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Sergey Kovalev now has chance to regain title with WBO’s blessing for Nov. 25 bout

Photo of Kovalev by Roc Nation Sports/Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos

Sergey Kovalev should soon be able to call himself champion again.

The Russian is coming off consecutive losses to Andre Ward, but on Thursday, the WBO voted at their annual convention to sanction Kovalev’s November 25 fight against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the organization’s vacant light heavyweight title.

The fight, televised on HBO from New York’s Theater at Madison Square Garden, will be Kovalev’s first since the stoppage loss to Ward in June.

The 175-pound strap became available after Ward announced his retirement last month. Ward’s other two titles — the WBA and IBF — also are finding new waists. Dmitry Bivol, who was the WBA’s interim champion, was elevated and will defend against Trend Broadhurst on November 4 on HBO.

Artur Beterbiev will face Enrico Koelling for the vacant IBF strap on November 11 on ESPN.

And then there’s Kovalev, 34, who is a massive favorite to become a two-time champion. Still ranked No. 5 pound-for-pound by THE RING, Kovalev was the unified light heavyweight champion before Ward outpointed in controversial fashion in November.

Now, Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 knockouts) will face a far less formidable foe in Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs), a Ukrainian slugger who was knocked out by Sullivan Barrera in December.

The 30-year-old does own a victory over Yunieski Gonzalez, and also rebounded with consecutive victories inside the distance this year.

But he won’t be given much chance to upend Kovalev, even in the wake of Kovalev’s knockout loss.

Barrera actually was offered the assignment — and a $400,000 payday, per sources — but turned it down armed with the belief he would be fighting for the vacant WBA title. But that never materialized, and Barrera finds himself fighting for far less on Kovalev’s undercard against Felix Vera.

Perhaps the pair will square off next year if all goes according to plan.

But for now, this is Kovalev’s chance to reestablish himself as a champion, and not a fighter who is mentally broken.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger