Sergey Kovalev Goes to Russia with Love
At the Four Points Sheraton near LAX, last weekend, Main Events formally announced its franchise fighter, unified light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, will make his return to Russia on July 11 in Ekaterinburg at the DIVS Palace of Sports versus Isaac Chilemba.
It’s a tune-up fight before an expected showdown against Andre Ward in November.
And yes, that match-up is a done deal (provided Kovalev wins, of course), according to Kathy Duva.
“From our end, it was solidified when we signed the contract with Ward’s people back in October,” the head of Main Events stated at this media round table. When they consummated this deal back in the fall, both Kovalev and Ward agreed they could take up to two fights before facing each other in the fall. Kovalev stopped Jean Pascal in their rematch in seven rounds on Jan. 30 and, on March 26, Andre Ward decisioned Sullivan Barrera.
There was a deadline in place of June 30 for both fighters to take another bout heading into their expected clash, which was recently amended to July 23. It’s still not clear if Ward will take another assignment before then.
For Kovalev, this is his first fight in his home country since he faced Roman Simakov (in a fight that had grave consequences) in Dec. of 2011. Since then, he has built a formidable resume and a lucrative career under the auspices of Main Events, becoming a road warrior of sorts. “Long time ago, I already wanted this, since I first win my belt. But we didn’t because we didn’t have an opportunity to make this fight, as well. Right now, opportunity came and we use it,” said Kovalev, 29-0-1 (26).
He’s come a long way since 2009 when he came to the States with basically nothing but his gym bag and his dreams and forced to fight on the boxing backroads of North Carolina.
“It was not an easy step for me,” he recalls of his migration to America. “For maybe eight, nine months, I thought about getting to America or not. And when I turn back, turn my head and behind me – I had nothing. Just one small apartment and one old car and friends.”
Kovalev added, “I had nothing to lose but I wanted to try.”
Now he is one of the most prominent prizefighters in the sport and very close to participating in one of the most anticipated match-ups in the business. But first, he must get past Chilemba, a competent boxer, who, in his last fight, lost a close, majority decision to Eleider Alvarez back in November. “His style, he’s like a spoiler. He’s not fighting; he’s not pushing enough, making a lot of defense, a lot of wrestling,” is how Kovalev describes his upcoming foe. “It’s my goal to decipher this problem because what I see against Chilemba is not an easy fight and I think it would be all 12 rounds because he’s uncomfortable. He’s not fighting; he’s moving and waiting, not making the attack. He’s more of a defensive fighter.”
Chilemba might provide a reasonable facsimile of Ward and what also greased the skids for this match-up is he is also under the Main Events banner.
“My job isn’t to root for someone; it’s to give them the fights they need to get where they want to go,” said Duva, who certainly wouldn’t mind the chalk on July 11. “In this case, it’s kind of a happy coincidence that Sergey needs a guy who’s going to extend him a little bit. It would seem to be the most logical way to prepare for the fight for Ward and, in Isaac’s case, he’s a terrific guy and we love him dearly and he wants his shot. So if he wins it, then God bless him.
“It’s not in my hands to decide. Sergey is, I believe, a very special talent and I think he is a very special person and, to his credit, when we offer him an easy opponent, he complains. So we wanted to make him happy too. Fighting easy opponents is not how you prepare for the defining fight of your life.”
He’s competent but not too threatening, which made Chilemba the perfect foil for Kovalev.
This promotion, which is being funded in part by a copper conglomerate and in partnership with German Titov Promotions, is taking place on a Monday night. It’s not clear if HBO – which has an exclusive deal with Kovalev – will be showing this bout. Duva admitted, “At this moment, we don’t know if HBO will televise. They are trying very hard to make it work. They have to chase down some technical concerns but if they can make it work technically, they are committed to do this on Monday night.”
Duva added later, “We’re doing this on a Monday night outside the contract, already. We’ll work something out.”
Last weekend’s HBO broadcast featuring IBF/WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin’s second round blowout of Dominic Wade at the Forum had 1.325 million viewers (peaking at 1.38 million), making it their highest rated telecast of 2016. It’s an impressive number (by today’s standards, at least), given Wade was a relatively unknown dance partner and it was a short fight (longer bouts help ratings).
K2 Promotions Managing Director Tom Loeffler also announced that the Forum set a record for merchandise during a boxing event with over $100,000 in sales. Golovkin-Wade was also the highest attended boxing promotion since the Forum was re-opened, with 16,353 in the house.
You can make a strong argument that “GGG” is now the biggest draw at both Madison Square Garden and the Forum.
It says here (in my latest for Boxing News) that a rematch between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada should be priority for everyone involved.
Here’s this week’s edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly (a full two-hour edition).
Mario Lopez and I hit the speed limit with Episode 55 of “The 3 Knockdown Rule.” We review GGG-Wade, Kelly Ripa-Michael Strahan and Conor McGregor-Dana White, plus our favorite Prince songs.
“The Boy Who Cried Fight,” Julio Cesar Chavez Jr . seems to be trolling WBC middleweight champ Saul “Canelo” Alvarez by calling for a September fight versus Golovkin. Here’s Loeffler’s reaction...Super middleweight Dashon Johnson returns to the 2300 Arena in Philly on June 3 against DeCarlo Perez…So yeah, the Clippers season is basically over…It’s like the basketball gods were looking out for the Golden State Warriors…The new season of “Game of Thrones” is off to a nice start on HBO…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.