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Sergey Kovalev in trouble again: Chronicling the demise of a champion

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Boxing star and former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KO) has been arrested for driving under the influence.

He was pulled over by California police around 2am this morning, taken to the station and booked. The 36 year old was subsequently released 5-6 hours later.

At this moment, we don't know if he took a sobriety test; We can only assume he did and subsequently failed as there would be no other reason to detain him for over 5 hours.

Things appear to be spiraling out of control for Kovalev.

What's going on?

November 2016-June 2017: The Ward Rematch / Trainer split
Things started crumbling for Sergey in months before or immediately after he was TKO'd by Andre Ward in their 2017 rematch.

Hurt previously from shots to the head, Kovalev,after the bout, incessantly complained the fight-ending shots were the result of "low blows" that caused him to double over in pain, forcing the referee to stop the fight. While Ward's shots appeared to be borderline (at worst), they certainly didn't appear 'centrally-located,' a la punches to the groin region.

"They (Ward's punches) were definitely borderlines. Kovalev was fading, and Ward was going to win," stated former champion turned commentator Paul Malignaggi.


While many sympathized with Sergey, others insisted Kovalev was legitimately hurt to the body and subsequently hoped to win via an undeserved disqualification.

Sergey would also blame then-trainer John David Jackson for the Ward losses.

(And more excuses would follow in his defeat to Canelo Alvarez in 2019)

Following his losses to Andre Ward and all of the excuses he made after both fights, a close UD verdict in November 2016 and the stoppage the following year, Sergey had a very public, very nasty split with trainer John David Jackson who Kovalev also blamed for his defeats to Ward.

I n retort, Jackson unleashed some riveting details about his former pupil.

“I wasn’t happy when I heard he got stopped," Jackson said via BadLeftHook in August 2018 after Sergey was TKO'd Eleider Alvarez.

"But I will say he got what he deserved. Without proper training, he got his ass whipped. There was no shock at all there; the handwriting was on the wall. ... Sergey is a borderline racist. He shows it in certain ways. I defended his ass more than a few times."

kovalev with jackson

"Sergey didn’t want either me or Don Turner to work with him. He is good at putting the persona on, but when he’s alone, he’s a raw, nasty person. Even his own people talk about him like a dog behind his back, I kid you not. His so-called friends couldn’t stand him.”

Keywords: "The handwriting was on the wall."

Nearly 18 months later, those words were seemingly more prophetic than ever.

June 9, 2018: Assault Charge
Kovalev was arrested in California for allegedly punching a woman in the face; the woman suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and a displaced disk in her neck. Kovalev was charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury, a felony, to which he pleaded not guilty on August 27, 2018, and he was released on $50,000 bail.

On April 4, 2019, Kovalev was “held to answer“ for felony assault causing great bodily injury, meaning that the Court found that there was enough evidence to proceed to trial on the felony charge. Kovalev was arraigned on April 19, 2019, and was due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on May 21, 2019, however, he didn't show up.

2856daaaf0ff4fd194a3d5885134935e md(Image courtesy of TMZ)

If found guilty, Sergey could face up to 4 years in prison.

August 4, 2018: Eleider Alvarez
Following the trainer debacle and the losses to Ward, Sergey would collect consecutive KOs over lesser opponents and regain his title prior to facing Eleider Alvarez. And in a big upset, Alvarez would floor a badly hurt Kovalev 3 times in the seventh en route to a TKO win.


There would be no room for excuses this time.

February 2, 2019
Following the loss to Alvarez, Sergey hired trainer Buddy McGirt and subsequently delivered a master class in his rematch with Alvarez, winning on points to regain his title. Kovalev/McGirt seemed like an odd pairing but they appeared to have chemistry. All was well again, or so it seemed.

alvarez vs kovalez 2

July 15, 2019
Sergey Kovalev was removed from a plane after he reportedly “kissed and threw money at a female passenger”.

Sergey Kovalev allegedly forcibly grabbed a woman he was sitting next to and tried to steal smooches.  According to reports, the nervous woman, in tears, alerted airline staff.

When she stated she felt “uncomfortable and not safe”, the pilot had Sergey removed from the plane.

Florida police confirmed that “mid-30, tall Russian white male” was removed from the flight following a “heated argument” but no arrests were made and no subsequent investigation was implemented.

August 24, 2019
Fighting in his native Russia, Kovalev overcame a strong challenge by a very-motivated Andre Yarde. Sergey dominated early but was close to being beaten in the eighth round when under a sustained attack. Tested again, this time Sergey, with his superior experience and pure grit, would rise to the occasion and eventually KO Yarde in Round 11.


It would be one of Kovalev's sweetest moments in the ring as Sergey showed citics he was able to rebound from the hands of defeat and KO a very quality, much younger foe.

Of course, critics still balked, insisting a younger Kovalev wouldn't have had so many problems.

November 2, 2019
Fighting on boxing's biggest stage in one of the biggest fights of the year, Kovalev would be brutally knocked out in Round 11 by the sport's most popular fighter, Canelo Alvarez who'd jaunted two weight class to take Sergey's title. To Sergey's defense, he'd more than held his own prior to the KO and still appeared elite-level despite critics' claims his skills were diminishing.

Nevertheless, Kovalev was at it again with excuses for the defeat.

sore loser

After the Canelo loss, he stated back-to-back training camps (for Yarde and Canelo) forced him to overtrain, suggesting he was thus ill-prepared to give 100 percent.

(FYI - Andy Ruiz also had back-to-back camps prior to defeating Anthony Joshua earlier that year)

"He's a bad loser, because that [the weight] has nothing to do with it, all of the fighters battle with the weight. All fighters battle with the weight. An excuse like that makes no sense," Canelo told ESPN Deportes.

January 2020
In January 2020, the accuser who said Sergey assaulted her in 2018 filed a new lawsuit against Kovalev in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that the parties reached a $650,000 settlement in October 2019, but that Kovalev then breached the agreement by not making the agreed-upon payments.

Because the original suit was not to be dismissed until Kovalev paid the entire $650,000, that suit remains active as well.

February 24, 2020
Kovalev gets hit with a DUI detailed above.

What's next?

Trainer McGirt recently announced Sergey would be moving up to cruiserweight but the boxer's future as a high-profile, elite level pugilist remains precarious at best.

To have any prayer of continuing his career as a successful, high-profile fighter, Sergey Kovalev must get his life in order first and start being accountable for his mis-steps, inside and outside the ring.

He's 4-4 in his last 8 fights and will turn 37 in 7 weeks. Combine that with his reported alcoholism and all of the other alleged activities, and it paints a pretty bad picture.

.... But, Sergey has the skills to win titles at cruiserweight and fight another 3 or 4 years.

Near 40 and at a time when he needs to be extra disciplined and focused to stave off younger foes, he can ill-afford to continue on his presumed path of recklessness.

Let's hope he gets his life in order and can successfully salvage what's left of his career... If it's not already too late for the latter.


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