The last time Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1) was fighting in Atlantic City, he got a clear decision win over Bernard Hopkins to become a unified light heavyweight champion. This time, he hopes to get the same result against another tough opponent.
On Saturday he will headline a fight card where he defends the WBO light heavyweight crown against Eleider Alvarez (23-0) at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. It will be broadcast live on HBO.
Kovalev, who regained the WBO title with a win over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy after losing it to Andre Ward in 2016 (and subsequently losing the rematch over a year ago), is taking on challenges differently than before. The “Krusher” was viewed as a very dangerous fighter that had a mean streak when in the ring. After his losses to Ward, it seemed to have taken most of that aura away from him. Still, he was able to beat Shabranskyy in two rounds and also stopped Igor Mikhalkin in three rounds which set him up for this fight against Alvarez.
On the flip side, this is Alvarez’s first shot at a world title. He had been waiting for an opportunity to become a world champion as he had won the interim WBC title in 2014 to become the highest ranked contender for the WBC world title held by Adonis Stevenson. Even though Alvarez has the same promoter as Stevenson (Yvon Michel) he was not able to secure a fight for the WBC light heavyweight championship. As a result, he became the opponent for Kovalev on August 4th. While being undefeated, Alvarez has gotten wins over former super middleweight champion Lucian Bute and former unified light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal. The Columbian-born boxer hopes to finally become world champion by defeating the Russian but it will be a fairly tough task as many pick Kovalev to win.
In the co-feature, the WBA light heavyweight championship will be on the line as Dmitry Bivol (13-0) defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-2-2) with possible aspirations that the winner will face whoever becomes victorious in the main event to unify the WBO and WBA titles. Bivol won the WBA title last year with a KO win over Trent Broadhurst and took out veteran slickster Sullivan Barrera in the last fight card that involved Kovalev. Now the Russian resident hopes to keep the WBA title from Chilemba, who also challenged Kovalev and Alvarez earlier in his career but lost to both. Bivol has had a string of KO victories from the beginning of 2017 onward, so there may be a little bit of concern on the side of Chilemba’s corner.
It may take a little bit of in-ring experience and a few tricks by Chilemba to give the younger fighter some issues, but many boxing pundits feel that Bivol will take this one and move on to a unification match later this year. He has been given lots of attention since his win over Broadhurst for the WBA belt, so people will be waiting to see if that attention is warranted in this fight against a former world title challenger.
Cover photo by David Spagnolo of Main Events