Photos: Emily Harney –

by David P. Greisman

Sergey Kovalev’s fight with Cedric Agnew was originally intended to be a keep-busy bout, showcasing him ahead of a proposed showdown with light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.

Kovalev might not get the Stevenson bout, but the 175-pound titleholder got his showcase victory, putting Agnew down three times en route to a seventh-round knockout.

It was only the third time in Kovalev’s career that he had been extended past six rounds. And that was in large part because Agnew focused on defense, keeping a high guard to try to block as many of Kovalev’s punches as possible and using movement to attempt to stay away from the rest. Agnew did jump forward on occasion with a few punches in combination, which Kovalev took well.

Kovalev adjusted to Agnew’s high guard by taking the steam off of some of his shots,  jabbing between the guard, looping hooks around it, and dedicating more of his attack to Agnew’s body — an investment that would pay off later.

Toward the end of the second round, Kovalev threw a four-punch combination that concluded with a right hand and a left hook that put Agnew on the canvas. The bell rang and Agnew rose, getting an extra minute to recover.

Agnew was able to draw blood from Kovalev in the fourth round, when Kovalev threw a right hand and missed with a left hook, and the ducking Agnew rose up. Their heads clashed, bringing crimson from above Kovalev’s right eye. The referee, Samuel Viruet, wrongly ruled that the cut had been caused by a punch.

Through four, CompuBox had Kovalev landing 60 shots, half of which were to Agnew’s body. Agnew had been credited with landing just 20 at that point.

Kovalev’s cut man went to work, and the fighter didn’t bleed at all in the fifth.

The domination continued in the sixth. It started with a jab to the body, a right hand up and then a left to the head, and Agnew appeared to sit on the ropes. Kovalev was credited with landing 29 punches in that round to Agnew’s six, though another cut opened a bit below Kovalev’s left eye, which he blamed on Agnew’s shoulder.

Agnew had little left. In the opening minute of the seventh round, Kovalev landed a left to Agnew’s body, and Agnew went down to a knee and remained there while the referee counted him out.

The end came 58 seconds into the round. All three judges had Kovalev shutting Agnew out, 60-52, at that point.

CompuBox had Kovalev landing just two fewer punches than Agnew threw on the entire night. Kovalev was 107 of 402, a 27 percent connect rate, an average of 17 of 65 per round. Agnew was 31 of 109, a 28 percent connect rate, an average of 5 of 18 per round.

But that was to be expected. Kovalev was expected to win against a skilled but largely unknown opponent. His team and HBO had been working to make a deal for Kovalev to face Stevenson — who faces Andrzej Fonfara in May — this coming September. They believed a deal had been made, but Stevenson signed with Al Haymon in February, and Stevenson’s team recently accepted more money for the Fonfara bout to land on Showtime instead.

“I don’t want to speak on Adonis Stevenson. Adonis Stevenson is a piece of shit,” Kovalev said afterward. “Excuse my English.”

Kovalev now has a multi-fight deal with HBO. It remains to be seen who his next opponent will be, given that the other two top light heavyweights, Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov (who fight each other in April), work with Golden Boy Promotions and are featured on Showtime. Many believe that Stevenson will face the winner of Hopkins-Shumenov.

Kovalev won the World Boxing Organization’s world title last August with a fourth-round stoppage of Nathan Cleverly, then defended the belt in November with a second-round knockout of Ismayl Sillakh. He has scored knockouts or technical knockouts in all but two of his victories, yet that record hasn’t been built against the highest level of competition. A Stevenson would have fixed that.

The 30-year-old from Chelyabinsky, Russia (and now fighting out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) improves to 24-0-1 with 21 KOs, with the draw coming as a technical draw in 2011.

Agnew, a 27-year-old from Chicago, suffered his first defeat and is now 26-1 (13 KOs).



Date:  Saturday, March 29, 2014

WBO Light Heavyweight Championship Title Bout

Location:  Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City

Promoter:  Main Events

Supervisor: Jose R. IzquierdoII

Referee:Samuel Viruet

Judges:Julie Lederman, John Stewart, Alan Rubensterin

Result:Sergey Kovalev KO’ed Cedric Agnew in the seven round on Mar. 29, 2014 in The Ballroom, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.



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 Thomas Gerbasi –

For Cedric Agnew, the great thing about conventional wisdom is that it never won a fight. So while that aforementioned wisdom says that the unbeaten – but unknown and untested – Chicago native is going to end up on WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev’s highlight reel this Saturday in Atlantic City, Agnew brings a quiet confidence into the biggest fight of his life, along with a simple solution to hearing daily about the growing legend of the “Krusher.”

