Sergey Kovalev knocked down Vyacheslav Shabranskyy three times and scored a second-round TKO to win the vacant WBO light heavyweight world title on Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KO’s), 34, a Russia native based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was fighting for the first time following back-to-back defeats to Andre Ward, who announced his retirement in September.
Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KO’s), 30, a Ukraine native fighting out of Los Angeles, didn’t put up much of a fight.
Kovalev dictated the pace from the opening bell with a stiff jab. Shabranskyy knocked Kovalev back with a hard shot to the chest but was sent to the canvas with a hard right hand. Although he beat the count, Shabranskyy was floored again – this time by a solid combination.
In the third round, Shabranskyy was the elevator shaft once again as he was dropped with another combination. He continued to get battered, and with a significant amount of time remaining in the round, referee Harvey Dock was left with no choice, and stopped the fight.
“It’s my goal to be best in the division,” said Kovalev. “Last time I was stopped was a decision by the referee. Here tonight was great boxing for me, and I love boxing, and I want to make great fights.
“I’m happy that the belts have different owners and it makes everything interesting, and we can make better fights,” he added. “We have a bunch of beltholders, and we can now find out who is the best.”
Kovalev also called out amateur rival and current IBF titlist Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KO’s), which would be a very entertaining and tactical fight. Moreover, WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol, who was in attendance, would be quite the challenge. All three fighters are coming off knockout victories and are formidable punchers. That is the recipe for a great unification bout.