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Bivol predicts win for Kovalev over Shabranskyy

By Stanley White: Dmitry Bivol expects former light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev to emerge victorious this Saturday night with his fight against the tough Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in their clash for the vacant WBO 175 lb. title at Madison Square Garden in New York.

(Photo Credit: David Spagnolo/Main Events)

Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs), who holds the WBA World light heavyweight title, believes that Kovalev’s boxing skills and punching power will be enough for him to defeat the 30-year-old once beaten Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) on Saturday on November 25 in their fight on HBO Championship Boxing.

Bivol doesn’t see Kovalev, 34, changing much with his basic fighting style. What we’ve seen from the past from Kovalev will likely be what we see from him against Shabranskyy in this match.

Bivol would like to fight Kovalev at some point if he wins on Saturday night, but he doesn’t say when he’ll take that fight. Bivol still needs to defend his WBA title against the winner of this Saturday’s fight between Sullivan Barrera and Felix Valera. Barrera is ranked #1 by the World Boxing Association, which means Bivol will need to face him or Valera next. Bivol doesn’t say whether he has a preference for which of the two that he’d like to face. Barrera, 35, is expected to beat Valera to get the fight with Bivol. Last year in May, Bivol beat Valera by a 12 round decision. It wasn’t a competitive fight.

”He is one of the best and strongest fighters, so I want to fight him at some stage. He is the best,” said Bivol to in talking about Kovalev. ”It will be very interesting to see this fight, because it’s his comeback.”

Bivol says he’s sparred with Shabranskyy in the past, and he rates him as a strong fighter. Bivol says Shabranskyy is a fighter rather than a boxer. That might work against Shabranskyy, considering that Kovalev does well against guys that come to slug with him. Andre Ward used a mauling style to beat Kovalev in their first fight last year in November. In their rematch last June, Ward mostly boxed for the first 7 rounds until suddenly turning up the heat on Kovalev in round 8 and taking him out with a combination of head and body shots.

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It’s difficult to give an accurate prediction on the Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy for a number of reasons. Kovalev has shown conditioning problems in his last handful of fights. The stamina issues seem resistant to hard training. Kovalev has talked about wanting to improve his conditioning for his last 2 fights, and nothing has improved. It appears that Kovalev may be stuck with limited stamina for the remainder of his career. Kovalev’s stamina problem is a serious one, because he’s fading at the halfway point in his fights, and fighting ineffectively after that. If Kovalev is only capable of fighting hard for 6 or 7 rounds, he’s going to lose to the fighters that are able to take him that deep into his fights. Ward didn’t even press Kovalev in the rematch, and yet he still gassed out in the 8th round.

“I don’t think Kovalev will change much and because of the type of fighter he is, and the skills he’s got, it will be enough for him to win on Saturday night,” said Bivol.

Bivol is probably correct about Kovalev winning on Saturday night. Shabranskyy is just a fringe contender in the light heavyweight division. For all intents and purposes, this is a tune-up fight for Kovalev. The World Boxing Organization has sanctioned the Kovalev- Shabranskyy fight as a title match, but it’s clearly a showcase fight for Kovalev against a guy that doesn’t have the pedigree or the talent to beat him. Kovalev should be fighting Oleksandr Gvozdyk for the vacant WBO title rather than Shabranskyy. Gvozdyk is ranked #1 by the WBO, and Shabranskyy just #10. The WBO is the one that made the decision to let Kovalev fight Shabrankyy for their vacant WBO 175 lb. title instead of insisting that he face Gvozdyk. Kovalev is the better known fighter of the two, so he would give the WBO more attention with him being the new WBO light heavyweight title. Kovalev isn’t going to be able to hold onto the WBO title for any length of time if he can’t improve his game from what we’ve seen from him in his last 3 fights against Ward and Isaac Chilemba.

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Bivol is interested in unifying the light heavyweight division against IBF champion Artur Beterbiev, the winner of the Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy fight, and then lastly against WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. The first 2 parts of Bivol’s goal of unifying the 175 lb. division is quite possible. He’ll have a good chance of fighting Beterbiev and the Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy winner. However, getting a fight against Adonis Stevenson could prove to be a tall order, as he’s mostly been just milking his WBC title for the last 4 years, without taking dangerous fights. Stevenson has only defended his WBC title during all that time against one mandatory challenger, and that was back in 2013 against Tony Bellew.

The World Boxing Council has made it easy for Stevenson to face few threats by not pushing for him to defend against his mandatory challengers. Stevenson could face former 2 division world champion Badou Jack in early 2018. If that’s the case, then there’s a chance that Stevenson is more willing to take risks. If he’s open to fighting Jack, then he might want to face someone like Kovalev, Beterbiev or Bivol.

Shabranskyy was beaten by Sullivan Barrera last year in December in a 7th round knockout loss. It’s unclear if he’s improved as a fighter since that fight. In Shabranskyy’s last 2 fights, he’s beaten Larry Pryor (10-15) and Todd Unthank May (10-0-1) by stoppage wins, but those aren’t world class fighters. May was landing a lot of big shots on Shabranskyy before he eventually stopped him in the 7th. If Kovalev is able to connect with his big punches in the early going against Shabranskyy, he’s going to have a good chance of knocking him out. Kovalev won’t need great stamina to beat Shabranskyy if he can land often enough in the first 6 rounds of the fight.

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