Photo by Bob Levey/Freeland –  Main Gym fighter out to end Houston’s title drought

Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) challenges Russian Sergey Kovalev (23-0, 21 KOs) for the WBO light heavyweight title on Saturday at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday. The fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, will be aired on HBO.

Kovalev will enter the bout a heavy favorite. Agnew, 27, has more fights on his dossier but Kovalev, 30, has fought higher caliber opponents. And as his knockout percentage suggests, Kovalev has a huge advantage in punching power.

“I don’t see myself as an underdog,” Agnew said. “He’s undefeated but so am I. I’m coming to this fight like I do each and every fight – looking to beat the man.”

Agnew said he was not be intimidated by Kovalev’s punching power despite his 91 percent knockout rate.

“I’ve fought guys with all kinds of power since the amateurs,” Agnew said. “It doesn’t bother me at all if you’re strong.”

A native of Chicago, Agnew relocated to Houston’s Northside to train at the Main Boxing Gym in 2009. He became a regular fixture on the Texas fight scene but rarely received much worldwide exposure.

Kovalev, on the other hand, quickly captured the spotlight on the world stage courtesy of his propensity to render opponents horizontal. He won the title via fourth-round TKO over Nathan Cleverly of Wales last year.

“I don’t feel no pressure and I’m taking it one day at a time and concentrating on this fight as just another fight,” Agnew said.

Standing six feet tall, both boxers are the mirror images of each other, but are as different as fire and ice style wise. An aggressive boxer-puncher, Kovalev fights at a torrid pace using a busy jab to set up power punches. Agnew, by contrast, patiently counter punches from a defensive shell and is equally adept at fighting from a southpaw or right-handed stance.

“I’m going to win by using my brain and outthinking him,” Agnew said. “The smarter fighter wins every time. I always find a way to win a fight.”

In preparation for Kovalev, trainer Bobby Benton enlisted Medzhid Bektemirov (13-0, 10 KOs), Quantis Graves (9-0-1, 4 KOs) and Larry Pryor (7-9, 3 KOs) as sparring partners.

“They’ve emulated (Kovalev’s) style like I wanted,” Benton said.

Kovalev’s vaunted power is overrated, Benton added, and Agnew, unlike Kovalev’s previous opponents, will be unfazed by it.

“Everyone can punch,” Benton said. “Cedric’s not afraid of this guy. Everybody he’s fought was scared to death before they stepped in the ring.”

However, Cornelius White, who has traded punches with both fighters, describes Kovalev’s power as “remarkable.” A former sparring partner and stable-mate of Agnew, White (21-3, 16 KOs) was stopped in three rounds by Kovalev in June.

Nevertheless, White said Agnew has the style and skill set to defeat Kovalev as long as Agnew utilizes them strategically and avoids the same mistakes he made against the hard-hitting Russian.

“He pretty much just has to be Cedric,” White said. “His defense is what’s going to save him.”

The longer the fight progresses, the better it will be for Agnew, White added, since Agnew has gone the 12-round distance twice before while Kovalev’s longest fight lasted eight rounds.

“The first four to five rounds, he needs to be defensive – just jab and move and not be a stationary target like I was,” White said.

A victory for Agnew would mark an end to a world title drought that has afflicted Houston since Juan Diaz lost his three lightweight belts in 2008. Junior middleweight Jermall Charlo (17-0, 13 KOs) was scheduled to fight for a world title earlier this month but the bout was cancelled after his opponent was arrested two days prior to fight night.

“When I win it’s going to mean everything to me,” Agnew said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’d like everybody in the world to know who I am.”

More Information

Title time

What: Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) vs. Sergey Kovalev (23-0, 21 KOs)

On the line: WBO light heavyweight title

Where: Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City

When: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 29



By Sam Geraci

On February 13, Main Events hosted a teleconference for its March 29 light heavyweight showdown in Atlantic City between WBO champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) and top-rated but relatively unknown Cedric “L.O.W.” Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs). The bout will be televised on HBO and is the first bout at the Boardwalk Hall for Main Events since Arturo Gatti took on Alfonso Gomez in 2007 in Gatti’s final bout. Here are the highlights from the teleconference:

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev

“I have only one big wish, and that is to win this next fight, and I have a main goal to win one more title this year.

“The public and the fans and everybody want this fight (Stevenson-Kovalev). Everybody pushes him, and this year will be this fight.”

“This fight (with Agnew) is dangerous for me too, and who will win we will see. I’m going to the ring to win.”

“All my focus is to win and then win my next title to get better and fight Stevenson.”

“It’s not my fault that my opponents all get knocked out.”

“In my division the best boxer is Stevenson, and I need to beat Stevenson. After this, I will be in first place in my division. I’m ready for any fight in my division.”

“I just want to fight Stevenson right now.”

“I love to spend time with my family and friends.”

Cedric “L.O.W.” Agnew

“I prepare (for Kovalev) the way I’ve been preparing. Training hard, taking things one day at a time, hard sparring and hard work with my trainer, but I take no fight lightly, and I don’t care who I’m fighting.”

“A fight with Sergey Kovalev is a great fight for us, and we wouldn’t have taken the fight if we didn’t think we could win the fight. With that being said, I don’t look at him as no terminator or nothing. He’s a human just like I am. He can be hurt just like anybody else can be hurt. Come March 29 we’ll see what’s gonna happen.”

“Well, to me it doesn’t matter how many fighters I went the distance with or how many I stopped. Everybody knows that styles make fights, and I believe, I mean I know I have the style to defeat Sergey Kovalev or anybody else they put in front of me.”

