest levels possible. Campillo was quality. And Kovalev demolished him.
And now he has demolished Cleverly. The talented titlist looked the part. He has appeared solid in his run as the WBO champion. While power wasn’t his strong suit, the upstart made up for it with grit, determination and volume. His style was both effective and pleasing to the eye. He appeared to be the future.
But he wasn’t, because that is what Kovalev is.
Whatever you want to call him—The Krusher, The Butcher or any other name that captures his brand of destruction—be sure to recognize what you are witnessing: the rise of the best light heavyweight in the world.