By Tyson Bruce
Last Saturday night the little known and lightly regarded Cedric Agnew received the customary Sergie Kovalev pasting. Despite keeping a tight guard and throwing virtually no punches he was left with a broken nose and busted ribs for his effort. In other words, about what everyone expected to happen. Almost immediately following the bouts conclusion fight fans began speculating about what would be next for the Russian star.
The one sure thing that will not happen is a fight with the real Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson. Stevenson opted for the path of self-interest when he unscrupulously maneuvered out of a deal with HBO and signed a long-term contract with rival network Showtime. After the Agnew bout Kovalev called Stevenson a “piece of shit” and appeared to gain a lot of fanfare for it. If anyone has come out of this mess unstained it is Kovalev. Still, it’s hard to let go of a legitimately meaningful 50-50 fight, between the sports two hardest punchers, without being bitter.
The next best Light Heavyweight in the world is the near fifty-year-old Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins is a partner at Golden Boy, a promoter that exclusively does business with Showtime, making a fight with Kovalev basically impossible. Plus, it appears that part of the bait used to lure Stevenson away from HBO was a proposed super-fight with Hopkins—a legitimately huge event in Montreal that will likely sell 20,000 tickets.
There are other competent Light Heavyweights that Kovalev could be matched with like Tavoris Cloud, Isaac Chilemba, or even Jean Pascal. The problem is that it’s basically a forgone conclusion that Kovalev would easily demolish all of the above. None of those guys have Hopkins’s experience or Stevenson’s punching power and natural talent. In all likely hood they wouldn’t do any better than poor Cedric Agnew. With a growing reputation for brutality and carnage it may also become increasingly difficult to get fighters in the ring with the still modest earning Kovalev.
The most interesting potential opponents for Kovalev may actually reside in the 168-pound division. The division is an HBO stronghold with lineal champion Andre Ward and top contenders like Carl Froch, George Groves, and Julio Caesar Chavez all having strong connections with the network. Even without his ongoing promotional problems Andre Ward is a man without a dance partner. He has simply been too good for his own good. Sounds familiar, right?
Although Ward has stated publically that he intends to remain at 168 he may have no choice but to move up because no one will be willing to fight him at that weight. A victory over Kovalev—by no means a guarantee—could be his greatest triumph yet. It would also prove that he is a different kind of talent than Floyd Mayweather by moving up in weight and taking on the most dangerous of all opponents. With Chavez and Golovkin heading towards their own mega-fight, HBO and company will be looking for a big matchup for Kovalev and Ward and they might be wise to look no further than with each other.
Another potential dark horse opponent for Kovalev is the former undisputed 175-pound champion Chad Dawson. Dawson recently signed with boxing power broker and HBO persona non grata Al Haymon. That kills the bout, right? Perhaps not, as his promoter Gary Shaw has a long and successful history of dealings with HBO and could potentially work something out. Given that Dawson has probably had enough of Hopkins and Stevenson for two life times he might be wise to stick with HBO. It would give Kovalev a crack at a proven top-five light heavyweight, as well as provide a measuring stick against Stevenson and Hopkins.
The current boxing world with all of its fissures and conflicts makes even the most high profile boxer’s career complicated. When you are a two-fisted wrecking ball with a thick foreign accent it only makes things that much harder. However, given Kovalev’s entertaining style and massive punch it’s reasonable to assume his popularity will only continue to grow. With or without Adonis Stevenson, Kovalev will continue to do what he does best: knock people out. We can only hope for our entertainment and his pocket book that it will be against someone worthwhile.