ATLANTIC CITY — Eleider Alvarez registered a sensational, stunning knockout Saturday night.
So did Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
A sellout crowd of 5,642 filled Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena for the first big-time boxing event in Atlantic City in four years.
“I’m completely thrilled at the attendance,” Hard Rock Vice President of Entertainment Bernie Dillon said Saturday night. “I could feel the excitement and the energy in the whole building all afternoon. You had Russian fans, Canadian fans and local boxing fans. There’s nothing like a big fight in Atlantic City.”
Those fans gasped and screamed when Alvarez’s right hook thudded against Sergey Kovalev’s temple midway through the seventh round, sending the defending World Boxing Organization champion toppling to the canvas.
Kovalev managed to get up, but not for long. A one-two combination put him down again. Kovalev rose and was staggering on rubbery legs when Alvarez landed another right that sent him to the canvas for a third time, prompting referee David Fields to stop the bout without a count at 2 minutes, 45 seconds of the round.
Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs), a native of Colombia now living in Montreal, jumped onto the ropes and screamed in joy while his supporters cheered.
Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) was taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Atlantic City Campus, as a precaution.
During the ambulance ride, he reached out to his fans via Instagram, assuring them he “was fine.”
Kovalev dominated the early rounds. The 35-year-old native of Russia worked the body and landed some sharp combinations to build a lead after six rounds, according to judges Carlos Ortiz (58-56), Joseph Pasquale (59-55) and Lynne Carter (59-55). The Press also had him leading 59-55.
He had landed 22 more punches (78-56) according to CompuBox, including a 55-30 edge in power shots.
“We were willing to lose a couple of rounds early,” Alvarez’s trainer, Marc Ramsay, said. “Our game plan was to be more physical with Kovalev in the second half of the fight.”
When Alvarez plopped onto his stool after the sixth round, Ramsay leaned into him and whispered it was time to use “McIntosh.”
Ramsay joked later that it was a code word for the 1-2 combination that Alvarez unleashed during his seventh-round onslaught.
“It was a two-punch combination that I have been throwing my whole career, and we worked on it in camp,” Alvarez said. “We thought it would work.”
Main Events President Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, said there was a rematch clause in the contract that may be exercised after Kovalev takes some time to contemplate his future.
According to FightNews.com, however, trainer Abror Tursunpulatov told the Russian media he hopes Kovalev retires. Kovalev told them he probably will, “but this is boxing, so anything can happen. I will not make hasty decisions. Time will pass, and I’ll decide what to do next.”
If Alvarez wants to take another fight, he could have a unification bout against World Boxing Association champion Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs).
Bivol, a native of Russia, retained his title with a 12-round unanimous decision over South Africa’s Isaac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) in Saturday’s co-feature.
“I was in negotiations to fight (a unification fight) against Kovalev,” Bivol said. “I’m disappointed that my countryman lost. He was a great champion. But I want to unify the titles, and if it’s against Alvarez, then I want to fight him.”
Whatever happens, boxing officials hope the next big fight is held in Atlantic City.
Saturday’s bouts were the first world championship fights held in town since Kovalev beat Bernard Hopkins at Boardwalk Hall on Nov. 8, 2014.
Judging by the reaction of the fans, it shouldn’t take four more years before the next one.
“It was a great night for boxing in Atlantic City,” New Jersey Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard said. “(A spectacular knockout) was just the type of ending that we needed, regardless of who won.”