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.”


Nathan CleverlyNathan Cleverly stumbles against Sergey Kovalev during their WBO light-heavyweight title fight in Cardiff. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

• Welsh fighter Cleverly stopped in fourth round
• Sergey Kovalev impresses US television audience

Nathan Cleverly’s unbeaten record went up in smoke as impressive Russian Sergey Kovalev took his WBO light-heavyweight title off him with a destructive fourth-round stoppage in Cardiff.

The 26-year-old Welshman had been seeking unification fights in the US and was under pressure to impress an American audience, with Saturday’s fight at the Motorpoint Arena being televised across the Atlantic.

Kovalev tore up the script by flooring Cleverly twice in the third round and soon forcing a stoppage. Odds makers had struggled to split the pair before what promised to be the hardest of Cleverly’s six world title defences.

The Florida-based Kovalev, 30, went into the fight with a 21-0-1 record and already has a following in the US with many fancying him to snatch Cleverly’s world title in the Cefn Fforest man’s backyard.

Mathematics graduate Cleverly started with the knowledge that Kovalev had a taste for quick knockouts. Indeed, the eastern European challenger was looking to land big right hands from the first minute and won the opening round quite clearly.

Cleverly was busy but made few inroads, despite somehow opening a cut over the challenger’s right eye. Kovalev, meanwhile, was successfully deploying the jab followed by a driven right hand on a regular basis.

Cleverly landed a decent shot of his own towards the end of the second which was his only real moment of success up to that point. He was rocked badly by a left and went down moments later from a clubbing right. He rose to his feet but was unsteady and moments later he was down from another right to the head, made worse by Kovalev hitting him again as he sank to one knee.

He was out on his feet again and the referee Terry O’Connor was poised to stop it, only for the bell to save the Briton.

Kovalev went for it in the fourth and unleashed as many power shots as he could muster. A right and hooking left sent Cleverly wobbly again 29 seconds into the round and O’Connor this time decided enough was enough.

Cleverly’s record reads 26-1, with 12 knockouts while the fearsome Kovalev moves to 22-0-1, with 20 knockouts.

The new champion said: “I came here and nobody believed I beat their champion but everywhere else in the world they knew already how good I was.

“I knew he couldn’t take my power. The fact the fight was televised on HBO in the United States was very important for me.”

On the undercard, Liverpool’s Stephen Smith stopped Gary Buckland with a seething short right uppercut in the fifth to leave the Welsh champion out cold and win the British super-featherweight title.

The Swansea favourite Enzo Maccarinelli won the Commonwealth light-heavyweight belt from Ovill McKenzie with an uppercut of his own in the 11th round to inject new life into his career. PA



cleverly-kovalev (7)

Richard Maynard/Frank Warren Prom./By:  Scott Christ –

The weights were all good today in Cardiff, and Nathan Cleverly and Sergey Kovalev are ready to rumble.

Nathan Cleverly and Sergey Kovalev are set to go for tomorrow’s WBO light heavyweight title clash in Cardiff, Wales, which will be broadcast live on BoxNation and on tape delay in the United States by HBO.

Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO) weighed in at 174 pounds, with Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KO) at 173, both under the 175-pound limit. This will be Cleverly’s fifth defense of the title, which he won in full in 2011. It’s the first world title shot for Kovalev, a Russian fighter who is now based in the United States and promoted by Main Events.

BLH will have live coverage tomorrow afternoon starting at 2:00 pm EDT, with the full BoxNation-televised card part. In the chief support bout, Gary Buckland will defend the British super featherweight title against Stephen Smith, with the fighters weighing in at 128 and 130 pounds, respectively. Also on the card, Ovill McKenzie (174) will face Enzo Maccarinelli (174) in a rematch for the Commonwealth light heavyweight title.




By John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photo: Gary Purfield –

Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs), gets his first crack at a world title this Saturday when he meets Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs), for the WBO light heavyweight title in a 12-round fight at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales. The fight appears to be an interesting boxer vs. puncher matchup between two unbeaten pros, and will be televised by HBO in a delayed broadcast (9:45PM Eastern). The stakes in the fight are high, given that the winner could be propelled into some very big opportunities with the stars of the 175-pound division. We caught up with Kovalev and his trainer John David Jackson by phone for the Q&A session.

How are things going in camp now that you are in the UK?

John David Jackson: This is our first week (here), but on fight night it will be two weeks total. Camp was good. Sergey is a professional and he’s already in shape when he gets to camp. That always makes it easier for us to do what we have to do and prepare for the fight.

Sergey Kovalev: It looks like we’ve already adjusted to the time zone. I can’t wait until Saturday to get on with it.

In June you won the IBF eliminator and became the #1 contender for Bernard Hopkins’ IBF Title, but jumped instead to this fight with Cleverly for the WBO title. Why?

Sergey Kovalev: The whole team, myself, the promoter Main Events, and my manager Egis Klimas, wasn’t sure the fight with Hopkins would ever happen. Because he can take a fight, he cannot take a fight. He might just fight somebody else. So chasing Hopkins would probably be a mistake. Instead of accepting a fight with Cleverly, which was already 100% confirmed.