“Come March 29th, you’ll see what style that is.”

“Like I say, I’m gonna go out there and do what I’ve been doing for years. I don’t look at it as there being pressure from back home because my hometown is gonna stand behind me regardless. On fight night, I’m ready to take care of business.”

“I’m not focused on the fight they’re trying to make or the fight they’re thinking about. I’m focused on March 29th, and I’m not focused on people underestimating me. I’m training, staying positive and staying focused.”

“I don’t know how you guys are taking it. I’m not sounding overconfident. I’m just humble, and I know the roads I’ve had to take to get here and now that it’s here, I have to show the world all of my talent. I have to show the world who is Cedric Agnew.”

“In that fight with Yusaf Mack I just did what I needed to do to win the fight.”

“I don’t see nothing spectacular coming from this guy. My personal opinion I just think he’s ordinary.”

Kathy Duva, Promoter of Main Events

“The bigger names take time to make, and that fight (Stevenson) will get made, but our goal is for Sergey to stay active and Sergey’s goal is to stay active. This is the fight we found. This young man is willing to step up and test his skills, and that’s what this sport is all about. I remember people talking a long, long time ago when Mike Tyson was fighting Buster Douglass when we were trying to make the Tyson-Holyfield fight and you know what happened then, so I never ever discount anyone’s chances of winning a fight and nobody ever should.”

“From what we know, Cedric is a boxer and he is undefeated so he doesn’t know what it feels like to lose.”

“I think no matter what, we’ll see a sensational performance from Sergey Kovalev. Like I said, nobody gave that guy against Mike Tyson much of a chance. There’s no such thing as a sure thing. It’s easy for someone to lose focus when there’s talk of other big fights, and there’s millions of examples of people who have lost focus and walked into something that they didn’t expect. I think Sergey is a great fighter and think he can beat everybody in the world, but I’ve been at this long enough to know that you have to take everybody seriously.”

“As a promoter, I can’t come out and say that I think the outcome is preordained because I don’t think any outcome is.”

“The real challenge aside from Cedric Agnew is not to get distracted by fights that are out there of potentially happening. I mean there’s been more questions on this phone call about Adonis Stevenson than there have been about Cedric Agnew.”

“A fight between Sergey and Andre Ward is certainly something that is gonna happen someday, but it’s not going to happen at 168.”

“When you start out (looking for opponents), you have to look at the top fifteen. You have to see who’s available and then discuss with HBO. Fonfara is someone that HBO would approve but he moved on. Cedric was also on that very short list of people that HBO asked us to approach first, and once we knew that Fonfara wasn’t going to work out, we approached Malcom.”

“He’s American; he’s undefeated; the fight’s in the United States and Sergey’s last two opponents have not been American so it made all the sense in the world.”

Malcom Garrett, Promoter of Garrett Promotions

“Number one, we’re glad that a lot of people are gonna underestimate Cedric Agnew. Cedric Agnew is a very skilled fighter. This is a fight that Agnew is chomping at the bit for. He thinks he’s ready for this fight. We think he’s ready for this fight. He was a good amateur, but had some hand problems in the amateurs, so he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do; however, he’s been flying a bit under the radar, which may not always be the worst thing. He plans on upsetting, and I believe we got a fight here, gentlemen.”

“Cedric would rather have fought Kovalev (than the IBF eliminator). Style-wise we like Kovalev’s style for Cedric.”

“I know everybody wants to see Kovalev and Stevenson. I’d like to see the fight my self. We’d all sit down and watch it, and I’m sure HBO will buy it later this year; however, they’re just going to have to do it without the WBO title.”

Jolene Mizzone, Main Events Matchmaker

“Sergey Kovalev is must see television, and someone you have to watch.”

“The biggest point that everybody has to realize is that Cedric Agnew wants to fight Kovalev. This is a fight that they’ve been asking for. There’s not many guys out there from doing the matchmaking that want to fight Kovalev. ”

John David Jackson, Kovalev’s Trainer

“Sergey’s become an all-around fighter. He’s going to the body a lot more. He’s placing his punches a lot better, and he’s not rushing his shots like he once did.”

“He (Sergey) has boxing skills, but we haven’t seen those because most guys don’t go past four rounds, so maybe in the future we’ll get a chance to see him display his boxing abilities.”

“He’s not just one-dimensional, and that’s what a lot of fighters don’t realize. They hear he’s a “Krusher” or “Terminator” and they think he’s just one-dimensional. Sergey has a lot of tools to work with. I’m hoping in this fight here that maybe Cedric will make Sergey show people what he can do and Sergey can showcase his talents.”

“It’s an intriguing fight, and we’re not taking this kid lightly. Sergey takes no opponent lightly. When we’re in the gym training, every fighter is the most important person on the planet at that moment.”

“I’m in the same boat you’re in, but we’ll get films on him in the next week or so and then we’ll dissect him and see what he is.”

“Once he became champion, he became the hunted. He’s no longer the hunter. This kid stepped up, so that means he’s hungry.”

“Our sole focus is Cedric Agnew.”

Bobby Benton, Agnew’s Trainer

Cedric’s been fighting since he was eight, and he’s got a bunch of amateur fights and knows how to fight. We’ve been begging for exposure and now we’re getting it. He’s gonna be ready; he always is.”

“Since he’s been down here in the last four years, he’s maybe taken ten days out of the gym. He’s a gym rat, and he’s ready.”