By David Robinett and Miguel Maravilla at ringside
Photos: Emily Harney –

In a terrific fight, former super middleweight champion Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) came back from a second round knockdown to edge unified world champion Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) by scores 114-113 on all three scorecards to capture the Russian’s WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight belts on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Ward, (31-0, 15 KOs) was in all kinds of trouble early, wobbled by a hard Kovalev jab in round one, and sent down by a quick right hook in round two. Kovalev’s short right hand seemed to hurt Ward every time it landed. Ward held often in the early rounds, trying to blunt Kovalev’s power and reach advantages and buy some time to recover. By round five though, Kovalev drifted away from using his right hand and Ward began to outland the Russian as the rounds progressed. Ward rocked Kovalev with a straight left hand in round seven and outboxed Kovalev with confidence in most of the later rounds. The two fighters both displayed their quality in the championship rounds, each landing big punches but Ward was just a little faster and landed with a little more authority to shade the fight on the final scorecards. Ultimately, a defining win for Ward, Kovalev certainly did not diminish his stock in defeat, and a win for boxing that its latest big fight delivered on the hype.

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By:  Martin Hines –

Russia’s Sergey Kovalev is one of the most powerful boxers in the world, and the 26-0-1 superstar defends his WBA Super, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles on Saturday night against Canada’s 29-2-1 Jean Pascal.

Kovalev last fought back in November as he dismantled Bernard Hopkins over 12 rounds, and despite knocking Hopkins down in round one, this was Kovalev’s first decision victory since 2010 and his performance over the longer distance was very impressive.

32-year-old Jean Pascal built his career at Super middleweight, before moving up to Light heavyweight in impressive fashion. Across a ten year career he has lost just twice, to Carl Froch in 2008 and Bernard Hopkins in 2011, while he is undefeated in his last four fights.

The bookmakers see Kovalev as a wide favourite at 2/11 with Pascal available at 5/1. Although the Russian is incredibly powerful, he was dropped by the unheralded Blake Caparello last year, though those hoping to wage money on a Pascal stoppage at 10/1 should perhaps hold off, as Pascal has only finished one opponent since 2009.

A longstanding issue with Pascal has been his stamina, which against a fighter of Kovalev’s marauding ability could be a recipe for disaster.

Pascal will need to start fast to prevent the Russian from establishing a rhythm, but by doing that he will expend energy at a far quicker rate.

The Canadian does have home advantage in Montreal, but Kovalev proved in his victory over Nathan Cleverly in Wales that a rabid away fanbase does not bother him in the slightest.

This will be an entertaining clash for as long as it lasts for, and is a genuine world class title match.

Chief support on the undercard is a Heavyweight clash between 28-6 former Cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham and Vyacheslav Glazkov.

Since losing to Tyson Fury in April 2013, Cunningham has picked up three successive wins over respectable opposition, while Ukrainian Glazkov is undefeated across his 20 fight career.

Elsewhere, a Light heavyweight clash between 17-0 Vasily Lepikhin and Isaac Chilemba will be a tactical affair and could set up a potential match with the winner of Kovalev and Pascal.

Berto vs Lopez, Saturday night 2.00am, BoxNation

Following the debut Premier Boxing Champions show last week which drew excellent ratings in the US, Al Haymon’s second event features two welterweights with much to prove.

29-3 Andre Berto has lost three of his last five fights, and the former WBC champion is in danger of wasting his excellent talent.

His opponent, the 33-6 Josesito Lopez has won his last three matches, but has failed to reach the heights many expected after he defeated Mike Dallas Jr and Victor Ortiz a couple of years ago.

With the need for exciting fights to entertain TV bosses, and the slightly weak chins of both fighters, expect a stoppage in the middle rounds.

Elsewhere on the card in California, Shawn Porter returns for the first time since losing his world title to Kell Brook against late replacement Erick Bone, while Heavyweights Chris Arreola and Gerald Washington compete in separate matches, where a win for both could set up a future match between the two.

There are seven British cards on Saturday night, including an event from Goodwin Promotions which airs on Matchroom’s Fight Pass platform and features Lee Markham vs Jahmaine Smyle for the English super middleweight title, Larry Ekundayo vs Dale Evans in a British welterweight eliminator, plus outings for the likes of Johnny Garton, Leon McKenzie and Ashley Sexton.



