By Jason Pribila – Ringside in Bethlehem: Main Events and Peltz Boxing brought their Fight Night series back to the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, USA. The evening started off with hometown fighter Ronald Cruz suffering a one-sided decision loss to Ray Narh, but it only momentarily dampened the mood in the arena. Fans were soon treated to offensive fireworks set off by light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, and treated to a heavyweight battle eventually won by Bryant “By By” Jennings.
It is hard to dispute that no one has benefited more from the Fight Night platform than Philadelphia heavyweight Bryant Jennings (17-0, 9KO). A relative unknown when the series made its debut in January of 2012, Jennings has rattled off six straight wins and is now considered by some to be America’s top heavyweight prospect.
With success comes tougher competition, and that was provided by Andrey Fedosov (24-3, 19 KO).The Russian native came forward throughout the fight and regularly gave as well as he got against Jennings. Fedosov controlled the distance and ripped body shots whenever Jennings allowed his back to touch the popes. As we’ve become accustomed to with Jennings, he used bursts of energy to neutralize and stop Fedosov in his tracks.
An evenly contested opening two rounds set the stage for the round of the night.
A stalking Fedosov was again moving forward when Jennings unleashed a right uppercut left cross that wobbled Fedosov. Sensing that he finally hurt his foe, Jennings unleashed a two fisted attack that would have sent many heavyweights to the floor. Fedosov weathered the storm and came charging back when Jennings momentarily slowed down. Fedosov survived the 52 of 72 power punches that Jennings threw in the round, but he went back to his corner with a damaged left eye.
Fedosov bounced back in round four. He went back to attacking the body, and Jennings continually backed himself into the ropes. Jennings is a supremely conditioned athlete so he had plenty in the tank, but it seemed as if his legs were tightening up on him.
Jennings started quickly in round five. He continually landed hooks off his uppercut. He was now making Fedosov pay each time the Russian closed the distance.
Jennings was now beginning to distance himself on the scorecards by landing eye-catching short hooks. His lateral movement was back, and a straight left hook punctuated another Jennings round.
When Fedosov walked back to his corner, the ringside physician again took a close look at Fedosov’s badly swollen eye, and decided that it was too damaged to allow him to continue.
It is hard to question a stoppage when someone’s vision is at stake, but it would have been nice to give the game Fedosov another three minutes to try to pull out the victory.
That being said, there was little protest from the Fedosov corner, and hopefully the decision will allow him to return to the ring quicker. Fedosov is a solid heavyweight that will be a tough out for most in the division.
Jennings is now ranked #3 by the IBF, but he still needs to gradually raise his level of competition before entering the ring against either Klitschko brother. Tomas Adamek would make a great dance partner, but he has just signed to fight Tony Grano when Fight Night returns in August. I may be selfish, but I would like to see Jennings back in Bethlehem against a top ten heavyweight.
Final punch stats favored Jennings who landed 157 of 420 (37%) total punches. Fedosov landed 34% of his 238 total punches.
While Jennings was putting the heavyweight division on notice, Sergey Kovalev has been busy putting the world on notice. Through 22 professional fights, Kovalev (21-0-1, 19KO) has averaged less than three rounds per outing. Friday night would be no different.
Kovalev was matched up against Cornelius White (21-2, 16 KO) with the IBF #1 ranking at stake. White’s only previous loss was a first round KO loss at the hands of Don George in 2011. White rebounded by winning five straight, but he admitted he had a mountain to climb in Kovalev.
NBC Sports Network analyst B.J. Flores cautioned fans at home not to move away from the TV as the opening bell rang. On cue, Kovalev charged across the ring and threw a flurry of a half dozen punches that immediately put White on his heels.
Kovalev never let up as he landed 29 of 59 power punches in the opening three minutes. White stood in the best that he could and even landed a few jabs in between Kovalev volleys. White landed his cleanest punch of the fight as the second round came to an end.
That punch was quickly forgotten as the bell rang to start what turned out to be the final round of the fight. Kovalev led off the third by landing a lead left hook. Kovalev then threw and landed a double left hook – right cross combination that set up a straight left that sent White to the canvas. White rose and was greeted by another flurry. A right hand to the body hurt White and another left sent him back to the canvas. White rose momentarily until a final left hook sent White to the canvas for the final time. Referee Gary Rosato stepped in and waved off the fight at 1:42 of round three.
