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Sergey Kovalev to fight on Nov. 25 on HBO

Sergey Kovalev

By Allan Fox: Former IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) will soon be back inside the ring following his controversial 8th round knockout loss to Andre “SOG” Ward on June 17. Kovalev, 34, will be fighting on November 25, possibly at Madison Square Garden in New York, according to ESPN.

Kovalev will be headlining the Nov.25 card. The selection of the opponent for Kovalev is still being worked out. At this point, it might be in Kovalev’s interest to fight someone that he can beat. Kovalev’s last 2 fights against Ward were messy affairs, with the first fight being a controversial loss last November.

A lot of boxing fans thought Kovalev deserved the decision in that fight, as he knocked Ward down and appeared to win at least 6 rounds. With the knockout, it should have been enough for Kovalev to earn the victory. In the rematch between the two fighters on June 17 on HBO pay-per-view, Ward appeared to hit Kovalev with several low blows that caused him to bend forward at the waist in the 8th round.

Referee Tony Weeks then jumped in quickly and halted the fight without giving Kovalev a chance to recover. Even a standing 8 count might have been an option. After all, this was a PPV fight, and a lot of boxing fans had paid to see the fight. When a referee is quick on the trigger to stop the contest, it’s arguably not a good deal for the paying fans. The fans want entertainment, not a fight that’s stopped after what appeared to be 3 low blows. The referee Tony Weeks felt they were shots that were on belt-line, which made them legal blows. He didn’t have the benefit of slow motion replay like the viewers at home.

As far as I can tell, Kovalev probably would have still lost the fight to Ward, as he had been stunned moments earlier from a big right hand to the head. Kovalev wasn’t holding after being hurt like you would expect from a fighter that is thinking smart. Ward understood that Kovalev couldn’t take the body shots once he was hurt, so he kept hitting him. However, the shots that Ward hit Kovalev looked to be low in this writer’s opinion, and that’s what tarnished the ending of the fight.

There won’t be a third fight between Kovalev and Ward, as the two fighters are going their separate ways. Ward has talked about wanting to fight WBC cruiserweight Emeritus champion Tony Bellew or IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Neither of those fights is likely going to happen next. Bellew is looking in another direction for his next match. Joshua has a mandatory defense he needs to get out of the way against Kubrat Pulev.

If Joshua can steer around that fight, it would only be for a unification match against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder or WBO champion Joseph Parker. The International Boxing Federation isn’t going to let Joshua steer around Pulev to make a voluntary defense against light heavyweight Ward. That’s not going to happen, and Joshua doesn’t want to give up his IBF belt. He’s interested in unifying the division if possible.

Whoever Kovalev fights, they’re going to be going after his midsection to try and hurt him to the body in the same way that Ward did. Ward exposed a weakness in taking body shots in Kovalev. Everyone that Kovalev faces from this point on will likely be trying to hit him to the body as much as possible to see if they can hurt him. The other thing that Ward exposed was the limited stamina that Kovalev has. At this point in his career, Kovalev starts fading after 5 rounds. We first saw that in Kovalev’s fight with Isaac Chilemba on July 11, 2016. Kovalev looked exhausted after 7 rounds in that fight, but Chilemba didn’t have the punching power to do the job on him. Chilemba wasn’t working Kovalev’s body the way that Ward did.

It’s unclear whether Kovalev’s problems with his stamina is related to his advancing age or from him having to lose so much weight in getting down to the 175-pound limit for his fights. Kovalev gets pretty big in between fights, and he has to strip all the weight off to make the 175-lb. limit for his fights. It’s quite possible that his problems are related to his weight. Never the less, Kovalev doesn’t seem to handle getting hit to the body well at all. That’s not a weight issue. That’s just Kovalev not being able to handle body shots.

Kovalev has talked about wanting to start being trained by Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter, but it’s unclear whether that’ll happen. Hunter would likely speak to Ward on the subject, and he might not be like the idea of the two of them working together. It shouldn’t matter. Kovalev is probably never going to fight Ward again. After their two fights, I don’t think it’s a clever idea that the two ever fight again. It won’t bring in a lot of PPV buys, as the boxing fans will expect Kovalev to lose.

There was talk of Kovalev possibly moving up to the cruiserweight division. He wouldn’t have to battle with the weight if he moves up a division. The cruiserweight limit is 200 lbs. However, Kovalev would be dealing with fighters that rehydrate well over 200 lbs. like Murat Gassiev, Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis. Those guys look like small heavyweights for their fights. Kovalev would need to put on a lot of weight for him to be able to compete against those fighters if he wanted to be a factor in that division. One of the biggest jumps in weight in boxing is from the light heavyweight division to cruiserweight. You go from 175 to 200 lbs. That’s 25 pounds. The cruiserweights that decide to move up to heavyweight have an even bigger jump in weight they need to make. To be competitive in the heavyweight division against the top fighters, you’ve to be in the 230s at the minimum. To compete with the elite like the 250 lb. Anthony Joshua, you’ve got be big. Kovalev will have a tough time if he moves up to cruiserweight and tries to compete against the best fighters in that weight class. He might be better off continuing to drain down to 175.

The potentially good news for Kovalev is that Ward is likely be moving up in weight soon or retiring. He seems to be looking to get a few bigger fights before retiring from boxing. Once Ward retires or moves up in weight, Kovalev is free to compete for his three titles. Kovalev would need to fight the likes of Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev. Those are tough fighters. They’re not body punchers through, which is a good thing for Kovalev. They’re also not likely to hit him low. Beterbiev already beat Kovalev when the two were amateurs in Russia. It’s possible that Kovalev won’t be able to handle Beterbiev’s huge power, and his excellent inside fighting ability. Beterbiev looks like a better inside fighter than Ward due to his ability to get huge power on his short punches. Beterbiev could be a really difficult opponent for Kovalev or Ward. If Kovalev is going to stay at 175, he would be better to go in another direction from Beterbiev.

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