By: Sergio L. Martinez
Since the age of seven, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev has been involved in learning and attempting to perfect the sweet science. His edification has brought many accolades in the amateurs as Kovalev, through an interpreter, recently advised Boxing Insider, “I had 215 [amateur] fights and I won 193 out of the 215. I won many tournaments and was always able to get to the country to country championships in Russia which is a big deal. I was at my best at 165 to 168 [pounds].”
Kovalev added, “I was also twice an amateur military champion of the world in military tournament which several countries participated and I won several Russian military championships too.”
After his amateur tenure ended, Kovalev decided to seek a professional career (as most successful amateur athletes do). His travels eventually led him to relocate to Florida, U.S.A. approximately one year ago. As with so many foreign-trained athletes that come to America for the first time, Kovalev’s transition has not been an easy one.
“The hardest thing was the language; not speaking the language has been a huge barrier,” the boxer says. “It is difficult when one doesn’t speak the English language. Also, not having any friends here has been hard. I have my friends and family back home so that was a tough adjustment too. I’m doing better now so it is good.”
Having spent significant time being trained and conditioned in the Russian military, Kovalev has found himself in a completely different training circumstance. Before, it was a mandatory expectation to run, prepare and exert as much out of his body as possible; now, Kovalev is left to his own devices.
Having hit the ripe old age of 30-years-old, Kovalev believes that he trains harder now than he did during his military days. “First of all, I’m more responsible now because I’m older so I take everything seriously,” he says. “I stay more focused now as compared to the amateurs when I tended to lose focus. Still, I have always trained hard as an amateur and a professional. I always train very hard and I always train to win.”
Kovalev appears to be right on track to cash in on the growing U.S. interest for Russian and East European fighters; their popularity levels are at an all-time high in the United States. Kovalev, along with guys like Evgeny Gradovich, Ruslan Provodnikov, and Gennady Golovkin have taken the domestic market by storm with high action, power-punching performances which have captured the imagination of boxing fans and media alike. Even some formerly begrudging fans are starting admit as to the greatness of the Ukrainian heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers.
This is a trend that Kovalev is not surprised about, as he explained: “We’ve always had talent and we’ve always had skillful guys back in Russia and even back in the U.S.S.R. in the 1990s. The difference is, back then, there was no road to the United States. There was no road to succeed and we didn’t know how to become professionals. All we knew was to fight as amateurs. Now, we have a road open to the U.S. and we are able to come here and show our talent and skills in the U.S. and we are succeeding.” Kovalev added, “The talent was always there in Russia. We just didn’t have a way to show it to everyone.”
Since commencing in a professional career in 2009, Kovalev has marched his way to an undefeated record of 21-0-1, with 19 of his victories coming by way of knockout – and is currently at the cusp of taking the next step to stardom. His steady progress and crippling power continue to garner attention. Kovalev is ready to challenge for a portion of the light heavyweight title as he is slated to face current W.B.O. champion Nathan Cleverly. The fight is scheduled for August 17, and will be televised on HBO. Kovalev will be traveling to Cleverly’s backyard in an attempt to dethrone the champion and bring home the belt.
Having waited for his chance to challenge for a title, Kovalev feels that talking about his opponent and/or the fight is just something he does not like to do. He said, “I don’t like to talk about my opponents or the fight until after the fight. I’m not the type to say all kinds of things about it. I know that Cleverly is a busy fighter who has never been knocked down and he is undefeated. He is the champion and I’m the challenger and I respect him. There are too many guys out there that like to talk saying ‘I’m going to do this or do that’ but I’m not one of them. I’m ready for the fight.”
In closing, Kovalev added, “I would like to wish everyone the best of health and hope everyone stays healthy. I want to thank everyone and ask for everyone to cheer for me. I appreciate everyone’s support and hope that everyone tunes in and watches me fight for the world title. I’ve trained hard and I’m coming to win.”