ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Sergey Kovalev successfully defended his WBO light-heavyweight title Saturday night, stopping Australian challenger Blake Caparello in the second round at Revel Casino-Hotel.
Kovalev, the 31-year-old Russian based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, improved to 25-0-1 with 13th straight knockout and 23rd overall. He had two knockdowns in the second round and was administering more punishment when referee Sparkle Lee stepped in and halted the scheduled 12-round bout at 1:47.
With the victory, Kovalev moved into position for a unification fight against IBF/WBA light-heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. The fight will be held in November at either Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall or the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.
"I'm very happy," Kovalev said. "Fighting Bernard Hopkins is a big fight and interesting fight for me and for the boxing world. I'm not scared to fight him. He's called 'The Alien,' but I'm a 'Krusher' and I'll send him to Mars."
Kovalev lived up to his status as one of boxing's hardest hitters. His 88.4 percent knockout rate is second-highest among current world champions. Only WBA middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin's 90-percent rate is higher.
Kovalev was forced to overcome a slight scare, however.
Caparello (19-1-1) stunned the crowd at Ovation Hall when he landed a straight left that sent Kovalev stumbling backward and forced his right glove to touch the canvas.
"My life flashed before my eyes," said Kovalev's promoter, Main Events President Kathy Duva.
Kovalev rebounded quickly in the second round, landing a straight right to Caparello's liver that forced him to take a knee. Kovalev seized the opening and attacked, landing another right that put down Caparello.
"I'm hoping Kovalev gets a devastating knockout because that will mean a lot of people will be fearing for my life and I will have to be on point come November 8th," Hopkins said from ringside before the fight. "I want to be undisputed light-heavyweight champion of the world. That's what I've set out to do and that's what I'm going to do."