Sergey Kovalev (R) punches then-IBF and WBA light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins on Nov. 8, 2014. Hopkins lost by a shutout decision. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

This Saturday, unified light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev will face former titlist Jean Pascal in Pascal’s adopted hometown of Montreal.

The Kovalev-Pascal contest pits the heavy-handed offensive force of nature from Russia against the more athletically gifted Pascal, who also possesses a sturdy set of whiskers, though has shown a tendency to fade later in fights. 

Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 knockouts) sprang to prominence when he travelled to the U.K. and ripped the WBO 175-pound title from the grasp of Nathan Cleverly in the summer of 2013. He followed that with three consecutive knockouts to set up his unification with Bernard Hopkins last fall. Kovalev showed once again that fighting on the road isn’t a problem and neither is going the full 12 rounds, impressively using his greater strength and underrated skills to win a shutout decision against the Philadelphia legend. 

Former WBC champion Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) enters the bout on the back of a disappointing second-round no-contest against Roberto Bolonti, in which the Argentine seemed happy to stay on the canvas after being hit while the referee tried to break a clinch. Previously, Pascal had beatenformer IBF 168-pound champion Lucian Bute, ending another spell of inactivity in a career plagued by them over the past few years. In Montreal, Pascal is something of a rock star and will be cheered on by a boisterous crowd. Can he keep his emotions in check and perform to the best of his capabilities, which at times have fluctuated?

Super middleweight titleholder Andre Ward expects a close fight and is torn on who wins.

“I think it’s going to be a very competitive fight,” Ward told RingTV.com. “It’s a great opportunity for Pascal, and Kovalev has a lot of momentum coming off of the Hopkins victory so it should be a great fight.

RingTV.com asked 20 boxing insiders for their picks: 

Jean Pascal (L) of Canada punches BernarAFP/Getty Images

Nathan Cleverly, former WBO light heavyweight titlist 

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: It’s a good fight, a good opponent for Kovalev. Pascal is a world-class fighter, he’s been around that level for a long time. Kovalev is too big, too strong, punches too hard, all around too many tools for Pascal. I think Pascal will move early, he’ll be cagey. He likes to move around on his feet early, he likes to use the ring sometimes/ I think he’ll try that. I think Kovalev will cut the ring down, nice long shots, use his range, use his length and bit by bit break up Pascal and I think he’ll get Pascal out of there. I think mid-to-late rounds. I can’t see Pascal taking Kovalev’s power. 

Norm Frauenheim, THE RING Magazine/www.15rounds.com

Sergey Kovalev TKO 10 Jean Pascal: Jean Pascal’s fast hands figure to give Kovalev trouble early, but not long enough for him to upset the determined, unflappable Russian. Kovalev figures to walk him down in a single-minded pursuit, eventually putting him within range for power shots that will fracture Pascal’s will, if not a couple of ribs, in a late-round stoppage.

Doug Fischer, Editor of RingTV.com

Sergey Kovalev by late TKO Jean Pascal: I think Pascal’s awkward/unorthodox and mobile style enables him to trouble the technically sound boxer-puncher in the early rounds, while the former champ’s underrated durability and fighting heart allows him to last into the late rounds once the Russian titleholder begins to zero in on his midsection and cut the ring down. Pascal, who can crack, will have his moments when engaging along the ropes but I think the power, accuracy and combination punching for Kovalev will force a stoppage sometime after the ninth round.

Jeffrey Freeman, www.KODigest.TV

Sergey Kovalev TKO 5 Jean Pascal: There is no reason whatsoever for Sergey Kovalev to take it easy on Jean Pascal like he did on 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins last year. The Haitian-born Canadian Pascal is a wild man and a wildcard but he’s not going to defeat the unbeaten Kovalev, regardless of where they fight. Pascal’s best chance is to go on the attack early. That strategy will also be his undoing if he does it. The pick is “Krusher” by TKO in five rounds and so it now looks like the end of the road for Pascal as a serious force to be reckoned with in the top-heavy light heavyweight division. 

Tom Gray, RingTV.com 

Sergey Kovalev TKO 5 Jean Pascal: Bernard Hopkins labeled Pascal a four-round fighter and pretty much proved that theory correct across two fights, dominating the Haitian-born Canadian down the stretch in both meetings (a draw and a Hopkins win). If it takes Kovalev four rounds to begin having his way with Pascal then I frankly expect a fifth-round stoppage. Read into that what you may, but the Russian world champion is a ferocious puncher and an underrated craftsman. I like Kovalev in this fight and, despite Pascal’s ability to absorb a shot, I like him big.

