NEW YORK — Sergey Kovalev “krushed” it.

The light heavyweight nicknamed “Krusher” made short work of Slava Shabranskyy to recapture the WBO title Saturday night. He used a devastating series of right hands to stop the challenger at 2:36 of the second round.

“Here tonight was great boxing for me, and I love boxing and I want to make great fights,” Kovalev said. “I am ready for any champion because this is very good for boxing.”

Kovalev lost his last two outings to Andre Ward, and he brought a dynamic fury into the Madison Square Garden ring. He dropped Shabranskyy twice in the first round, once more in the second, and somehow Shabranskyy didn’t go down from another series of powerhouse punches seconds before the fight was stopped.

The 34-year-old Kovalev easily disposed of his opponent from Ukraine. The Russian improved to 31-2-1 with 27 knockouts. Few of them were more impressive.

“It is my goal to be the best in the division,” said Kovalev, who took back the WBO crown that Ward relinquished when he retired. “I’m happy that the belts have different owners, and it makes everything interesting and we can make better fights. We have a bunch of belt holes and we can now find out who is the best.”

Shabranskyy fell to 19-2. He landed a few solid punches, but he couldn’t handle Kovalev’s massive rights.

Shabranskyy actually started well, connecting on some lefts, even backing up Kovalev with one. But then the hammer was lowered in the form of Kovalev’s right lead that floored Shabranskyy.

He got up, but was soon down from a combination including a huge right.

Things were much the same in the second round before the bout was wisely stopped.

On the HBO undercard, Sullivan Barrera, who defected from Cuba nearly a decade ago, outpointed Felix Valera in a light heavyweight fight marred by a series of low blows.

Valera clowned around in many rounds, even sticking out his tongue at one point. He needed more lefts like the one that stunned and floored Barrera in the opening moments of the fight. He also needed to avoid throwing low blows: Valera, of the Dominican Republic, was docked points three times. The second time, in the sixth infuriated Barrera, who had his best round.

But Barrera, who also scored a first-round knockdown, was penalized for a low shot in the ninth.

The decision was unanimous for Barrera, whose only loss in 22 fights was to Ward. He’s won four straight since, including knocking out Shabaranskyy, and is in line for a title fight, although Kovalev seems to have his sights set elsewhere.

In a matchup of two former super featherweight champions, Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, took a majority decision from Jason Sosa that was derisively booed by the crowd. Gamboa (28-2) won 96-92 and 95-93 on two scorecards, with one judge having it 94-94.

Gamboa twice slipped to the canvas during the 10-round bout, and when Sosa was credited with a knockdown in the seventh round, it was from a punch that appeared to miss with the Cuban off-balance. Gamboa was penalized a point in the final round for holding, and Sosa fell to 20-3-4 with his second straight defeat. He was beaten by WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko in April.

“I didn’t have enough time to train,” Gamboa claimed. “I only had three weeks. I needed two or three more weeks to lose the weight correctly.

“Of course, the decision was good. I think I won every round, except for the knockdown and the point deduction.”

Russia’s Bakhram Murtazaliev knocked out Carlos Galvan of Colombia in the fifth round of their super welterweight event. Murtazaliev is now 11-0 with nine knockouts. He dominated the first four rounds before dropping Galvan twice to finish matters. Galvan fell to 16-6-1.

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BARRY WILNER
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