John David Jackson: The Hopkins fight was a bigger, but who’s to say that fight would even happen at all. So the chance came for this fight, and his management thought it was the right time to take it. We took it and here we are.

What do you know about Cleverly’s style?

John David Jackson: I watched as much tape on Cleverly as I could. I had watched him previously because there was a time when he and Bernard (Hopkins) were going to fight. [Note: Jackson was Hopkins’ trainer for a period.] So I watched him. I’m not underestimating him, but he just does not impress me. He’s not a bad fighter. He’s not super quick, he’s not super slick, he’s not super strong. He just does things almost fundamentally well. There’s a lot of flaws in his game. So basically we have to expose the weaknesses that he has and capitalize on those. And snuff out his strengths, which are a decent jab, stamina, he’s able to throw a lot of punches during the fight. That’s pretty much what I see from this kid.

There has been a lot of talk out of the Cleverly camp.

John David Jackson: If you listen to him and his father talk, they are going to knock Sergey out in the first eight rounds, but you can’t bring a handgun in against an army. And that’s generally what he has. His clip is half loaded. So he’s in trouble right away. He has to be a real good boxer to really frustrate and avoid Sergey. Can he box? Yes. Is he a great boxer? No. He’s a very good boxer. If you don’t have the power to get the other man’s respect, you’re in trouble. And if he tries to slug, that’s right down our alley. If he goes against the grain and tries to do what he doesn’t do really well, then he’s putting himself in the lion’s den and in the line of fire. Either way, we see a victory by knockout or by decision.

What concerns do you have about the fight?

John David Jackson: I’m not underestimating him. He’s champion for a reason. He won it and he earned it. So we definitely have to give him the respect outside the ring beforehand. But once that bell rings, all respect leaves.

Are you concerned about fighting in Cleverly’s home country?

Sergey Kovalev: Not at all. No concerns. Absolutely not.

John David Jackson: I doubt it will affect Sergey at all. I don’t think the fans are going to bother him. All the singing and chanting (by the fans) doesn’t matter because Sergey doesn’t understand English well. So what does he care what they sing about? I doubt that the crowd will be a factor for him. All he sees is the opponent across the ring.

Kovalev is a puncher and Cleverly is a boxer. How do you think the fight will play out?

Sergey Kovalev: I am a boxer as well. I can box. I’m going to try to give him the best fight possible, and if I see an opportunity to knock him down, I will knock him down.

Do you think you will have to chase him?

Sergey Kovalev: Yes, I think he will try to run.

So how will you deal with that?

Sergey Kovalev: That’s my key on how I’m going to win the fight. So I’m not willing to discuss that right now.

This is your first world title fight. Does it feel any different? Are you nervous?

Sergey Kovalev: Before every single bout, I still have sports nervousness. Today I don’t feel any different from any other fight.

If you win this fight and become champion, there will be many big fights in your future, Hopkins, Stevenson, etc. Is there anyone you are looking forward to fighting after Cleverly?

Sergey Kovalev: I’m not thinking about that. Right now I’m thinking about Cleverly and fighting on Saturday night. That’s all that’s on my mind. I’ll think about that after the fight.

But light heavyweight is a good division to be in, right?

Sergey Kovalev: In the first place, I feel as though I’ve brought the division up. But yes, there are a lot of good fighters and challengers in the division.

John David Jackson: He stacks up well (against the other light heavyweights). When you talk about Hopkins, you’re talking about an old fighter. Hopkins has been beating these guys, but these guys aren’t smart fighters as of late. The last kid he beat, Cloud, didn’t even show up for that fight. He didn’t cut the ring off. He just followed an old man around the ring, and Bernard did what he wanted to do. You can’t let Bernard do that to you. Stevenson is dangerous. I trained Stevenson for a while. He’s very dangerous, but he’s lacking in basic fundamentals and defense. And his chin is suspect. So that would be a big fight down the road if Stevenson can stay champion for a while. But right now, let the pot simmer. There are plenty of good fights out there for him, but let’s get past Saturday. Then the door will open wide for him, and his management can make the fights for him to make the big money he deserves to make.

After your last fight you said you wanted your next fight to be on HBO against one of the champions. How does it feel now that that is happening?

Sergey Kovalev: My wishes came true.

Does it feel like this fight for the championship is coming at the right time for you?

John David Jackson: The timing is right. It’s become harder and harder to find opponents for Sergey. So when the chance for a world title comes, why not take it? So this one came at the right time for him. He’s ready for it now and he wants it. So it all played out well.

Sergey Kovalev: I’ve been waiting for this kind of fight for a long time. I went through all that, and right now I’m already in a place to show my boxing skills and show what I can do best.



By Nick Parkinson, courtesy of The Daily Star –

NATHAN CLEVERLY sees victory on Saturday as the gateway to global fame and fortune – but admits he starts as the underdog.

