Fight week along all its festivities has officially commenced for WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev who returns to the ring for his second title defense against undefeated Colombian light heavyweight contender Eleider “Storm” Alvarez this Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) will finally have a shot at a title after being left like a bride at the altar by WBC’s Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson’s (29-1-1, 24 KOs) for over two years. Though reasons as to why Stevenson failed to meet in the ring with his mandatory challenger are unknown, he did pay Alvarez step-aside money in order to fight Badou Jack last May instead.
With victories against mutual opponents such as Isaac Chilemba and his most recent win, Jean Pascal, Alvarez seems to pose as a legitimate challenge for the previous unified WBA, IBF, and WBO champion.
After his second defeat to former Olympic gold medalist Andre “SOG” Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), Kovalev returned stronger than ever, defeating Goldenboy Promotion’s light heavyweight contender Vyacheslav “Lion Heart” Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) by way of second-round TKO to acquire the vacant WBO world title along with vacant Eurasian Boxing Parliament and IBA world light heavyweight titles. In his first world title defense this past March, Kovalev punished southpaw lightweight Igor Mikhalkin (21-2-9 KOs) for seven rounds before the referee stepped in to stop the one-sided assault.
Alvarez is undefeated; however, his last fight was over a year ago, scoring majority decision win over Pascal (35-5-1, 20 KOs), who Kovalev completely obliterated on two occasions. When asked if his opponent’s inactivity would serve as an advantage for him, Kovalev said he believed his opponent would still come in great shape.
“He’s still in [the] boxing gym,” Kovalev told Xicana Boxing. “If he has a fight, he’s ready.”
When asked about pursuing title unification if he were to rise victorious against Alvarez, Kovalev appeared intrigued by unifying a division ruled by other Russians. Well, besides Stevenson, of course. However, Kovalev is hopeful Stevenson will eventually face Ukrainian WBC interim champion Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs) who Kovalev feels is more deserving of the title.
“Chickenson doesn’t deserve a title at all in my opinion,” said Kovalev. “Right now interim champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk should fight him I hope, and get WBC title. It will be me and three very tough fighters, and all past USSR. It’s gonna be very interesting for me… All Europe Russian championship.”
Kovalev is still the favorite to win against Alvarez come Saturday night, but there are still a significant amount of boxing fans who remain doubtful Kovalev is the same vicious fighter after his back-to-back losses against Ward. Kovalev showed to gas out in the later rounds against the former Olympian and given Alvarez trains in high altitude in Bogota, Colombia, many boxing enthusiasts believe Alvarez will be dangerous if he takes Kovalev to deep waters.
Fans predict its a matter of if Alvarez can take Kovalev’s massive power that will determine if he will survive. As focused as Kovalev seems in his training camp, it is highly possible he will once again be a unified lightweight champion. If he first gets past Alvarez, that is.
Last week at his media workout, Alvarez displayed full confidence on himself for fight night.
“I think it will be a difficult fight for me, but also for Kovalev,” Alvarez told the media. “I am excited, and I can’t wait to fight. I can’t stop smiling right now because next week, the whole world will know who is Eleider Alvarez.”
The co-main event will feature Russian WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol as he makes his second title defense against former title contender Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba.
Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs) is no stranger to A-class opposition but has fallen short in every title shot of his career. In 2015 Chilemba lost a WBC mandatory eliminator matchup to the main event feature contender Eleider Alvarez, followed by two more losses against Kovalev and Gvozdyk before finally scoring a win on March against Australian southpaw Blake Caparello (27-3-1, 11 KOs) by way of unanimous decision.
Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), on the other hand, remains undefeated after acquiring the WBA world title by knocking out Trent Broadhurst (20-3, 12 KOs) in the first round in Nov. 2017. Just four months later, Bivol put up a spectacular performance in his first title defense against Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera, dominating every round and stopping him on the final assault.
Sullivan was Bivol’s biggest challenge, yet he doesn’t overlook Chilemba as an essential challenge for his career.
“I’ve seen his many fights, “Bivol said at his media workout. “I’ve seen his fight against Kovalev, Gvozdyk, Eleider Alvarez. He fights through all fights, no problem, except Gvozdyk. But he has never been knocked out. He gives me a good experience. He is a good challenge for me. I will be ready.”
Bivol seemed a bit uncomfortable when asked about possibly facing Kovalev for a colossal Russian unification bout if they were both to win their respective fights on Saturday.
“I want to fight the best guys in my division,” Bivol told Xicana Boxing. “Now, Kovalev is one of the best guys. Of course, I want to fight with him, but I prefer not to fight a guy from the same country as me. Of course, if people like this fight, then I think it will happen. Kovalev wants to fight against the best, like me. It depends on the boxing fans. If they like it, it will happen.”
The WBA world champion will have to put his country pride aside sooner or later to unify, as Like Kovalev said, the majority of the champions are also Russian. Unless negotiations run smoothly between Bivol and Stevenson, a clash between Russian champions is clearly inevitable.
Though the majority of fans expect Chilemba to lose yet another title opportunity, Bivol remains humble reminding everyone that anything can happen in boxing.
“I know every boxer have mistakes,” Said Bivol. “And every boxer can be knocked out. It’s not like running, for example, where somebody is a little quicker and somebody is slower. This sport is different. Anybody can knock anybody else out, in any round. And that’s what makes this sport so exciting. You don’t know what to expect.”
What fans can expect, however, is amazing consecutive boxing fights from this double-header this upcoming Saturday night. The bouts will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:00 p.m.E/T and 7:00 p.m. P/T.
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Picture Credit: Main Events (twitter)