Sergey Kovalev: Undisputed?
Tonight from the brand new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, 32-2-1 (28), continues his quest to fulfill his only remaining dream in boxing. (HBO, 10 p.m. ET / PT) After all of the success the possible future Hall-of-Famer from Russia has accomplished, being undisputed light heavyweight king is the final box for him to check off in his career.
Many underlining stories comprise this event. It’s the first promotion being done by Main Events since it celebrated its 40th anniversary last May. It also marks Main Event’s return to Atlantic City for the first time since 2014, which means it’s the first major event in the “City of Atlantis” since its last event, a card that featured “Krusher” unifying most of the light heavyweight division, with a dominant performance against surefire Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins. This event features a co-feature pairing WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol against his toughest test to date, the always durable Isaac Chilemba.
What makes the co-feature significant is the fact that, if both Bivol and Kovalev are successful in their title defenses, they will move closer to a mega-unification bout. “Bivol wants to fight Sergey, and vice-versa,” stated Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “It’s the big fight in the future. It’s really up to Bivol, when he feels he is ready for the fight.”
Kovalev is clearly ready for the fight because, at the age of 35, his clock is ticking, physically. However he views his age a bit differently from how most might view a 35-year-old fighter. “I don’t feel that I’m old or something like that. It’s just a number for me, 35,” comments Kovalev, when asked about his age.
Of course this potential fight to unify two of the four major belts at light heavyweight will be much easier to make, since Main Events promotes Kovalev and co-promotes Bivol. The other two belts, the IBF (held by Artur Beterbiev) and WBC (long held by Adonis Stevenson), may be the issue since the continued climate of the sport is for champions to seemingly only fight challengers promoted by the same company.
This however is not the case, when it comes to Main Events. Just take tonight’s main event as a prime example of how willing this company is to making the best fights available. Eleider Alvarez, 23-0 (11), was twice passed over as the No. 1 contender by current WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Stevenson and his handlers paid Alvarez step-aside money so they could fight Badou Jack instead. When Alvarez didn’t want to play ball with step-aside money again, he opted out of his top ranking, and instead excepted the challenge of facing Kovalev.
“It all happened quickly. I called (Alvarez’s promoter GYM’s) Yvon (Michel) and, less then 24 hours later, we had a signed deal by all parties,” shares Duva. As for fighting the aforementioned Stevenson, it’s a fight fans and the media have equally been clamoring for since Kovalev unified three of the four major titles. Frankly it was the fight everyone expected instead of the two fights Kovalev wound up fighting against Andre Ward. “It doesn’t bother me. No it’s OK because it was already this part of my career,” remarked Kovalev.
A much more subdued attitude seems to not only be the current demeanor of the WBO champion but how he will choose to handle things playing out over the rest of his career. Looking back on the two defeats to Ward, Kovalev is much more prophetic than he was months before – and even leading into his first fight, post-loss, “Those two losses put me back on the right trail, especially after getting famous and the money.” It’s a much different attitude from when he felt like he was cheated out of victory in the first fight, and unjustly stopped by low blows in the rematch.
When Duva is asked about what it would take for Kovalev to fulfill his dream of being the undisputed light heavyweight champion, she offers this bit of insight: “When the guys want to fight each other, it is not hard, when you have two guys that want to fight each other.” Kovalev has mandated to his promotional outfit that he only wants the fights that will edge him closer to his goal of being undisputed champion. With this fight against Alvarez and the support featuring Bivol, fans – and Kovalev – may not be that far from witnessing him once again hold a pair of major belts.
If Kovalev is indeed successful at unifying the two belts in the near future, everyone may have to wait for promoters and handlers of the other two champions to step up and help make the fight fans want for total unification. Obviously there are a lot of ifs and buts involved for Kovalev. However two things seem to be clear entering this weekend: First Kovalev is not going to be satisfied with just fighting the top contenders and defending one championship belt moving forward. Second if he unifies two of the belts, his handlers won’t stop him from earning a chance at the other two.
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