By Matt Richardson at ringside
Photos: Emily Harney
WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev plugged along on the comeback trail to earn his second victory following back-to-back defeats to Andre Ward by beating Igor Mikhalkin via seventh round technical knockout on Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) busted up Mikhalkin but he couldn’t put him down or out and largely looked off and even tired at times. Mikhalkin (21-2, 9 KOs) showed a lot of heart and grit, fighting through a badly bloodied and swollen face to make Kovalev labor for what ultimately became more of a workman-like victory.
Mikhalkin was rocked in the second after absorbing a hard right but he did better work in the third by boxing and keeping Kovalev on the outside. Kovalev appeared to be breathing heavily by the fourth and he only threw punches sporadically, seemingly looking for the power shot that would end the night early.
But the flush punches Kovalev landed throughout added up as the rounds wore on and by the end of the sixth Mikhalkin was inspected by the ringside doctor on the advice of referee Steve Willis. The fight was temporarily allowed to continue but as Mikhalkin continued to plow forward he took even more punishment. During a brief respite in the domination, Willis again summoned the ringside physician to examine Mikhalkin, this time leading to the fight being called off at the 2:25 mark.
At the time of the stoppage, Kovalev had won every round on two judges cards and had only lost the third round on the other judge’s card.