Jean Pascal (R) of Canada punches BernarAFP/Getty Images

Eleider Alvarez, light heavyweight contender

Jean Pascal UD 12 Sergey Kovalev: Jean Pascal by unanimous decision. He has had perfect preparation. Kovalev is stronger but Pascal’s better. He will surprise Kovalev.

Andreas Hale, KnockoutNation.com

Sergey Kovalev TKO 8 Jean Pascal: Pascal doesn’t really know what he’s in for and although he’ll be able to keep his distance early with his solid boxing and speed, he’ll eventually be walked down by Kovalev and get crushed in the middle rounds en route to an 8th-round stoppage.

Kenny Adams, trainer of 25 world champions

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: I’m going to have to pick Kovalev. I just think he’s shown he can get knocked down (Against Blake Caparello) and get back up and battle and that to me in important and the other guy has shown that at one point in time he might have a little quit in him and he doesn’t take it as good as he gives it. It’s going to have to be a knockout.

Virgil Hill, former two-time light heavyweight champion

Sergey Kovalev mid-round KO Jean Pascal: Kovalev, he’s the man right now, he’s that guy. You know, I’ve seen him get hit with a couple of shots and rocked. He’s a frontrunner, he’s going to go right out there. He’s tall, long, lanky, he’s got good power in both hands and a real tough guy. I kind of question the level of competition [Pascal] has fought compared to Kovalev. I don’t know, unless Kovalev has trouble with southpaws, it’s gonna be a short night. I don’t think it goes the distance. Mid-rounds I think. I think [Pascal is] going to run a little bit, he’s going to try to be elusive, but if Kovalev can cut off the ring and line up that heavy right hand – he has a good left hook to boot – it could be a short night. Just depends on if he can catch up to him.

Glen Johnson, former light heavyweight titlist

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: I think Kovalev should win easily inside three, four rounds at most. Pascal is a good fighter and I don’t see that changing but I think the fight should be over in three, four rounds.

Photo by Naoki Fukuda:


Diego M. Morilla, XNSports.com, RingTV, HBO.com

Sergey Kovalev W 12 Jean Pascal: If there was a way to measure the power of every separate punch, Kovalev would probably notch the most consistent possible numbers. He fires for effect in every deployment of his superb weaponry. He is an improved, more agile version of Carlos Monzon, working behind a bone-crushing one-two with impeccable accuracy and then jumping in to land his combinations. Pascal may have a chance if he tries to swarm and overwhelm him with his combinations, but Kovalev will stay at the right distance and land with enough power and continuity to notch the decision – or even a late-round stoppage.

John J. Raspanti, Maxboxing.com/Doghouseboxing.com/KO Monthly Magazine

Sergey Kovalev TKO 9 Jean Pascal: Last November, hard-hitting Sergey Kovalev showed Bernard Hopkins and the world that’s he not just a one-trick pony. He defeated the wily veteran by outboxing him. Jean Pascal’s last bout was bizarre no-contest against Roberto Bolonti. Prior to that fight, he won a 12-round grudge match against Lucian Bute. Pascal has some skills, but Kovalev appears to be the superior technical fighter. Kovalev will break Pascal down and stop him before Round 10.

Matt Richardson, Fightnews.com

Sergey Kovalev in 9 Jean Pascal: How can you not like Kovalev in this one? Sure, Pascal’s movement and herky-jerky style could give Kovalev some hesitation early on. Eventually, however, he will start to connect and once he does, Pascal won’t be able to stand for much longer. Kovalev the boxer did outstanding against Bernard Hopkins last November but I expect the puncher to be back against Pascal. Assume it takes a few rounds to get his rhythm but then it should be all Kovalev. Kovalev in 9.

Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: Pascal should take Kovalev some rounds and give him some tests with his speed. That’s not enough for the erratic and sometimes sloppy challenger. Kovalev breaks him down and a corner stoppage is possible.

Michael Rosenthal, THE RING Magazine

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: I think Jean Pascal has the all-around ability and experience to give Sergey Kovalev some trouble but, in the end, this is the Russian’s time. We know all about his punching power. And he left no doubt against Bernard Hopkins that he has the refined skills to execute a good game plan. He appears to be a complete fighter. I think Kovalev will patiently pick Pascal apart and stop him late. Kovalev KO 10.

