Kovalev vs. Mikhalkin & Bivol vs. Barrera – Official weights
By Jim Dower: Sergey Kovalev, Igor Mikhalkin, Dmitry Bivol and Sullivan Barrera all successfully made weight for their light heavyweight title fights this Saturday on March 3 on HBO Boxing at Madison Square Garden in New York. WBO 175 lb. champion ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) weighed in at 174.6 pounds.
Kovslrb’s opponent #5 WBO Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs) weighed considerably less at 172.6 lbs. for his main event fight with the 34-year-old Kovalev. Kovalev is a big favorite to defeat the obscure fighter Mikhalkin. This is not a true test for Kovalev. This is more of a stay busy fight for him, which is why there has been so little excitement about the fight. Boxing fans view it as a fight where there’s nothing to see.
Kovalev is matched against another record-padding opponent like his last fight against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. The real fight that the boxing fans are interested in on this card is the Bivol vs. Barrera contest. That’s a fight that is evenly matched on paper. It’s going to produce a very good fight unless one of the two guys is able to score a quick knockout. Bivol is the younger guy with the bigger power, so he stands the best chance of getting a quick knockout on Saturday night over Barrera. Bivol knocked out his last opponent Trent Broadhust in the 1st round last November.
HBO will be televising the Kovalev-Mikhalkin and Bivol-Barrera card on Saturday beginning at 10:05 p.m. ET/7:05 p.m. PT.
In the weights for the co-feature bout, WBA World light Dmitry Bivol (12-0 10 KOs) weighed in at 174.4 lbs. for his title defense against #1 WBA Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs). The 35-year-old Barrera weighed in at 173.6 lbs.
Bivol and Kovalev being packaged together on the same card could be a move to setup a fight between them later this year if both win their fights. Bivol, 27, says he wants to fight Kovalev or WBC champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson in a unification fight after he gets Barrera out of the way on Saturday. Kovalev will need to make the decision whether he wants to take the Bivol fight or not. Kovalev went through a lot in his 2 defeats to Andre Ward.
Kovalev’s management at Main Events gave him a soft fight against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy last November, which he won by a 2nd round knockout. He’s now been given a second soft fight against 32-year-old Mikhalkin. After this fight, it’s probably a good idea for Kovalev to start fighting good opposition again by taking the fight with Bivol if he can’t get a fight with Adonis Stevenson. Outside of Stevenson and Badou Jack, Bivol is perhaps the biggest name available for Kovalev to fight.
Jack and Stevenson are facing each other 2 months from now on May 19th on Showtime Boxing. The winner of that fight’s best option for a big fight is to take on Kovalev or Bivol in a unification fight. Kovalev has trying to get a fight against the 40-year-old Stevenson for years. He might finally have the chance to face him if he defeats Jack.
Kovalev comes into the Mikhalkin fight with his reputation having been tarnished with his 2 defeats to Ward. Kovalev lost to Ward by a controversial 12 round decision in November 2016. Kovalev fought Ward in a rematch last year and was stopped in the 8th round last June. The defeat for Kovalev had a lot of boxing fans thinking that he was finished as a championship level fighter.
Luckily for Kovalev, Ward retired after their rematch and gave up his 3 world titles. Kovalev was able to win Ward’s vacated WBO title against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, who was signed up as confidence booster opponent initially for the ‘Krusher.’ The WBO sanctioned the Kovalev-Shabranskyy fight for their 175 lb. title, and it was the equivalent of Kovalev being given the belt. He didn’t have to fight a good opponent to win the WBO strap. In cleaning house, Kovalev left his former John David Jackson and is now being trained by
Many wondered if Kovalev, the fearsome “Krusher,” would ever be the same. He took some time off, got his head together, and parted ways with longtime trainer John David Jackson to work with Abror Tursunpulatov. Kovalev says he’s improved since he started training with the Russian trainer Tursunpulatov, but that’s impossible to tell as of yet. Kovalev has only faced Shabranskyy, and that’s a fighter that he could beat training himself. Mikhalkin is perhaps a step down from Shabranskyy in the talent and power department, which is a good thing for Kovalev. He can’t afford another loss. He needs to get as many wins as he can before his career goes downhill for good. Once Bivol gets his hands on the WBO title, it’s probably over with for Kovalev.
“I can say I’m back from my two losses,” Kovalev said via ESPN.co. “I’m much stronger mentally as a result of this. Life teaches me in these situations.”
Kovalev might be mentally over his losses to Ward, but he’s not officially back from those losses. It’s going to take a lot more than beating tune-up opponents like Shabranskyy and guys like Mikhalkin to prove that Kovalev is back. He’s going to need to beat a real fighter with talent. Those 2 fighters are guys that Kovalev would have beaten easily at the lowest point of his career. Kovalev needs to show that he can beat a fighter like Bivol, Artur Beterbiev, Badou Jack and Adonis Stevenson for him to show that he’s come back from his 2 losses to Ward.
”I am hearing how everyone is saying how Mikhalkin is going to be easy, but we’ll see. I know just one thing — he’s very motivated right now,” Kovalev said about Mikhalkin. ”He never fought for a real world title and right now he is very motivated.”
Obviously, Kovalev is trying this best to build up his opponent Mikhalkin with the boxing media. Kovalv knows what the fans have been saying about this fight, so he’s doing his best to try and paint it as a competitive match-up. Kovalev is wasting his time. The fans aren’t going to believe what Kovalev says about Mikhalkin. His resume shows that he’s not a great opponent. Mikhalkin has been taking easy fights for much of his 11-year pro career. He’s fought Doudou Ngumbu on 3 separate occasions. Why he had to fight Ngumbu 3 times is anyone’s guess. Mikhalkin beat him all 3 times. You would think that defeating him once would be good enough. Mikhalkin was beaten by Aleksy Kuziemsk in 2010. The loss showed how limited Mikhalkin is. Kuziemski has lost to Juergen Braehmer, Nathan Cleverly, Ngumbu, Dmitry Sukhotsky and Jean Pascal. Mikhalkin is not a good fighter, but the World Boxing Organization has him ranked at No.5. If not for that high ranking, he wouldn’t be a target for Kovalev to pad his record against on Saturday.