Sergey Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2014

Sergey Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    TIM LARSEN/Associated Press

    Saturday night in Atlantic City, Russian knockout machine Sergey Kovalev defends his WBO light heavyweight title against undefeated Blake Caparello of Australia. Kovalev is one of the rising stars in the sport, and Caparello is a legitimate contender. 

    The light heavyweight division has been among the hottest in the sport over the past two years, and Kovalev has been a large part of the reason why. He's an elite puncher with an outstanding ability to set up his offense and break opponents down. 

    Kovalev is fast becoming one of boxing's biggest attractions. Caparello has a major opportunity of his career staring him in the face. 

Tale of the Tape

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images
    Per Boxrec     Sergey Kovalev     Blake Caparello
    Record:     24-0-1, 22 KOs     19-0-1, 6 KOs
    Height:     6'     6'1.5"
    Reach:     72.5"     74"
    Weight:     175 lbs     175 lbs
    Age:     31     27
    Stance:     Orthodox     Southpaw
    Hometown:     Fort Lauderdale, Florida     Greenvale, Australia
    Rounds:     70     163

    Blake Caparello has an edge in length and reach, and he's going to need to exploit it to avoid Sergey Kovalev's monster power. He'll need to control the angles from his southpaw stance, as well. 

    Even though Kovalev has had five more fights than Caparello, he's fought nearly a hundred fewer rounds because his opponents rarely make it to the final bell. 

    Kovalev has thrived as a professional since moving to Florida from his native Russia. 

Main Storylines

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The main storyline for any Sergey Kovalev fight at this point is his staggering power and dangerous offensive capabilities. He's knocked out 22 of 25 opponents and eight straight. In his last fight, Kovalev knocked out undefeated Cedric Agnew with a jab to the body. 

    The former Russian amateur star is very much in the same mold as middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin. Kovalev has an outstanding base of fundamental boxing that he uses as a launching pad for his elite power punching. He cuts off the ring on opponents and patiently probes, looking for the ideal opening to unleash destruction. 

    He's lived and fought out of Florida as a professional, and U.S. fans have been quick to rally around him. His breakout year was 2013, when he went 4-0 with four stoppages and captured the WBO light heavyweight belt from Nathan Cleverly in Wales. 

    Australian Blake Caparello is a talented challenger. He's undefeated and looked impressive against faded contenders Allan Green and Elvir Muriqi. But Kovalev is an elite-level fighter, so Caparello will be pushed much harder than he ever has been before. 

Strengths

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    Sergey Kovalev is a wrecking machine. He's a powerful puncher with outstanding footwork and a rock-solid chin. He pursues his opponents, pins them down and forces them to exchange. 

    Kovalev's power intimidates opponents and gives the Russian an edge at every second of every round. His own relaxed, patient demeanor allows him to outthink his prey. 

    Blake Caparello has a good jab and movement, and those are exactly the qualities he will need to have any hope against Kovalev. Caparello throws a lot of punches. He has great conditioning and generally outworks his opponents. 

Weaknesses

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Sergey Kovalev has shown little in the way of weakness in the professional ring. His only draw was a two-round, technical draw. It remains to be seen how his conditioning will hold up against a very busy, determined opponent who takes him to the late rounds. 

    Blake Caparello has a bad habit of lunging forward when he attacks. Kovalev will pick up on that and walk him into some dangerous punches if Caparello shows that tendency this Saturday. 

    Caparello has stopped just six opponents in his career. Kovalev's chin is well above-average, and he'll likely be able to walk through Caparello's best shots. 

Sergey Kovalev Will Win If...

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    Sergey Kovalev's approach in this fight will be no different than it has been in all his other fights. He's going to methodically analyze Blake Caparello and then smash him. 

    His big challenge will be to cut off the ring on a southpaw who can move well. But Kovalev just knocked out a southpaw in Cedric Agnew in his last fight. 

    Kovalev is probably going to want to attack the body consistently in the early rounds of the fight. He is a ferocious body puncher, and a few solid shots to Caparello's torso will slow down the Australian considerably. 

    Kovalev is outstanding at staying in excellent position when he attacks. Eventually he will find the holes in Caparello's defense and exploit them. 

Blake Caparello Win Win If...

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    To win this fight Blake Caparello is going to need to use his jab and his legs. He's got to keep the action on the outside, away from Sergey Kovalev's frightening power. 

    To do that, Caparello is going to need to get off first with his jab, letting it go in two- and three-punch flurries as he circles to his right, away from Kovalev's own power hand. As a southpaw, Caparello needs to keep his lead right foot constantly positioned to the outside of Kovalev's lead left. If he allows Kovalev the perfect angle to deliver a straight right, the fight could be over quickly. 

    When Kovalev manages to move into range for his own punches, Caparello has to get busy, throwing aggressive combinations while looking to retreat to safety. The Australian will need to be able to fight on his back foot to have a chance here. 

    Ultimately, it's going to come down to guts and conditioning for Caparello. He's always showed plenty of both, but he's never had to deal with the kind of pressure Kovalev will bring. 

     

Prediction

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    Blake Caparello is a talented young fighter, but Sergey Kovalev's power and amateur background put him at an entirely different level on the food chain. Kovalev isn't just a bigger puncher than Caparello. He's a better boxer, too. 

    At his best, I'd say Caparello is perhaps on a par with Nathan Cleverly, the fighter Kovalev beat for his belt. Kovalev walked right through Cleverly. 

    If Caparello can raise his game in this big opportunity and manage to hustle his way to an unlikely victory, it would hardly be the biggest upset in boxing history. 

    But it would be the biggest one this year, and I just don't expect it to happen. 

    I'm picking Kovalev to win by knockout in Round 6. I think he'll manage to land to the body well enough to slow Caparello down. Then he'll get the foot position for a monster straight right that turns out the lights. 

    With Kovalev currently fighting on HBO and fellow light heavyweight titleholders Bernard Hopkins and Adonis Stevenson on Showtime, it doesn't look good for Kovalev to secure the biggest possible fights. Just the same, he's a star that will continue to climb.