Kalle Sauerland, Sauerland Event

Sergey Kovalev KO Jean Pascal: Kovalev wins by KO in the ninth.

Adonis Stevenson, WBC and RING light heavyweight champion

Sergey Kovalev W 12 Jean Pascal: I believe it will be a very good fight. The lack of competitive fights for Pascal since he fought (Bernard) Hopkins and his lack of action will play a role against him. You have to be a puncher and apply pressure to beat Kovalev and I don’t think Pascal can do that. Kovalev will win. Maybe it’s by decision because of Pascal’s strong chin, but I won’t be surprised if it ends in a knockout. Pascal will have his moments, though, especially early on.

Dominic Verdin, RingTV.com

Sergey Kovalev KO inside 8 Pascal: Kovalev is on a mission to become the best light heavyweight and so far he’s accomplishing his mission. Pascal will provide an excellent prizefight for his cheering fans in Montreal. However, the many cheers and the early accolades bestowed upon him will not be of any help. Kovalev will land hard and early, sending down the proud Haitian fighter in his adopted hometown of Montreal. Pascal will battle back, although it will be his demise, with the heavy exchanges in the middle of the ring ending matters inside eight gruesome rounds.

Final tally: 17-1 in favor of Sergey Kovalev to win Saturday’s light heavyweight title showdown with Jean Pascal.



ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Following 11 rounds of utter domination, the only thing left for Sergey Kovalev to accomplish early Sunday morning was to become the first opponent in Bernard Hopkins’ 26-year career to knock him out.

If Kovalev had 10 more seconds at his disposal in Round 12 of their light heavyweight title unification fight at Boardwalk Hall, he might’ve accomplished that feat, too.

The Russian knockout artist instead settled for handing Hopkins the most lopsided loss of his Hall-of-Fame career, a 12-round unanimous-decision defeat so thorough the 49-year-old Hopkins acknowledged afterward that it’s “50-50” whether he’ll fight again. Regardless, as Hopkins’ legendary career nears its conclusion, the most impressive victory of Kovalev’s five-year pro career should thrust him toward stardom.

“He did just what I knew what he would do,” said John David Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer. “Tonight he was the teacher.”

Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 knockouts), who hadn’t boxed beyond eight rounds in any of his first 26 professional fights, easily demonstrated that he was prepared to win championship rounds against the most accomplished, experienced opponent he has faced. All three judges – New Jersey’s Lawrence Layton (120-106), New York’s Carlos Ortiz (120-107) and Rhode Island’s Clark Sammartino (120-107) – credited Kovalev with winning each of the 12 rounds.

Kovalev took Hopkins’ IBF and WBA light heavyweight titles and retained his WBO 175-pound championship. He also won the respect and admiration of boxing experts who wondered whether his record was more the byproduct of his opposition than Kovalev’s skills and power.

“I don’t care how old he is,” Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins’ promotional partner, said. “To beat somebody like Hopkins, Kovalev did a tremendous job. He executed his game plan perfectly, and that’s not easy to do against a legend like Bernard Hopkins.”

Kovalev, 31, dropped Hopkins with a right hand to the side of his head with a little less than a minute to go in the first round. Hopkins reached his feet quickly and made it to the end of the round, but mostly employed a cautious approach for the rest of the fight. Hopkins opened up in Round 12, but his aggression only encouraged Kovalev to unload an array of power punches that hurt him, left him stumbling all around the ring and pushed the Philadelphia native dangerously close to getting knocked out.

“I’ve just got a great chin,” Hopkins said. “I can take a punch.”

Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs, 2 NCs) took 166 of Kovalev’s 585 overall punches, according to unofficial CompuBox statistics. Kovalev landed 38 punches in Round 12 alone, the most connected on Hopkins in any single round of the 41 Hopkins fights CompuBox has worked.

“He’s 49 years old,” Kovalev said. “To go 12 rounds with me, I was very surprised. … Really big respect to him.”

Hopkins now respects Kovalev’s boxing ability, not just his vaunted power.

“He had a really good game plan,” Hopkins said. “When he got hit with some of my shots, he would step back. But he used his reach and distance and that was the key to his victory tonight. He has very good mechanics and patience. Because after I hit him, he would step back. That would cause me to have to reset. He had a good game plan, I’ll give him that. He’s a good technical fighter. He would counter his right hand over my jab. I give him a lot of respect.”



