Kovalev: If Stevenson’s A Real Fighter, He’ll Fight Me


By Keith Idec

Sergey Kovalev wants to fight Adonis Stevenson next, but the unbeaten Russian realizes Stevenson doesn’t share his desire to make a unification fight between the hard-hitting light heavyweight champions.

If Canada’s Stevenson changes his mind, Kovalev wouldn’t waste any time signing a contract.

“We can fight, but it’s up to him,” Kovalev told BoxingScene.com. “That question has to be posed to Stevenson, not to me. He probably doesn’t want to fight me, but if we fought it would be a great fight.”

HBO Sports executives showcased Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) and Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) in separate bouts Nov. 30 in Quebec City to build momentum toward an eventual Kovalev-Stevenson showdown. Both boxers scored impressive knockouts that night, but Stevenson scoffed at the suggestion of a looming Kovalev clash.

Before the powerful southpaw stopped England’s Tony Bellew (20-2-1, 12 KOs) in the sixth round and Kovalev knocked out Ukraine’s Ismayll Sillakh (21-2, 17 KOs) in the second round last month, Stevenson told BoxingScene.com that Kovalev needs to beat better boxers before he’d consider Kovalev a worthy adversary. The Haitian-born Stevenson noted that he is a much bigger draw than Kovalev as well.

Kovalev, who dismissed Stevenson’s criticism of his resume, considers Stevenson’s supposed disinterest as a negotiating ploy.

“He just wants to get more money,” Kovalev said. “But if he’s a real fighter, he’ll fight me. I’m not going to say, ‘Give me more money, more money, more money.’ I want good money, too, but I’m ready to fight him right now.”

Even if Stevenson’s interest intensifies, the 30-year-old Kovalev won’t wait around for the WBC light heavyweight champion. His handlers plan to schedule at least four fights for Kovalev in 2014 and want the WBO 175-pound champion’s first fight of the year to take place as soon as possible.

“We’re not going to chase Stevenson,” said Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager. “Other opportunities are going to come up for us to fight other guys, just like what happened with Bernard Hopkins and [Nathan] Cleverly. We had a mandatory [against Hopkins], but Hopkins was going back and forth, trying to put unification fights together, and he never answered us.

“Then the opportunity came up to fight Cleverly and we fought Cleverly. We didn’t care. This is the same thing with Stevenson. If he doesn’t want to fight, we’re not going to wait. If another opportunity comes up for us to fight, we’re not going to wait.”