With a deal now finalized for WBO light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev to make his first defense against Ismayl Sillakh on the Nov. 30 undercard of Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew in Quebec City, Canada, it seems only a matter of time before Stevenson and Kovalev fight each other, according to Kathy Duva of Main Events, Kovalev’s promoter.
The HBO-televised card will feature Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 knockouts), who dethroned previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round stoppage in his last fight, opposite Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs), a winner of four bouts since suffering an eighth-round stoppage to Denis Grachev last April.
Meanwhile Stevenson (22-1, 19 KOs) is undefeated with 10 knockouts in his past 10 fights heading into his match with Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KOs).
In August — six days after his 36th birthday — Stevenson out-boxed and out-slugged former IBF titleholder Tavoris Cloud in defense of his belts.
“They are obviously two of the hardest punchers in, I think, any division, and they are destined to fight each other at some point,” said Duva of a potential battle between Stevenson and Kovalev.
“It’s just one of those fights that you know has to get made some day, so to have them on the same card is great, and they’re facing interesting competition. It will be a really good show. People are going to get a glimpse of the next generation of fighters that they will be following.”
ANDRE WARD AT ‘ANOTHER LEVEL’ AFTER DAWSON
“Everything that we did in the fight is what we prepared and trained to do, so it felt good to execute a game plan, and to execute it to a tee is a beautiful thing,” said Ward, in a prepared release.
“When you’re fighting a guy of the caliber of Chad Dawson in the way we did, it takes your game to the next level. You only get better by fighting the best, and Chad Dawson was one of the best in the world when I fought him. I’m grateful for that fight because it took my game to the next level.”
Since he Dawson fight, however, Ward has undergone shoulder surgery.
“That really adds to the intrigue of this fight. People are going to have their opinions. People are watching to see what kind of Andre Ward is going to show up,” said Ward, referring to speculation concerning how well he has recovered.
“I really think my opponent and his team is banking for the worst. They think that the layoff and injury are going to make this the right time to fight me, and that it’s the right time to go after me. I really feel like I am going to be better than I was before I left. I’m just excited and there are going to be no excuses for this fight.”
During his time away from the ring, Ward kept himself busy as an HBO broadcaster.
“It’s difficult to be sidelined, and as an HBO commentator, it’s very difficult. Especially watching guys that are in or around my weight class … The waiting game and not knowing when I was going to come back was probably the toughest part. I’m approaching my prime and coming off the biggest victory of my career over Chad Dawson,” said Ward.
“That, in and of itself, is tough. But I thank God for the strength to push me through tough times. During the layoff, I really feel like I grew as a man, and it really matured me a lot. It’s a tough situation. I grew a lot during the year from a personal standpoint. I learned a lot. I still have my hunger and fire to be the best in the world. It took me to another level.”
JESSE HART WANTS CARL FROCH RIGHT NOW?
Phildadelphia super middleweight Jesse Hart‘s professional career will be just 16 months old on Dec. 7 when he is expected to enter the ring for the sixth time this year against an opponent to be determined on the undercard of an HBO-televised tripleheader headlined by Guillermo Rigondeaux and Joseph Agbeko in Atlantic City, N.J.
The 24-year-old son of Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a premier middleweight out of Philadelphia through the 1970s, Jesse Hart (10-0, 9 KOs) has scored knockouts in his past five fights, three in the first round.
“We’re ready to go for the Rigondeaux undercard. We’re 10-0, nine knockouts. Our record proves itself,” said Hart, who debuted with a 33-second knockout of New Mexico’s Manuel Eastman on the undercard of Tim Bradley’s split-decision victory over Manny Pacquiao in June of last year.
“I just believe that the opposition they’re putting me up against, I’m ready for anything. It’s a fast pace, but I’m blessed. [Top Rank CEO] Bob Arum, [Top Rank Vice President] Carl Moretti, Top Rank, they’re moving me at the pace that I want to be moved at.
“Bob Arum says that I’m the future of Top Rank boxing, so if he says that, then I’m taking that to the bank. Right now, I believe, when I crack the top 10, I should be 17-0.”
Hart has already set his sights on the top of the division.
“I watched Carl Froch beat Yusaf Mack and Mikkel Kessler, and he makes too many mistakes — a lot of mistakes that I know I could capitalize on. I’m 6-foot-3, so I know that he can’t make a lot of the mistakes against me that he makes against those smaller guys. He can’t do that with me, because I’ll capitalize on every last one of them,” said Hart.
“With the opposition and the business move that they have for me, I believe that I could go after Carl Froch by that time. We know that he’s not the man. [RING and WBA champion] Andre Ward is the man. But Carl Froch has a stiff, straight-up European style. I don’t think that he’s quick or fast. He’s a big, slow guy. At the end of the day, that’s who I want. That’s who I think that I’m ready for. I want Carl Froch. Right now.”
Note: Eugene Hart’s final record of 30-9-1 (28 KOs), included a victory over Sugar Ray Seals, a draw and a loss to Bennie Briscoe, and losses against Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
Photos by Scott Heavey-Gettyimages; Naoki Fukuda; Chris Farina-Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]