“I just don’t pay attention to it,” he said quietly, the usual mode of conversation from the 27-year-old. That’s probably the best way to be for a fight like this. Stay below the radar, be stealthy, and strike when it’s time to do so. And no one has done it better than Agnew.

A former amateur star, Agnew turned pro in 2007, slowly and steadily building his record and reputation like countless other hungry fighters. There were recognizable names sprinkled throughout – Rubin Williams, Daniel Judah, and Otis Griffin – but just as many no hopers with losing records, leaving a question mark as to whether Agnew’s impressive slate was a reflection of his talent or his competition.

So while others got the big fights and big opportunities, Agnew would lay in wait, dealing with the boxing business in the best way he knew how – quietly.

“At times, it gets very irritating, but I have to stay true to myself and stay true to my craft, and always remind myself that it’s part of the game,” he said. “Be patient and something will happen. You have to be patient in this game because you’re not always going to get everything your way. Sometimes things are not going to turn out in your favor, so you just gotta hope that things work themselves out.”

In April of 2013, they finally did, with Agnew landing a USBA title fight against Yusaf Mack. Dominant throughout the 12-rounder, Agnew put on a clinic against Mack, winning when he had to, and putting himself in position to get a title shot. Who was it going to be against? Agnew didn’t care.

“Really, it was any of the guys holding titles, whether it was him (Kovalev), (Bernard) Hopkins, (Beibut) Shumenov, or (Adonis) Stevenson – any one of them.”

It’s through this process that you realized just who Agnew was. He wasn’t a manufactured contender, a cardboard character built up only to be knocked down. Instead, he was one of those fighters who could have fallen through the cracks because he was a quiet kid who preferred to let his performances speak for themselves, and not a well-connected prospect who made a lot of noise in and out of the ring.

“It’s always difficult explaining the reality of this game to someone who doesn’t know the inside of it and who’s only on the outside looking in,” he said. “They try to understand and you try to make them understand, but they’re not going to because they’re used to hearing the media and hearing the public, so they think they know what’s going on. There’s a whole lot more going on than just two people standing in front of each other and fighting.”

You do always hope that the right guys eventually get the right opportunities though, especially when boxing isn’t a lark, but a lifelong commitment like it has been for Agnew.

“I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old, and I always wanted to be world champ,” he said. “I always had my eye on the prize.”

That prize is a few days away, something that’s either a daunting prospect or an exciting one. Agnew sees it as the latter, though don’t expect any backflips should he upset Kovalev.

“The one thing you most likely will see will be me staying humble, celebrating with my team, and thanking the man above for rewarding me with such a great gift,” said Agnew, who does know that a win will change his life considerably, whether he likes it or not.

“Realistically, you can’t prepare yourself for it because you don’t know what is actually going to happen. But it’s something that I’ll probably have to accept because it comes with the territory.”

Let’s just say dealing with more notoriety and media attention would be a good problem to have, but to get to that point, he has to address the power and growing aura of the Russian knockout artist, who has that kind of mean in the ring that has made him a cult hero among hardcore fight fans. And it won’t be easy. To win, Agnew has to use every ounce of his speed, savvy, and smarts, and without the stopping power of his foe, he’ll have to be on point for 12 rounds.

But the beauty of a fight is that anything can happen, and when you’ve had gloves on for 19 of your 27 years like Agnew has, nothing is impossible.

“He’s a fighter,” said the challenger of Kovalev. “He’s a strong guy, but I’ve been in there with strong guys. He’s not flashy or real fast or tricky – he’s just a fighter.”

It takes one to know one.




Sergey Kovalev will headline an HBO bill for the first time on March 29, but the extra attention isn’t getting to the WBO light heavyweight titleholder.
Sergey Kovalev has fought twice on HBO, once via tape delay and once live, but he’s never headlined on the network or on any network larger than NBC Sports. Until now, that is. Kovalev will be facing Cedric Agnew in the HBO main event on March 29 in Atlantic City, and though he’s got that and a lot of media hype around a potential fight against Adonis Stevenson swirling around his head, his team says he’s staying the course and operating as usual.

“Once a fighter becomes more comfortable with his status as a world champion, some can be tempted to lose focus and get distracted by all the attention,” promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events said. “He can’t always walk down the street without being recognized anymore, but luckily Sergey has managed to stay focused on Agnew and winning on March 29th.”

Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO) smashed both Nathan Cleverly and Ismayl Sillakh in prior HBO appearances, whetting the boxing world’s appetite for a clash with Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO), another powerful, elite light heavyweight at the moment, and the true champion of the division, as well as the WBC titleholder.

But that’s not next, and with the way the media hype between the two has gone, with back-and-forth trash talk, it may not be happening any time soon.

Trainer John David Jackson says that Kovalev isn’t having trouble staying focused. “Sergey is on course,” Jackson said. “He is a really hard worker. He is definitely training hard for this fight. He is doing what he is supposed to do.”

With HBO cameras on hand for training camp, Jackson says Kovalev hasn’t had any negative reaction to the added attention as he prepares for the fight. “He probably loves it. They stay out of our way so it is just like any other training camp.”

Kovalev himself said, “I am already used to them being there. They don’t bother me at all.”

Agnew (26-0, 13 KO) is a largely unknown fighter, with no marquee fights to his credit. The 27-year-old from Chicago last fought in April 2013, beating Yusaf Mack at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, which having been there myself, I can tell you isn’t exactly the mecca of boxing.

“The key to this fight for Sergey is to be more strategic offensively,” Jackson said. “There isn’t much film on Agnew but we are approaching this fight like we do all the others. Sergey will do his thing.”

Kovalev, as usual, kept it short. “I feel good. Everything is normal. I feel no pressure and everything is going by the book.”



By Yuri Tarantin –

WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21KOs) is full focused on his upcoming assignment, a March 29th defense against Cedric Agnew. If Kovalev is successful, he will move another step forward to a unification with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20KOs), who likely returns on May 24th against Andrzej Fonfara.

Stevenson’s team, now with powerful adviser Al Haymon, is still negotiating a multi-fight deal with HBO. The network would like to have both fighters meet each other in the month of September.

“Right now I have my match against Cedric Agnew, and that’s the only thing I’m focusing on. And Stevenson, I can only say that if he refuses to fight with me [after I beat Agnew], then he is a coward and not a world champion,” Kovalev said.



By Keith Idec –

We won’t know for sure until March 29 if Cedric Agnew even belongs in the same ring with Sergey Kovalev.

It is clear, however, that the undefeated contender from Chicago isn’t short on confidence. He doesn’t think all the hype surrounding the ruthless Russian knockout artist is justified, either.

“I think he’s a pretty good, decent fighter,” Agnew said regarding the 12-round fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title. “But I don’t see nothing spectacular coming from this guy. To me, my personal opinion, I just think he’s ordinary.”

The 30-year-old Kovalev’s knockout percentage is among the highest in boxing and he has become must-see TV over the past year. HBO will televise his fight against Agnew from Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City, despite that, on paper, it appears to be a mismatch.

For Agnew, 27, challenging Kovalev is the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance the former Chicago Golden Gloves champion couldn’t pass up. The most noteworthy name on Agnew’s record is former light heavyweight contender Yusaf Mack (31-7-2, 17 KOs), whom Agnew defeated by unanimous decision April 12 in New Buffalo, Mich. Agnew claims, though, that his lack of experience against championship-caliber opponents isn’t a concern.

“With Sergey Kovalev, it’s a great fight for us,” said Agnew, who stand 6-foot and fights right-handed. “We wouldn’t have took the fight if we didn’t think we could win the fight. With that being said, I don’t look at him like no terminator or anything. He’s a human, just like I am. He can be hurt, just like anyone else can be hurt. And come March 29, it will happen.”

While Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) almost always wins by knockout, Agnew has knocked out just 13 of his 26 opponents during a seven-year pro career.

“It doesn’t matter how many fighters I went the distance with or how many fighters I stopped,” Agnew said. “Everybody knows styles make fights and I know I have the style to beat Kovalev and anybody else you put in front of me.”

When a reporter suggested to Agnew on the aforementioned conference call that it was Agnew, not Kovalev, that sounded overconfident, Agnew clarified his approach.

“I don’t know how you guys are taking it,” said Agnew, who’s ranked No. 3 by the IBF and No. 15 by the WBO. “I’m not sounding overconfident. I’m humble and I know the road I had to take to get here. And now that I’m here, I have to show the world all my talent. I have to show the world who is Cedric Agnew.

“Like everybody said, I’m under the radar. Not many people know too much about me. But come March 29, I feel like I have to make a statement. I have to. I’m not trying to sound overconfident or anything. I’m just saying what I have to do.”




By Keith Idec –

Adonis Stevenson’s resistance thus far hasn’t discouraged Sergey Kovalev from thinking they’ll fight sometime later this year.

