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Sergey Kovalev on top but still looking upward

Fighters Network
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.

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.

The rise of Sergey Kovalev has become one of boxing’s most intriguing stories. In a way, his rise in 2012-2013, built on tormenting opponents with impressive knockout power and constantly improving technical skill, blindsided most boxing fans. While Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal were jockeying for position amongst the elite light heavyweights in boxing, Kovalev was not-so-quietly rampaging through opponents.

If they didn’t hear him coming back when the broken bodies of Ismayl Sillakh, Nathan Cleverly and Gabriel Campillo hit the canvas, they surely did by the time 2014 started, when Krusher continued his assault on the division.

When all was said and done, THE RING Magazine’s 2014 Fighter of the Year had gone beyond proving that he was the best in the division, regardless of what Adonis Stevenson had accomplished. Kovalev no longer needed to convince people that he’s the real deal. A dominant victory over Bernard Hopkins more than cemented that.

Kovalev_Pascal 2298 david spagnolo maineventsAfter laying waste to Jean Pascal with an 8th-round TKO in March, maybe Kovalev deserves a break. At least that’s what many think his July 25 bout with Nadjib Mohammedi at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas will be: a break. Not that Mohammedi is a bad fighter at 37-3, but the expectation is for Kovalev to annihilate him. That’s a new pressure that Kovalev has yet to experience but he’s certainly up for the challenge.

“I have a lot of motivation because a lot of people will be watching,” the 27-0-1 (24 knockouts) Russian said on the eve of his showdown with Mohammedi on HBO. “I want to show more people what I can do in the ring.”

People are watching, and so are potential opponents – one in particular, Stevenson, who happens to be the RING light heavyweight champion. Although fans have been clamoring for the two to duke it out for 175-pound supremacy, good old-fashioned political squabbles between networks and promoters have prevented the fight from happening. But regardless of what Stevenson says, Kovalev truly believes that Superman is doing his best to avoid stepping into the ring with him.

“I’m ready to fight Stevenson but he doesn’t want to fight me,” the WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion explained. “I want to give the fans a fight who have waited for a long time (but) Stevenson is a piece of sÔÇöt.”

Nevertheless, Kovalev will continue to press forward as he looks to cement himself as one of the greatest light heavyweights in recent memory. Rest assured, Mohammedi won’t get the luxury of Krusher overlooking him.

“Any boxing fight to me is like a street fight because you don’t know what can happen,” said Kovalev. “Every fighter is dangerous and I train to get better every single day.”

That’s a scary statement when coming from a fighter who just handed a future Hall of Famer the worst beating of his career. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva believes that Kovalev simply has become must-see television regardless of who he fights.

“People like knockout punchers and that’s what Sergey brings to the table,” Duva gushed on a recent conference call. “He’s a bad man in a very positive way. People get excited just to see him fight. I’ve been very involved in the sport for a long time and I even get excited to see him.”

With the list of opponents not named Stevenson dwindling fast, Duva assured us that Kovalev still has some exciting opportunities to come. She mentioned a potential showdown with former super middleweight champion Andre Ward as something that is already in the works.

“We’ve been talking to Ward’s people all week,” Duva said. “We all agree that the fight will happen and it’s just a matter of when. We have his career mapped out for the next three years and Sergey has made it clear that he wants to fight the best boxing has to offer.”