The Welshman’s sixth WBO world ­light-heavyweight title defence is his most dangerous yet against unbeaten Russian Sergey Kovalev, who has knocked out 19 of his 22 opponents.

Some even make Kovalev, 30, the favourite but Cleverly has likened the fight to his former sparring partner Joe Calzaghe’s 2006 points win over American Jeff Lacy.

Beating Lacy catapulted Calzaghe into the big time and big money.

Unbeaten Cleverly, now 26, believes claiming US-based Kovalev’s scalp at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena will earn him worldwide respect.

And he believes it will increase his profile as he strives to set up a clash with a rival world champion.

He said: “Joe’s fight with Lacy and mine with Kovalev, they’re both very similar scenarios. Joe just said to me, ‘It was the same with me and Lacy – and look what happened then’.

“It’s a big challenge for me and one I’m taking very seriously.

“It’s the breakthrough fight for me in the US and will hopefully bring the big fights against the likes of Bernard Hopkins.

“A stoppage or a late stoppage would make a massive statement.

“I’m not surprised Kovalev is the favourite – naturally, a lot of these guys come over from America with a lot of hype.

“In a lot of my fights I’ve been massively expected to win, this one I’m expected to lose and get taken out, so that’s inspired me in training, kept me on my toes and working hard.”


Date: April 20, 2013

WBO Light Heavyweight Championship Title Bout

Location: Wembley Arena, Wembley, London, United Kingdom

Promoter:  Frank Warren

Referee:  Mark Nelson

Judges:  Denny Nelson (119-109), Zoltan Enyedi (120-108) and, Phil Edwards (120-108)

Supervisor:  Itsvan Kovacs

Results:   Nathan Cleverly retains his WBO Light-Heavyweight title by unanimous decision over Robin Krasniqi.


Nathan Cleverly produced his most disciplined performance on Saturday to retain his WBO world light-heavyweight title for the fifth time as he defeated mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi by winning every round bar one on the cards of the three judges.

Frank Warren Promotions’ Rule Britannia has been delayed five weeks but Cleverly (12st 6lbs 8oz) hadn’t over-trained, he was as sharp as ever as he romped home to a 120-108, 119-109, 120-108 points win to improve his record to 26-0, 12KO.

Krasniqi (12st 5lbs) was handed his first defeat in seven years, leaving his record to 39-3, 15KO. The challenger had spent all week attempting to rile Cleverly, giving him a skirt reading “Princess” at the press conference but Cleverly laughed off the insult and even wore the skirt to weigh in and the coolness was reflected in the ring.

A short right wobbled Krasniqi half way through the opener but he survived a follow up attack, it was a sign of things to come. It wouldn’t be the only moment that Cleverly hurt the challenger who was unbeaten in 38 fights prior to this weekend; a right slip-uppercut in round four, left hooks to the pit of Krasniqi’s body in the round six and a flurry at the end of round ten also made their mark on the Serbian born German.

Krasniqi refused to fold and sent a few of his own reminders, most notably in the middle rounds, but Cleverly stuck to his game plan and made relative easy work of an opponent many were tipping to cause the Welshman some trouble.

Krasniqi’s first mark was made in round three as a right hand landed flush but every time he enjoyed success, Cleverly raised his game to have the last and most telling say. Much had been made or Krasniqi’s uppercut that saw him rise through the WBO rankings via four straight knockout wins but it was absent on the whole as Cleverly rotated to his right to nullify Krasniqi’s greatest asset.

Throughout the bout Krasniqi was over-reliant on his right hand and it was something Cleverly had prepared for, opting to box at range and go to his right away from the shot. The 26-year-old Welshman was aided by a great jab that varied from a piston shooting straight down the pipe to a blinding flick from the hip. Whenever Krasniqi, also 26, caught up with Cleverly the Welshman would utilise his superior footwork to regain centre ring and start again.

Donned in the blue of Cardiff City who celebrated promotion to the Premiership earlier that day, Cleverly sustained a ruthlessly efficient output, producing on average 87 punches per round – the exact same rate he threw against Shawn Hawk in November.

It was a polished and mature performance from Cleverly who showed many of the attributes he’s been criticised for neglecting in the past and it demonstrated that he’s a level above mandatory challenges as he goes in search of a big fight.

With long term target and IBF champion Bernard Hopkins due to defend his title against former Clev victim Karo Murat in July, there are preliminary plans for Cleverly to feature on the undercard and against WBA champion Beibut Shumenov.


cleverly-krasniqi (12)

Nathan Cleverly was taken the distance by Robin Krasniqi but always looked a class apart as he retained his WBO light-heavyweight title at Wembley. A confident start by the 26-year-old Welshman suggested an early stoppage but Krasniqi rallied as Cleverly dropped his work-rate. The champion was caught by unnecessary shots in the mid-rounds but Krasniqi lacked the power to cause any damage. Two of the judges scored it 120-108 to Cleverly, with the other 119-109. The fifth title defence extended Cleverly’s unbeaten record to 26 fights, but the performance lacked dynamism against a durable yet limited opponent.