By Marc Livitz: Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev should still be, all things considered as one of the most feared men in all of boxing. Prior to just about a year ago, the former light heavyweight champion from Russia had to his credit an astonishing 87% knockout win ratio alongside an unblemished boxing ledger.
Last November, his mettle was tested to its absolute fullest when he lost to Andre Ward by the most narrow as well as hotly disputed margins. Although he’d put the now-retired Ward to the canvas for the first time in his career in the second round, he still lost by one point on every scorecard that night.
Boxing fans got their wish not only that the first contest was a hard fought chess match between two sublime talents, but that their second would hopefully be a welcomed continuation of the action. That’s not what we got. Instead, Kovalev was knocked out in highly controversial fashion in the eighth round with successive body shots that were either low or at, as opposed to on the beltline. There would be no third installment.
Rather than allow a year or more to pass before returning to the ring, 34 year-old Kovalev will make his return on Saturday, November 25 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. His opponent, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KO’s) of Ukraine is a fill-in for the original choice, Sullivan Barrera, who himself dealt Shabranskyy the lone loss of his career in December of 2016. The two will clash for the vacant WBO world light heavyweight title on HBO’s ‘World Championship Boxing’ (10 PM ET/PT).
Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KO’s) and the CEO of his promotional representatives, Kathy Duva of Main Events took part in a brief international media call on Tuesday afternoon.
Selected Highlights Listed Below
Opening Statements, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev: “My camp has been as good as always. I’m happy to be with my new coach (Abror Tursunpulatov); he’s doing a great job and we can understand each other’s language.”
Kovalev on putting the two losses to Ward behind him: “All life is a lesson for me. The losses taught me that I need more discipline in life and in boxing. Right now, I am looking to put all bad things behind me. I am just focused on the future of my boxing career and to unify the division.”
On his return to the ring and opponent: “I am excited for this opportunity. It was great to know that this fight would be for a world title. I was ready to fight Sullivan Barrera but that didn’t work out, so now I’m fighting Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. This is the title I’ve already had in my career but this is a new chapter for me. I’m much stronger now. You’ll see all of this on November 25 in New York.”
Kathy Duva’s outlook on Sergey: “He lost to the number one fighter in the sport and you don’t fall too far when that happens. I still think he’s one of the most compelling and exciting fighters in the world. He’s still “must see TV”. He should be ranked once again right back on top of one of the most exciting as well as deepest divisions in boxing. He started out with absolutely nothing and got all the way to the top of the sport, so he really doesn’t have far to get back to that spot. He’s putting those losses behind him and moving on.”
“Every time a fighter like Sergey take a new step in his journey, there are challenges. Shabranskyy is a great puncher and a world class talent.”
Sergey on remaining in the United States: It’s important for me to spend all of my time here in America until I finish my boxing career. When I’m done, I can go back to Russia because when I’m there, I don’t have time to do anything.”
Kovalev’s Final Thoughts and his future: “We’ll see what will happen in the next year. I can show once again that I can be the best. Next year, I’ll have the chance to show everything and who I am. Just be patient.”