Monday, March 27, 2023  |


Sergey Kovalev: Anthony Yarde is a baby cub not a lion, I’ll take him to school

Sergey Kovalev pops Igor Mikhalkin with a jab. Photo / @HBOBoxing

It has been three years since Sergey Kovalev fought in his home country Russia, but the hometown hero will defend his light heavyweight title against mandatory challenger London’s Anthony Yarde at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia on Saturday.

If fighting in front of friends and family is not pressure enough for the three time world champion, add to the equation that should Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 knockouts) get past Yarde a career high payday awaits him back in the United States in the form of a mega-fight against Canelo Alvarez later this year.

“I am happy to be here in Chelyabinsk because this city has never seen an event of this size,” Kovalev told The Ring in his native Russian. “Of course there is pressure on me and I feel a great deal of responsibility not only to myself but also to my fellow countrymen who have supported me from the beginning of my boxing career.”

Kovalev and his team were strategic with how they split their camp between California and Russia and timed exactly how many days they would be in Chelyabinsk to avoid additional distractions for Kovalev.

“We chose not to train in Chelyabinsk,” Kovalev explains. “We did the first part of the camp in Oxnard and then we moved to moscow to finish our training. I am only coming to Chelyabinsk to fight so I am not worried about my focus.”

Buddy McGirt with Sergey Kovalev

This will be Kovalev’s second bout with veteran trainer Buddy McGirt in the corner following the disastrous one fight stint of Abror Tursunpulatov that saw Kovalev get knocked out by Eleider Alvarez last year. In the rematch this past February in Frisco, Texas, Kovalev worked behind his jab and outboxed Alvarez to recapture one of the belts he had lost. Now 36 years old, Kovalev believes he is becoming a well-rounded fighter and credits McGirt with rounding out his skill set.

“I would say the main new tactic is how not to miss any punches my opponent throws at me,” Kovalev said. “It is better to win 1-0 then 100-99.”

This new defensive-minded Kovalev will have his hands full with an unbeaten Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs), who stated he is coming to Russia with one thing in mind and that is to knock Kovalev out.

It’s been reported that Yarde and his team declined step aside money to allow Kovalev to fight Alvarez because they deem Kovalev beatable, feeling that Yarde can get the stoppage which will catapult his name into boxing stardom. Even Tyson Fury chimed in recently saying that if Yarde cannot defeat an older Kovalev then he should consider retiring.

“I don’t take anything Tyson Fury says seriously because I don’t view him as a real boxer,” Kovalev said. “He is a showman and whatever he says is just part of his circus. Anthony Yarde calls himself a lion but I think he is nothing more than a baby cub who is trying to put fur on his body to make himself look like a lion.”

If Kovalev sounds confident coming into this bout it’s because he believes his experience fighting on large stages will ultimately be the deciding factor over Yarde who has yet to be tested on the world stage.

“I see him putting pictures on social media of him knocking me out and wiping his feet on me but all of his fantasies will come to an end when he steps into the ring on Saturday,” Kovalev said. “When we meet one to one we will see who he really is. I don’t think he did his homework so he will flunk this test.”

It was almost four years to the day that Kovalev defeated Blake Caparello in Atlantic City on a warm August evening. It was revealed before the fight that if Kovalev should win he would be in line to fight Bernard Hopkins which was the biggest fight that could be made at that time for Kovalev. N

ow Kovalev finds himself in an eerily similar position where a win over Yarde can lead to career defining matchup with Canelo that could bring the kind of riches Kovalev could only dream of when running the streets of Chelyabinsk.

“Yes this fight carries a lot weight for the future of my career,” Kovalev said. “I cannot look past my opponent on Saturday because school is about to be in session and I have to escort the baby cub to make sure he does not get lost.”


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