Photo:  Timeline photos by Sergey Kovalev /facebook.com/thekrusher –

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – World Boxing Organization (WBO) Light Heavyweight campion, Sergey Kovalev, was awarded tonight as the Fighter of the Year at the Gala Dinner of the WBO 27th Annual Convention, which were honored former WBO champions and International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductees Joe Calzaghe and Oscar de la Hoya, in an event el at the Caesar’s Palace Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

The 27th Convention ended this evening with an emotional ceremony honoring the careers of Calzaghe and De La Hoya, who were present to receive the tribute.

“We want to honor these two great champions WBO and now immortal Hall of Fame International Boxing Calzaghe and De La Hoya, always faithful to our body and two of the best of his era and history,” said WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel.

After a video with part of their most important bouts, the fighters were introduced by the famous ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., who served as master of ceremonies of the activity. Both former world champions got a special WBO belt in honor of their careers.

Meanwhile, Kovalev, who will defend his 175 pounds WBO belt on November 8 against also world champion Bernard Hopkins in a unification bout, won his belt in August 2013 and has successfully defended three times with KO wins over Ismayl Sillah, Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello.

Other winners on the night were the promoter Bob Arum, who received the WBO Promoter of the Year award, the fight between WBO Lightweight Champion Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa as the WBO Fight of the Year, the WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko as Fighter with Brightest Future, while the WBO female bantamweight world champion Carolina Duer was awarded with the WBO ring for her 10 defenses of the title.

Also in attendance were WBO junior lightweight champion Orlando Salido, junior welter champion Chris Algieri, Japanese female world champions Nao Ikehara and Kimiko Seeser Ikeyama, former world champion Ruslan Provodnikov, former world champion James Toney, former women’s world champion, Hanna Gabriels, unbeaten prospect Felix Verdejo, among others.




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.


sergey kovalev (6)WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel, announced today the referees and judges who will work this Saturday, November 30, in the world title defenses of champions Sergey Kovalev, Merlito Sabillo and Donnie Nietes, to be held in Canada and Philippines, respectively.

At the Colisee de Quebec in Quebec City, Canada, the WBO Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KOs) will defend his belt for the first time when he faces de #15 ranked Ismayl Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs), from Ukraine. For this bout the referee will be Michael Griffin, from Canada. The judges for the Kovalev-Sillakh bout will be the Canadians Pasquale Procopio, Jean Gauthier and Benoit Roussel. The WBO supervisor for this fight will be John Duggan.


While, the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Manila, Philippines will host two world title fights. First, the WBO minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (23-0, 12 KOs) will defend his 105 pounds belt against the #1 ranked Carlos “Chocorroncito” Buitrago (27-0, 16 KOs), from Nicaragua. The referee for this bout will be Jack Reiss, from United States. The judges for the Sabillo-Buitrago bout are Takeshi Shimakawa, from Japan, Levi Martínez, from United States, and Joerg Milke, From Germany. The WBO supervisor for this bout will be Leon Panoncillo.


Also in this card, the WBO junior flyweight titlist Donnie Nietes (31-1, 17 KOs) will make his third defense against the #14 ranked Sammy Gutierrez (33-9-2, 23 KOs). For this bout the referee will be Celestino Ruiz, from United States. The judges for the fight between Nietes and Gutierrez will be Danrex Tapdasan, from Philipinnes, and Jack Reiss and Levi Martínez, both from United States. The WBO supervisor for this bout will be Leon Panoncillo.


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By Reynaldo Sanchez –

WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20KOs) is training hard for his upcoming first defense of the title against dangerous top contender Ismayl Sillakh (21-1, 17KOs), scheduled for November 30th at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City. The fight will be televised by HBO. Kovalev put in some sparring work against undefeated prospect Ilshat Khusnulgatin (11-0, 6KOs). Both boxers are promoted by Main Events and managed by Egis Klimas.

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This past Saturday, Nathan Cleverly fifth defense of his WBO-light heavyweight title ended in disaster as he suffered a crushing fourth-round knockout defeat against Kovalev at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. Cleverly is still coming to terms with this devastating defeat and has suggested there might be some major changes after losing his unbeaten record.

Kovalev has 20 stoppages in his 22 wins and Cleverly’s granite chin could not withstand his concussive power. Cleverly was floored twice in the third round and revealed that the punches felt like being hit with a ‘hammer’.

He told Boxing News: “I suppose I wasn’t surprised because with his record it was inevitable that he was a banger and every shot he threw was a thudding shot. It was like a hammer. He wasn’t rapid fast, he had good timing, good distance and his punches were just so hard … His jab, his right hand. Just when he caught you on the shoulder he would have an impact and he was just clubbing me.”




If looks could kill: Nathan Cleverly and Sergei Kovalev go head to head at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff


Nathan Cleverly is predicting an explosive defence of his WBO light heavyweight world title against Russian Sergey Kovalev in a fight he has dubbed the most important of his career.

Cleverly, 26, will put his 26-0 unbeaten record on the line against the formidable power of Kovalev, who has secured 19 of his 21 professional wins via knockout, with 18 of those coming within three rounds.

Saturday’s Cardiff bout presents a potential stumbling block for Cleverly – Kovalev is the bookmakers’ favourite – and is a considerable step up from his last title defence in Cardiff, where he secured a convincing unanimous points decision victory over Tommy Karpency.

Frank Warren has admitted he has taken a risk but, with a contract with American cable network HBO on offer should Cleverly win on Saturday, fighter and promoter believe it is a gamble worth taking.

Cleverly said: ‘It is going to be great on home soil, the fight is almost sold out. It is going to be very special.

‘It is going to be a great fight, we like to fight on the front foot and it is going to be explosive.

‘It is the most important fight of my career, potentially the best fight of my career as well. Potentially the best opponent I have faced so this is a tremendous fight.’

Warren added: ‘It was Nathan who wanted this fight, he suggested it to me in a meeting we had a few months ago in London. Having been involved with Nathan from day one, this is a fight which can project him into some real big-money fights.

‘It’s simple. If he wins he winds up with a contract with HBO, which means big paydays, so he has everything to gain from this one and he knows how important it is.


From Russia with glove: Kovalev has won 18 of his 21 bouts via knockout in the first three rounds

‘It is a fight he wanted, it is a fight he has got. I feel he can win, it will be tough. We have a lot of respect for Sergey, I have seen a lot of his fights on film, but in Nathan we have someone special.

‘This will propel him into the big time if he wins it. It is a big risk but all fights at this level are a risk.’

He added: ‘I think this could be a candidate for fight of the year. I don’t care what anyone says, we have not picked any easy jobs here, this is two good boxers and there is going to be an explosion.’

nathan cleverly (5)Dad’s army: Cleverly’s father and trainer Vince believes his son has ‘the artillery to blow up that tank’

Cleverly’s father and trainer Vince has no doubt his son will emerge victorious at the Motorpoint Arena, and praised Nathan’s attitude.

‘Whatever the Russian tank brings for Nathan, I think Nathan has the artillery to blow up that tank,’ he said.

‘It won’t be easy but I only see one winner. Nathan has trained like the challenger, not the champion and he definitely wants to win this fight to bring on Bernard Hopkins.’

Kovalev chose to keep his counsel simply saying: ‘Who knows what will happen, but we will find out on Saturday night.’


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For some time now, WBO light heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly has been putting himself on offer as the finest 175lb prizefighter on this planet. On Saturday evening, at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena in his native Wales the 26-year-old from Cefn Fforest finally gets his chance to convince others of the veracity of his claim when he makes a sixth defense of his belt against formidable Russian Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs). When Cleverly spoke with boxing writer Glynn Evans, the champion was adamant that he was physically and psychologically primed to meet the challenge.

Reflecting on your comprehensive points win over mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi in April, what aspects of the performance pleased you? And what were you not so happy with?

I think it was one on the most complete performances of my career. I’d give myself at least eight out of ten.At times I boxed very nicely, stuck to my game plan and avoided being reckless. Krasniqi was a decent challenger yet I got hit very little. But there’s still a few little things I need to brush up on. I hurt Krasniqi early on, saw his knees dip, but when I opened up, I threw speedy flurries when I might have been better served setting my feet and unloading with power shots. Other times, I left myself a little open to right hands because my left lead got a little lazy. To be fair, Krasniqi was very sharp but I’ll certainly need to correct that against a puncher like Kovalev.

It’s expected for world champions to talk of unification but you actually seem ready now. In what ways do you perceive that you’ve improved as a fighter since you first acquired the WBO (interim) belt two and a half years ago?

