All photos by Ed Mulholland/HBO

Former unified Light Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev (31-2-1, 26 KOs) returned to the ring in dramatic fashion.

Kovalev dropped Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) three times en route to a second-round TKO win and became the WBO Light Heavyweight champion on Saturday night at The Theater Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I did it and worked very hard to get to champion status,” said Kovalev. “It’s my goal to be the best in this division. I love boxing. I’m back.”

Shabranskyy landed a solid body shot before Kovalev dropped him with a right cross. Moments later, Kovalev landed a right hand followed by a left hook which dropped Shabranskyy again. “Krusher” landed nine jabs in Round 1.

In the second round, Kovalev landed a hard right hand which sent Shabranskyy to the canvas for a third time. Shabranskyy was able to get back on his feet before being wobbled by Kovalev’s onslaught.

Referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight with 24 seconds remaining in the second round. Kovalev mixed punches well, going to the body and landing hard right hands.

“This makes boxing interesting,” said Kovalev. “We can make good fights for boxing fans, and make boxing history. Let’s find out who is the best.”

Shabranskyy’s only loss before tonight was to Sullivan Barrera, who also dropped Shabranskyy three times to win by KO in the seventh round at the beginning of the year.

Kovalev earned his first win since suffering back-to-back losses to Andre Ward.