New York, NY: Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) of Russia delivered another trademark crushing performance with a seventh round stoppage of Igor Mikhalkin (21-2, 9 KOs) of Russia at The Theater at Madison Square Garden to retain his WBO World Light Heavyweight Championship.
Nevertheless, Mikhalkin is a world champion, and stayed in Kovalev’s face. A cut opened below Mikhalkin’s right eye, and as Kovalev continued to punish him, referee Steve Willis stepped in to have the ringside physician examine Mikhalkin. He determined Mikhalkin could not continue, delivering a TKO victory to Kovalev at 2:25 of the seventh round.
“It was better work for sure than the last fight,” said Kovalev of his win over Mikhalkin. “This might maybe have looked easy, but it definitely was not. He doesn’t hit the hardest, but I could feel his punches and he has a lot of movement and he is a great boxer.”
Asked about what’s coming next, Kovalev said “I’m always ready for a big money fight … I read on the internet that the Badou Jack fight would be a big fight – if he beats (Adonis) Stevenson.” As to the potential of a third fight with the now retired Andre Ward, Kovalev said, “I don’t think about this right now. I want to fight the fights that the fans want to see. For you, for myself, because I love boxing.”
In the exciting co-feature, WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) of Russia battled Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14 KOs) of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba down to the final round before scoring a TKO victory at 1:41 of the twelfth.
Bivol found a home for his powerful right hand at several points throughout the bout, but the resilient and dangerous veteran fighter Barrera stayed competitive until the moment he could not continue. At the time of the stoppage, all three judges’ scorecards were overwhelmingly in favor of Bivol.
“He was a really great opponent,” said Bivol. “Sullivan Barrera showed me a lot of things tonight I need to work on when I go back to the gym. So thank you, Sullivan, for that.”
Bivol said he held some of his effort in reserve until he felt confident. “As a matter of fact for the first few rounds, I was a little bit reserved while planning the rest of the fight. I was thinking how much I needed to go the rest of the fight. But by the 12th round, I knew I could knock him out. I stepped on the gas, and the knockout came.”
As to his future, “I’ve got the goods to be the best light heavyweight in the world, but I’ve got a lot of work to do to be the best in the division. I have to fight the best in the division and prove I’m the best,” said Bivol. As to who it might be, Bivol said, “You can be the best only when you fight the best. I’m not going to attack anybody. I have a belt, whoever wants it can come and get it.”
Vaughn “Da Animal” Alexander(12-0, 8 KOs) of St. Louis, Missouri remained undefeated in his second appearance at Madison Square Garden, 14 years after his original 2004 victory. Alexander won a ten-round unanimous decision over a tough as nails Devaun Lee(10-3-1, 5 KOs) of Brooklyn, New York, who took the fight on barely two days’ notice.
The 32-year-old Alexander picked up his career where he left off after serving an 11-year prison sentence. “It was good to be here as a more mature, experienced fighter.”
Brooklyn’s own Frank “Notorious” Galarza (19-2-2, 11 KOs) battled a determined Norberto Gonzalez (24-11, 14 KOs) of Monterrey, Mexico in an eight-round junior middleweight contest. The local hero delivered a unanimous decision victory by scores of 80-72, 79-73, and 78-74.
Galarza, 32, traded shots with Gonzalez, but was in control of the action and directed the path of the fight throughout as his devoted fans cheered him on. The veteran Mexican, 36, took the fight on short notice and acquitted himself well with his effort.
“We knew we would get the rounds in. We knew he was a counterpuncher, so we utilized that,” said Galarza. “I was able to show my ability, my boxing ability, my ring intellect, being smart in the ring. Compared to my last fight, overall we brought a lot more to the table.”
Galarza thanked all the fans who came to The Garden to see him.
“I love my fans, they always come and support, that’s the beauty of it. Ain’t no better place to be, Madison Square Garden, that’s where all the classics are, all the greats.”
akhram Murtazaliev (12-0, 10 KOs) of Grozny, Russia extended his knockout streak to eight, stopping Kenneth McNeil (11-4, 8 KOs) of Birmingham, Alabama, in the first defense of the IBA Super Welterweight World Title he won at The Garden in November. Murtazaliev let out a roar of satisfaction as referee Danny Schiavone halted the contest at 1:08 of the fifth round.
“I imagined the fight would go a little bit differently,” said Murtazaliev. “My opponent didn’t fight, he was running all around, always running. With an opponent like this, it’s super hard to fight.” Trainer Abror Tursunpulatov had confidence his fighter would prevail. “We knew Bakhram was going to win by KO or TKO in the last rounds.”
“For all my team, Egis (Klimas), for Kathy Duva, for all the team, they helped me a lot. My goal is to make you happy, every fight,” added Murtazaliev.
McNeil had never been stopped before, giving Murtazaliev, 25, the most significant test of his career to date. It was the Russian’s third fight under both the Krusher Promotions and Main Events banners.