Russia’s Kovalev said on a conference call Thursday to promote his March 29 fight against American Cedric Agnew that he believes public pressure eventually will lead to a meeting between the light heavyweight champions.

“He will go to the fight because the public, fans and everybody wants this fight,” Kovalev said. “Everybody will push him if he doesn’t want this fight. In this year, we will fight, I’m sure.”

Among the “everybody” to which Kovalev referred are HBO Sports executives that aren’t likely to continue cutting sizeable checks for broadcast rights to Stevenson’s fights if he doesn’t agree to face Kovalev in what would be one of the most appealing clashes the network could televise this year. They’ll do so at least once more, though, as the Haitian-born, Quebec-bred Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) appears headed toward a May 24 defense of his WBC title against Chicago’s Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs, 1 NC) at Bell Centre in Montreal.

The 30-year-old Kovalev, meanwhile, wants to stay busy and defend his WBO light heavyweight title while waiting for a showdown with Stevenson.

Jolene Mizzone, matchmaker for Main Events (Kovalev’s promoter), said on the conference call Thursday that the unknown Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) was the only available, ranked light heavyweight willing to face Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) for the money offered to participate in this HBO “Boxing After Dark” main event at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City. Chicago’s Agnew, 27, is ranked No. 3 by the IBF and No. 15 by the WBO.

Kathy Duva, Main Events’ chief executive officer, added that she shares Kovalev’s confidence regarding an eventual Stevenson showdown.

“As far as Stevenson [goes], I’m very confident we’re going to get that fight made,” Duva said. “Now we have to think about the one that’s in front of us.”

The Kovalev-Agnew fight will mark Kovalev’s third HBO appearance since Aug. 17. Stevenson’s fight against Fonfara will represent his fourth HBO bout in less than a year, a run that began with the strong southpaw’s stunning first-round knockout of former champion Chad Dawson (31-3, 17 KOs, 2 NC) on June 8 in Montreal.

Kovalev and Stevenson appear to be on a collision course, but Kovalev and his handlers are trying to remain patient.

“The bigger name fights take time to make,” Duva said. “That fight will get made. But our goal is for Sergey to stay active and Sergey’s goal is to stay active.”



By Keith Idec

Promoter Main Events announced Tuesday that Sergey Kovalev will defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Cedric Agnew on March 29 in Atlantic City.

The scheduled 12-round bout between the Russian knockout artist and Chicago’s Agnew will be broadcast by HBO from Boardwalk Hall. The 30-year-old Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) had hoped after tearing through Ukraine’s Ismayl Sillah (21-2, 17 KOs) on Nov. 30 in Quebec City, Canada, that he could land a unification fight against Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs), the WBC light heavyweight champion.

Stevenson stopped England’s Tony Bellew (20-2-1, 12 KOs) in the seventh round of the HBO main event that followed Kovalev’s second-round knockout of Sillah on Nov. 30. Stevenson, 36, has since decided to defend his title against Chicago’s Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs, 1 NC) on May 24 at Bell Centre in Montreal.

Stevenson’s decision left Main Events executives to seek a less appealing opponent good enough for HBO Sports executives to approve.

The 27-year-old Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) defeated former light heavyweight contender Yusaf Mack (31-7-2, 17 KOs) by unanimous decision to win the USBA 175-pound crown in his last fight, April 12 in New Buffalo, Mich.

Mostly, however, Agnew has a faced a moderate level of opposition since making his pro debut seven years ago and figures to be a huge underdog in what should amount to a showcase fight for the hard-hitting Kovalev. Agnew is ranked No. 15 by the WBO, but is rated No. 3 by the IBF.



By Bill “Two Scoops” Emes –

Promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events, who handles WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21KOs), is confident a deal will get reached for an HBO televised unification with WBC kingpin Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20KOs). Fans have been clamoring for the fight with HBO doing their part by showcasing the two fighters on several dates last year. The fight is going to happen this year, says Duva. As both boxers are going to fight in the first half of 2014, their inevitable showdown is probably going to happen around the fall.

“We have actually been negotiating very seriously in the last days, hours even. The fight is going to get made…..just not next. The negotiations are ongoing with the people from Montreal and HBO. We are talking. I’ve been involved in a lot of big deals in my life. I can tell when something is going to work and not going to work, and it’s going to work,” Duva told BoxingScene.com.

Kovalev’s return is being targeted for March 29th in Atlantic City. One possible opponent being discussed is undefeated Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13KOs). Stevenson appears set for May 24th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, against Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15KOs) of Poland.