The victory now puts Kovalev squarely in the title picture. He won an IBF eliminator. That titlist of that governing body is 48 year old Bernard Hopkins. “The Executioner” was scheduled to face Germany’s Karo Murat in a mandatory title defense on July 13, in Brooklyn. However, that fight was called off due to Murat encountering visa issues. The IBF said they would determine if the delay would propel Kovalev into the mandatory slot. My thought is that there is a better chance that you will see me in the ring with Hopkins before you see him defend against Kovalev.
The final punch stats illustrated Kovalev’s dominance. He landed 93 of 207 punches (45%) which is impressive. Of those punches, he landed 74 of 143 power punches (52%), which is scary. White managed to land only 26 of 92 (28%), 6 of which were power punches.
That being said, there were whispers that Kovalev could next face Nathan Cleverly of Wales for his portion of the light heavyweight title. Again after this performance, I cannot imagine anyone fighting Kovalev until they are mandated to do so.
When asked following the bout who he would like to face, Kovalev respectfully answered, “Bernard, I am ready. Are you?”
In the televised opener Ronald Cruz entered the ring looking to rebound from his first career defeat, a decision loss to Antwone Smith in the same ring last September. Across the ring was Ray Narh, a former junior welterweight prospect looking to get back in the title picture after taking a two year hiatus.
This was the first camp that Cruz worked with a strength and conditioning coach. Determined not to fade down the stretch, Cruz proudly showed off his chiseled body at the weigh in when he declared he was in great shape. He was going to need to be as fighters from Ghana are not known for getting gassed during prize fights.
As the opening bell sounded, the crowd seemed to be feeling out Narh as cautiously as Cruz. Narh showed good lateral movement and fired away to Cruz’s body and high guard. Cruz seemed tight and a step slow.
The fight fell into a similar pattern in rounds two and three. Narh’s quickness was not a surprise, but his ability to move Cruz even on punches that were blocked surprised many. The crowd’s chant of “Ronald, Ronald, Ronald” was quickly silenced by a Narh left hook. Cruz finally broke through with a left hook at the end of the round that wobbled Narh as the bell rang to halt the action. Suddenly Cruz and the crowd were alive.
The momentum was short lived, however, as Narh rebounded quickly into round four. His movement again kept Cruz off balance, as he was forced to continually reset his feet. Cruz found success with another flurry during the final 20 seconds, but it was not enough to win the round.
By round five Cruz’s face began to illustrate the action that had been taking place in the ring. Slight swelling around the eyes and a bloody lip was proof that Narh’s punches were beginning to slip through the high guard.
The second half of the fight had only begun and we were getting to a point where Cruz was going to need a knockdown to close the gap on the scorecards. Cruz began to open up with the hopes of landing a game changing punch, but many of his head shots failed to hit their mark. Narh was still beating him to the punch in the middle of the ring, and he was tying Cruz up when the action moved to the ropes.
A Cruz Hail Mary in the form of an overhand right landed in round nine, but Narh was able to immediately hold and regain his balance. When they both traded, a Cruz punch strayed low. Narh, perhaps needing a breather, seemed to exaggerate the impact of the punch and was given time to recover.
To Narh’s credit he gave Cruz a chance in the final round when he was momentarily willing to trade. No one can blame him for taking a lead for granted in his opponents’ hometown. Once Narh tasted leather he began to tie up Cruz to secure the victory.
The official judges all favored the cleaner punching and ring generalship of Narh and judged him the winner by turning in scores of: 98-92, 96-94, and 100-90.
Kovalev’s early stoppage meant that Easton, PA junior middleweight Arturo Trujillo’s professional debut would be televised. Trujillo made short work of Philadelphia’s Anthony Watson (0-1), knocking him down and out in 29 seconds. Trujillo is a National Golden Gloves champion who will be sure to find himself back in the ring soon.
Jason Pribila is full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com. You may also follow him on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.
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