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At Mandalay Bay, Kovalev crushes latest opponent to keep boxing titles

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Steve Marcus

WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, left, of Russia punches Nadjib Mohammedi of France during their light heavyweight title fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, July 25, 2015. Kovalev won with a third-round knockout.

Pascal Defeats Gonzalez

Jean Pascal of Canada celebrates his unanimous decision victory over Yunieski Gonzalez of Cuba after their light heavyweight fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, July 25, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Sergey Kovalev Retains Titles With KO

WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia waits in a neutral corner as referee Kenny Bayless gives a count to Nadjib Mohammedi of France during their light heavyweight title fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, July 25, 2015. Kovalev won with a third-round knockout. Launch slideshow »

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) possesses so much power in his hands, he tries to make his fights last longer, and his opponents still can’t escape the third round.

His latest victim, Nadjib Mohammedi (37-4, 23 KOs), felt Kovalev’s power in the third round Saturday at Mandalay Bay, when a two-punch combination sent him reeling and to the canvas.

Mohammedi was able to get back on his feet, but referee Kenny Bayless called the fight, giving Kovalev the 25th knockout of his career and the 22nd in three rounds or fewer.

“I’m a little bit disappointed myself,” Kovalev said. “I wanted more rounds. I wanted him to look like a clown. I wanted him to look foolish.”

The only thing more impressive than the undefeated WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion’s knockouts is the ease in which they come.

“He doesn’t drag us through long, boring waltzes with opponents that are overmatched,” said Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva. “He just goes out and closes the show.”

Kovalev landed combinations with such precision that harmless-looking punches floored Mohammedi, just as they have past opponents.

“Sergey Kovalev will hurt you with a jab, and that’s what he did,” said Mohammedi’s manager, Vince Caruso.

After a feeling-out process in the first round, Kovalev asserted his dominance in the second with a combination that ended with a massive right hook that dropped Mohammedi to his knees.

Kovalev followed that by tossing Mohammedi to the ground twice in that round and finished the 30-year-old from Gardanne, France, off in the third round.

Kovalev positioned himself for many intriguing matchups, the biggest of which is a fight with WBA super-middleweight champion Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs).

A fight with Artur Beterbiev in Moscow around November is most likely the next matchup for Kovalev, Duva said.

Beterbiev (9-0, 9 KOs) owns two victories over Kovalev as an amateur, including a controversial decision in 2007, and has called Kovalev out multiple times.

In the co-main event, Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) — who was knocked out by Kovalev in his last fight — won a close unanimous decision over hard-hitting Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs).

All three judges scored the fight 96-94 for Pascal, to the displeasure of the fans, who felt Gonzales out-brawled the Canadian. Gonzales left the ring visibly upset after being handed the first loss of his career, but was given a standing ovation.

Gonzalez was so impressive in defeat, talk of him facing Kovalev next was rampant at the post-fight news conference.

With the list of possible future opponents growing by the day, Kovalev remains adamant that he will fight anyone put in front of him.

“I am ready for anybody,” Kovalev said. “I am ready for any fight, any opponent.”

When pressured by a reporter to choose his next opponent, Kovalev stared at him and replied, “You.”

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