The Krusher Returns: Kovalev Set for Riyadh Showdown on Fury-Usyk Undercard

By Stevie Ocallaghan - 01/09/2024 - Comments

‘The Krusher’ Sergey Kovalev will be coming off a nearly two-year layoff to face unbeaten Robin Safar on February 17th on the Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

ESPN reports that the 40-year-old former IBF, WBA & WBO light heavyweight champion Kovalev will face the 31-year-old Swede boxer Safar (16-0, 12 KOs) in a cruiserweight bout.

Safar has been fighting little-known opposition his entire seven-year professional career, so it’s difficult to know how he’ll respond against Kovalev. Well, at least Kovalev isn’t being thrown in with former IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia. That wouldn’t be pretty.

Kovalev’s Comeback or Cash Grab?

There’s no word on whether the Kovalev vs. Safar will be in the co-feature spot on the Fury-Usyk card, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock.

Whether this is a comeback by Kovalev remains to be seen. It’s possible that the Saudis offered Sergey a nice payday to return to the ring, and he may resume his inactivity or retirement, whatever it is.

The Saudis have a way of doing unconventional bouts that seem circus-like, such as Fury against Francis Ngannou and now Anthony Joshua-Ngannou. Joshua vs. Otto Wallin was a strange one as well. Wallin didn’t belong in the ring with a fighter like Joshua, not at this point in his career.  That fight wasn’t even sporting, but it probably was never meant to be. AJ matched weakly to keep him from losing again.

It’s unknown whether Kovalev has spent the fortune that he made from fights against Canelo Alvarez, Bernard Hopkins, and Andre Ward, among others.

A Blast from the Past

Kovalev (34-5-1, 29 KOs) has been selected to fight on the card for some reason, perhaps to attract interest from older boxing fans who remember him during his heyday eight years ago.

The Russian fighter Kovalev last fought in May 2022, defeating 38-year-old Tervel Pulev, the brother of Kubrat Pulev, by a lopsided ten round unanimous decision.

Kovalev’s best career wins:

  • Bernard Hopkins
  • Nathan Cleverly
  • Jean Pascal
  • Anthony Yarde
  • Isaac Chilemba
  • Eleider Alvarez

Some boxing fans believe Kovalev was robbed in his first fight against Andre Ward in 2017, a fight in which he appeared to defeat the American but found himself on the receiving end of a controversial decision.

The rematch between them in 2018 had a very, very strange ending, with Ward hitting Kovalev with what appeared to be three consecutive low blows, and the referee Tony Weeks jumped in and stopped it, giving Andre an eighth-round knockout.

That stoppage by Weeks is arguably even worse than his strange fight-ending stoppages for last Saturday’s Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. Fredrick Lawson and last year’s Rolando ‘Rolly’ Romero vs. Ismael Barroso.

Fans wondered what was happening, as they felt that Kovalev should have been given a timeout to recover from the low blows and that Ward needed to be penalized. Instead, the referee Weeks gave Ward a knockout win.

You have to feel sorry for Kovalev with how his two fights with Ward turned out because, with the right judges and a quality referee, he might have won both.

Kovalev stopped fighting for several years after being knocked out in the 11th round by Canelo Alvarez in 2019. That was a fight in which Kovalev fought like he was sparring, and some fans felt that he was taking it easy on Canelo out of gratitude for being given the payday.

For people who had seen Kovalev fight many times, it just looked like he was sparring with Canelo. Hopefully, Kovalev doesn’t fight like that next month on the Riyadh card because the Saudis and the fans won’t get their money’s worth.

YouTube video