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Krusher Kovalev a Must-Watch, and the Hardest Hitter in the Game

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COMMENTARY | Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev made quick work of previously undefeated titleholder Nathan Cleverly on Saturday, August 17, stopping him in the 4th Round after battering him around the ring and sending him down to the canvas twice in the previous stanza.

With the win, Kovalev improved his record to 22-0-1, with 20 knockout victories. He brought home the WBO Light Heavyweight strap for his efforts, and stamped his status as not only one of the must-watch fighters in boxing right now, but also the heaviest-handed, hardest hitter in the game.

In 23 professional fights, Kovalev has been past the 4th Round on just three occasions and on average his fights last for less than three rounds apiece. In fact, the Cleverly bout marked just the fourth time he even saw the bell ring to open up the 4th Round of a fight.

Last week, I ranked the top 15 hardest punchers in boxing, and placed Kovalev at number 2, behind WBA Middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin, and ahead of Adonis Stevenson and Lucas Matthysse at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Who knew that in a matter of days Kovalev would prove that his 2nd-place ranking actually underrated his sensational power?

After a string of televised Krushing kayo victories, highlighted by his win over the favored Gabriel Campillo, Kovalev and his bone-crunching power became a well-known commodity. However, his performance against the unbeaten Welshman was his most impressive to date, and perhaps it was just enough to boost him up to the No. 1 spot on the list.

Of course, these four guys may simply continue alternating spots depending on who made the most recent impression. Consider this stretch of fistic fury from some of the most explosive and fierce fighters in action...

On May 18, it was Matthysse's turn, as he steamrolled right past Lamont Peterson for a TKO3 victory. On June 8, it was Stevenson's chance, and it took him all of 86 seconds to obliterate "Bad" Chad Dawson and win the WBC Light Heavyweight title. On June 14, Kovalev overpowered Cornelius White for a TKO3 win, punching his title-shot ticket. On June 29, it was Golovkin's opportunity, and he wasted no time crumpling Matthew Macklin with a debilitating body shot to register a 3rd Round KO win. And, of course, most recently, Kovalev once again, as he mercilessly smashed Cleverly.

The great news is that Kovalev and Stevenson reside in the same weight class, making a showdown between the two a truly tantalizing opportunity. Surely, HBO would salivate at the prospect of airing a Kovalev vs. Stevenson rumble, and fight fans would delight in the chance to watch.

In such a fight, the outcome would be decided not by who hits the hardest -- we know each man could register on the Richter scale with the force in his shots -- but by who takes the best punch. As Stevenson was already the victim of a surprising knockout loss several years ago to journeyman Darnell Boone, his prospects don't seem too great against the seemingly irrepressible aggression of Kovalev.

Interestingly, Boone, who has been in with a who's who of top prospects, is one of only two fighters to see the final bell against Kovalev. Kovalev needed an eight-round Split Decision to defeat him in October 2010, before stopping him in Round 2 of their rematch held in June 2012. For what it's worth, Boone also nearly destroyed the career of Andre Ward when they fought in 2005. Ward was just 6-0 at the time, feeling out the pro ranks after his Olympic gold-medal victory. Boone sent him to the canvas and had him badly hurt, but Ward survived for a Unanimous Decision victory.

Putting aside the Boone loss, which Stevenson has since avenged, working in Stevenson's favor against Kovalev would be his superior hand-speed and athleticism. Still, I'd be hard-pressed to imagine that as being enough to overcome Krusher's concussive attack.

Meanwhile, Golovkin is looking toward a fall date against another of the sport's best punchers, Curtis Stevenson, and Matthysse is lined up against unbeaten Junior Welterweight champ Danny Garcia in September.

Don't blink.

Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.

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