I believe my progress has been very satisfying. My last few fights have been particularly good learning experiences for a future on the top world stage. For a start, I’ve matured with age. I’m more controlled and focussed both in training and in the fight. My attitude is better. I’ve left behind that studenty lifestyle. Big fights beckon and people are gunning for me. Consequently, I’ve become a lot more serious about my boxing. I’m also fitter and I’ve now acquired my man strength. I can really feel that now when I’m in the ring. People go on about my supposed level of opposition but I’ve beaten Bellew who’s mandatory at the WBC. I’ve beaten Murat who’s now mandatory to Hopkins at the IBF. Now I’m facing Kovalev who’s rated second at the WBO after I’ve just dispensed with my mandatory (Krasniqi). I honestly feel I’m now ready for anyone in the division.

What motivates you most; scalps, belts or money?

Probably beating the big names. It depends who holds the belts. I badly want Bernard Hopkins. If his IBF belt was on the line that would be ideal but even if he was stripped I think I’d prefer that fight to a unifier with one of the other champions. But the other belts certainly interest me. I really want to unify all the titles and be recognised as the undisputed number one in the division. When that happens I’ll feel fulfilled, that my time in boxing is complete. If I achieve that, the financial security should follow automatically. Since I was a kid, I’ve worked really hard with the boxing so it’d be nice to reap the material rewards and know that all the graft was worthwhile.

Tony Bellew and Carl Froch have been mooted as potential future opponents. How do you think they’ll fare in their forthcoming world title fights with Adonis Stephenson and George Groves respectively?

I think Bellew beats Stephenson. He’s naturally a lot bigger. Adonis is just coming up from super-middle and is pretty short. Bellew should be able to outbox him. If he does win I’d certainly be interested in a rematch to unify the belts and establish myself as the main man in our division. I’ve already beat him comfortably enough in his home town and, I’ll do him again. Froch-Groves is a very interesting fight. George has the better skills and it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts cagily and frustrates Carl a bit. Carl might try too hard over the first half. But I’d still have Carl as favourite because of the momentum he’ll be bringing. He might just have a bit too much force, aggression and man strength down the stretch. I’d loved the Froch fight, but Carl’s a clever man. He knows I’m bigger, stronger, just as fit and far sharper. I don’t blame him for knocking me back.

Saturday’s fight coincides with your team Cardiff City’s return to the top flight of English soccer. Is that a good thing or bad thing for Nathan Cleverly?

It’s a good thing, definitely. For a start, their match away to West Ham will help occupy my mind on Saturday afternoon. Several of my last few fights have coincided with big City matches or Welsh rugby internationals and it breeds a feeling of togetherness in Wales; a team thing. It’s a big sporting weekend for the nation. Success breeds success. Thus far, touch wood, I’ve been a cog in some very successful sporting weekends for Wales. Hopefully that’ll continue come Saturday.

Saturday certainly represents your highest profile fight to date. HBO, BoxNation and First Channel (Russia) shall all broadcasting and a sizeable US media presence is also expected. Is it something you welcome or an unwanted distraction?

All the interest is good. It’s become a part of my job and I’ve learned to enjoy it more over time. As I’ve matured, I feel more in control, more relaxed about it. It’ll be good preparation for all the superfights I intend to have further down the line. All the hard training is done now. It’s time to relax. The last week is all fun and games. Us boxers can only do so many hours at the gym so we have a lot of free time on our hands. Fulfilling media obligations passes the time, fills spaces in my day.

The bookies have the fight pretty much ‘pick ‘em’. How important do you feel a boisterous Welsh crowd will prove in inspiring you, and unnerving Kovalev?

I don’t expect the home crowd will unduly affect Sergey too much because he comes across as a ‘no nonsense’ sort of character who just comes to fight. Don’t forget, he had a lot of international amateur experience. However, from my end, it’s always more comforting having the fans behind you. They’ll cheer every shot that lands, some that don’t, and it can have an influence. They also help to drive you on when it gets tough, particularly in the later stages. I’ve no doubt they will inspire me.

Enlighten us about your preparation. Have you needed to step up the intensity or experiment with anything new?

It’s gone really, really well and it’s a relief knowing that I’m going into such an important fight in such fantastic physical and mental health. Now it’s all about applying all that and executing my game plan under the spotlight and pressure of the big stage. For this camp, I’ve stayed local and stuck with the basics. My house and gym are close by and I got into a nice routine. For sparring, I’ve had Ovill McKenzie – a very dangerous puncher – plus a couple of strong powerful cruiserweights so nothing Kovalev brings should shock me unduly. One thing I’ve tweaked is I’ve heightened my attention to the tactics and game plan. It’s all been very specific whereas, previously, I’d just turn up and rely on my instincts on the night.

With 19 stoppages in 21 wins as a pro, Kovalev certainly arrives with a reputation as a formidable puncher. Will that make you more apprehensive than normal?

Not really, I don’t think. Knowing he’s so dangerous has certainly kept me on my toes in training but a bit of fear is great for motivation. Back in the amateurs, as a kid, I’d always seek out opponents with reputations for being bangers. I always wanted to prove myself and I always came out on top. When I started to become aware of the commotion building over Kovalev in the US, I said to Frank (Warren): ‘Go and get him for me.’ Knowing that he’s almost certainly going to come looking for me is a good thing; for me, for TV, for the fans at the venue. It’s going to be a proper fight. Him unloading will leave openings for me to exploit.

You appear to have a technical edge over Kovalev. However, you do like to get involved and excite the paying punters. Can you trust yourself to remain disciplined before a fanatical home crowd?

In preparation, we’ve focussed a lot on not going ‘gung ho’. However, now it’s up to me to prove I can stay calm and deliver on the night, under the roars. A few fights back, I might have struggled but now I believe I can keep my focus and do what’s right.

It’s a cracking, competitive match-up that’s split the trade on both sides of The Pond. How do you envisage the fight panning out and what gives you confidence that it’ll be your hand that get’s raised at the end?

I think it’s inevitable that there’ll be a lot of exchanges because we both like to let our hands go. It’s probable that we’ll both land frequently and it’ll be interesting to see how each of us react when the other lands. Will they withdraw into a shell or will they look to strike back? We both like to operate on the front foot so I doubt that this will be a cagey affair. I envisage an action packed, long fight. I’ll win because I bring the better all round package. Kovalev’s a banger who’s accurate and a decent boxer but, it terms of skill, speed, sharpness, fitness, speed chin, I beat this guy. I expect to stop him mid way to late.

And if you prevail, what do you hope that it will lead to?

Hopkins is definitely the way forward for me. An impressive victory on Saturday will open a heck of a lot of doors. Hopefully I’ll secure the US TV deal I need to make the biggest fights happen.



By Scott Gilfoid:

WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly (28-0, 12 KO’s) says he’s willing to sacrifice weight by moving down in weight 7 pounds to whip IBF/WBA super middleweight champion Carl Froch (31-2, 22 KO’s) if he would only accept the fight so that he could get the job one on the 35-year-old Froch.

Cleverly said to walesonline.co.uk “I know I can beat Froch so I’m more than happy to move down a division to show people what I can do. It would be tough for me to move down, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take.”

I hate to say it but I think Cleverly would beat Froch if that fight were to be made, even if Cleverly was a little weight drained.

I still think he’d handle Froch. If Mikkel Kessler was able to almost beat Froch without hardly throwing any punches in that fight, Cleverly would definitely do a job on him.

I hope Cleverly doesn’t hold his breath waiting for Froch to say yes to the fight with him because it’s probably not going to happen. Froch and his promoter Eddie Hearn’s excuse for not fighting Cleverly was that he would have to move up in weight to fight him, whether it be at a catch-weight or at the full 175 lb. weight for the division, and that would give Cleverly an advantage.

With Cleverly now saying he’d come down to fight Froch at 168, there shouldn’t be any more excuses to keep Froch from taking the fight.

I don’t see Froch saying yes to it because Cleverly is just too dangerous for him because he throws a lot of punches and he can take a good shot. Froch can’t throw a lot of punches and if his power has no effect on Cleverly, he’d lose and that’s what I think would happen.

Cleverly thinks a fight between him and Froch would attract a lot of interest in the UK. I think he’s right. It would attract a lot of attention and they might even be able to sell the fight on pay per view like Froch’s fight with Kessler last Saturday night.



WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly has offered Saturday’s winner, between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler, a crack at his world title. Froch and Kessler will battle in a high stakes super middleweight unification in London. Cleverly helped Kessler with some sparring in training camp, as the Danish superstar wants to repeat his 2010 decision win over Froch.

“Whoever loses can always move up to light-heavyweight,” Cleverly told skysports.com. “If they want to move up and challenge me, there’s an opportunity waiting for them! He does have great momentum since their first fight and I think he goes into the second one as a slight favourite. I think the home crowd will be the difference though. They will get behind him and when the going gets tough in the later rounds, I believe that in itself will give Froch the advantage. I predict Froch is a close winner on points.”