By Marc Livitz: The ghosts of boxing past fully understand the importance of high profile fights being held in Atlantic City. Of course, while the absolute biggest of contests will likely continue to be showcased in Las Vegas or to a bit lesser extent, California, the world famous hotspot on the New Jersey coast is looking to return to its former prominence and hold its collective own. WBO World Light Heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev took part in three consecutive bouts there in 2014, the last in which he served as the victorious penultimate opponent of future Hall of Fame talent Bernard Hopkins. After doing so, he was in possession of three of the four major sanctioned titles in the 175-pound weight class and he went to wherever the action was.
He headlined in such cities as Montreal, Canada, Ekaterinburg, Russia, Las Vegas and New York City. The Russian native’s two fights against Andre Ward in November 2016 and June of 2017, respectively was where Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KO’s) suffered his two defeats. The first was a razor thin, unanimous decision defeat which in the eyes of more than many could have gone either way. Last summer, he was stopped in the eighth round with shots that were considered by some to be low blows. He didn’t stay gone long and returned to the ring last November to reclaim two of the titles he’d lost which were made available with the retirement of Ward.
On Saturday, August 4, Sergey will headline an ‘HBO World Championship Boxing’ card from the all-new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, which was formerly the Taj Mahal adorned with the name of the current American President. The Etess Arena will serve as the venue as the “Krusher” puts his title on the line against unbeaten challenger Eleider “Storm” Alvarez (23-0, 11 KO’s) of Montreal, Quebec by way of Colombia. This will be Alvarez’s first bout in over a year, as his last contest took place in June of 2017 when he defeated Jean Pascal by majority decision in Montreal.
Sharing the card with Kovalev and Alvarez that night will be the defense of the WBA World Light Heavyweight title on the part of Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KO’s) of St. Petersburg, Russia against light heavyweight mainstay Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KO’s) of South Africa. By night’s end, Chilemba will have faced all three men with whom he’s set to share the bill with on August 4, as he lost back-to-back contests against Alvarez in November 2015 (MD 12) and Kovalev, respectively (UD 12) seven months later.
On Wednesday afternoon, the four competitors and their team members took part in an international media conference call to discuss the upcoming night in Atlantic City.
Selected Highlights Listed Below
Opening Statements, Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events: “It’s terrific to have a show back in Atlantic City where so many of us started. It just feels right for me when we are back there. Sergey’s had lots of great nights in Atlantic City, such as when he defeated Bernard Hopkins. The advent of sports betting in New Jersey can certainly make Atlantic City a destination for boxing once again. We truly have an international card with fighters from all over the world defending their light heavyweight titles. This is a really outstanding card from top to bottom.”
Sergey Kovalev’s thoughts on Eleider Alvarez: “This should be an interesting fight and I’m sure it won’t be easy. I’m interested to fight him and get a victory. I will defend my title.”
On Possibly Fighting WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson: “I’m ready. My goal is to have all four championships.”
On being 35 years old: “Age is just a number for me. I’m blessed to still be fighting on this level, like a champion. I hope I can reach my goal of having all four titles and when I get there, I’m done. I’ll retire.”
On still hearing about Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson: “I understand it. I got lots of experience from fighting Andre Ward and everything around it. I’m happy that I’m still fighting. Andre Ward retired.”
On fighting in Atlantic City: “I’m very happy to be back in Atlantic City. I don’t care where I fight but I’m happiest in the bigger places because it brings bigger motivation.”
Yvon Michel, Eleider Alvarez’s Promoter: “We are thrilled and grateful to be part of this main event and this opportunity. Eleider Alvarez was an amateur star. He won in the Pan American Games and he participated in the 2008 Olympics. He just came from his training camp in the mountains in Bogota.”
Eleider Alvarez, Opening Statements: “I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m excited to fight the WBO champion. I waited over three years for this chance. I’m going to be ready for this.”
On facing Kovalev and the role of the underdog: “I enjoy the challenge. It’s very big and I’ve had lots of fights and I always give it all in the ring. I will do the same here and I’ll finish at the top. When the challenge is bigger, I will be up to the task.”
On using his jab against Kovalev: “My jab is my best weapon and I’ll use whatever it takes with Kovalev. It’s one of the most important things in this fight.”
On fighting in Atlantic City: “It’s like a dream to be fighting on the big stage like this. It’s another challenge and it represents possible great things for me and my career.”
Dmitry Bivol, Opening Statements: “I’m happy to be back in the ring and to be back in the tri-state area. Many thanks to everyone who put this fight together.”
Bivol on if he’s the best light heavyweight in the world: “I don’t think that right now, but I do think that I’m one of the best. I hope in the near future that we’ll know who is the best.”
If He’s on a ‘collision course’ with Sergey Kovalev: “Most likely, this fight will happen because we’re both HBO boxers. If that’s what the people want, then we will deliver.”
If it’s time to headline an HBO card: “It would be great to be a headliner and for my status, but right now I’m thinking about this fight only.”
On Chilemba: “He took the best fights against the best fighters. He fought Sergey Kovalev for three belts. He can move backwards and forward. He can fight all types of fights, but I am confident against him. I intend to keep my belt.”
If he feels any pressure: “I’m getting more attention and that’s what