ATLANTIC CITY - WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev extended his string of knockouts Saturday.
Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), who is considered one of boxing's brightest stars, notched his 11th consecutive early victory with a seventh-round knockout over previously unbeaten Cedric Agnew (26-1, 13 KOs) before a roaring crowd of 2,416 at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom.
Kovalev (24-0-1, 24 KOs), a native of Russia now living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ended the bout with a powerful left jab to Agnew's liver. Agnew (26-1, 13 KOs), a Chicago native now living in Houston, dropped to one knee in pain and remained there for several minutes after referee Samuel Viruet had completed his 10-count at 58 seconds of the seventh.
"I tried punching him from all angles," Kovalev said. "Once I saw him feel my punch, I knew it would come. I just took my time and waited for the opening."
Kovalev had registered two other knockdowns in the scheduled 12-round fight. He sent Agnew to the canvas with a left hook to the jaw in the second round and dropped him again with a body shot in the sixth.
Kovalev did have to overcome some adversity, suffering cuts above both eyes from a head butt and elbow in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively.
"I tried boxing because he has good defense," Kovalev said. "I actually enjoyed boxing with him. My plan was to go 10 rounds this time, so I could get more conditioning. But I had to do something for my fans."
Agnew spent most of the fight on the ropes, content to absorb Kovalev's punches before launching a counter attack.
Occasionally, he was successful, catching Kovalev with some left hooks and body shots, but eventually was overwhelmed.
"He had an uncomfortable style," Kovalev said. "He has an uncomfortable style. He's not stupid. He kept a good distance. He was patient and I understood he was trying to tire me out, but I was ready."
According to CompuBox statistics, Kovalev connected on 107 of 402 total punches while Agnew landed only 31 of 109. Kovalev landed 78 power punches to Agnew's 22..
Kovalev, a native of Chelyabinsk, Russia now living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was making his second defense of the championship he won with a fourth-round TKO over Nathan Cleverly in Wales on Aug. 17, 2013. In his most recent outing, he notched a second-round knockout over Ismayl Sillah in Canada on Nov. 30, 2013.
Saturday's victory was his 11th straight win via knockout or TKO. Because of his power, the 30-year-old is regarded as one of boxing's rising stars. Kovalev entered the fight with the second-highest knockout percentage among current world champions, behind only middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin.
Skeptics wondered how focused he would be for the Agnew fight after a potential unification bout against WBC light-heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson fell apart last week when Stevenson signed with HBO rival Showtime. Kovalev is under contract to HBO.
"I don't want to speak on Adonis Stevenson," Kovalev said. "Adonis Stevenson is a piece of (bleep) because he runs from me. Now I'll fight anybody."
Agnew was unavailable for comment and was taken to Atlantic City Regional Medical Center City Division for observation.
Kovalev's promoter, Main Events president Kathy Duva, is planning on bringing Kovalev back to Boardwalk Hall, but wants to put him in the main arena.
Both Duva and Caesars Atlantic City consultant Ken Condon are hoping Kovalev can draw big crowds the way another Main Events fighter, the late Arturo Gatti, did in his heyday.
"I absolutely want to bring him back," Duva said Saturday. "I think he could fill up the big room."