HBO Boxing Preview: Stevenson vs. Bellew, Kovalev vs. Sillakh
By: William Holmes
Canada is a major hotspot for boxing and the light heavyweight division is by far Canada’s best. Adonis Stevenson is the current light heavyweight kingpin after knocking out Chad Dawson in the first round. Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute also call Canada home and compete in the light heavyweight division, but they won’t be fighting until January.
HBO will show a replay of Manny Pacquiao’s twelve round dominant decision of Brandon Rios before showing two separate light heavyweight title bouts from Quebec City. Adonis Stevenson takes on Tony Bellew for Stevenson’s WBC Light Heavyweight Title and Sergey Kovalev takes on Ismayl Sillakh for Kovalev’s WBO Light Heavyweight Title.
The following is a preview of both of the light heavyweight matchups.
Sergey Kovalev (22-0) vs. Ismayl Sillakh (21-1); WBO Light Heavyweight Title
Sergey “Crusher” Kovalev was given his first big opportunity to showcase his talents on NBC Sports Fight Night Series and he took advantage of it. His scintillating knockouts have resulted in a rise in popularity that eventually led to a WBO title shot against Nathan Cleverly on HBO.
Kovalev dominated Cleverly and knocked him out in the fourth round in Cleverly’s backyard and he’s one of the new generation of fighters that HBO appears to be strongly behind.
Kovalev lives up to his nickname of “Crusher” by annihilating his opponents. Twenty of his victories have come by way of stoppage, including his last eleven opponents. He’s defeated the likes of Cleverly, Cornelius White, Gabriel Campillo, Lionell Thompson, and Darnell Boone.
He’s strong, he’s long, and he’s exciting. Kovalev is willing to take a punch to give a punch and he does have a few holes in his defense. His stamina is unknown since the last time he has gone past three rounds was in 2011.
His opponent, the Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh, is also a very heavy puncher. He has stopped seventeen of his opponents including three of his last four bouts. He’s younger than Kovalev and also had a deeper and more successful amateur background.
He was once considered a top flight prospect, but an ESPN Friday Night Fights bout with Denis Grachev quickly derailed his career. He was stopped in the eighth round after knocking Grachev down in the third round. It was the first loss of his career but he has rebounded nicely since then by winning four straight bouts.
Sillakh’s amateur background is more impressive than Kovalev’s but his professional resume pales in comparison. The only fighter of note on his ledger is a 2011 victory against Yordanis Despaigne. The rest of his victories have come against average and slightly above average fighters.
If Sillakh chooses to stand and bang with Kovalev this fight will be over fast. The only way Sillakh can win is if he outboxes Kovalev and avoid unnecessary wild exchanges. However, Kovalev isn’t only a stronger puncher than Sillakh he’s also a better boxer. Kovalev should win the fight easily.
Adonis Stevenson (22-1) vs. Tony Bellew (20-1-1); WBC Light Heavyweight Title
Adonis “Superman” Stevenson is a late bloomer to the fight game and didn’t begin boxing professionally until September of 2006. He’s currently thirty six years old and didn’t win his light heavyweight title until he was thirty five, but since he started late he doesn’t have the wear and tear on his body that most professional boxers have at his age. He did compete and have some success as an amateur but his amateur career was short.
Stevenson is a southpaw and will giving up two inches in reach and about three inches in height to Tony Bellow. Adonis has fast hands and incredible power. His boxing ability has improved since he started and he’s one of the most feared punchers in the light heavyweight division.
Stevenson has nineteen stoppages to his record, including nine straight stoppages. His lone loss came to Darnell Boone in 2010, a fight he later avenged by knockout in 2013. He knocked out Chad Dawson in June of this year in the first round and he followed that up with a seven round drubbing of former light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud in Montreal, Canada.
Stevenson has been tested throughout his career and has passed every test with flying colors. His list of notable victories include Cloud and Dawson, as well as Don George, Jesus Gonzales, Aaron Pryor Jr., and Dhafir Smith.
Stevenson is on the growing list of boxers who are finding success past their “athletic prime”, and he is currently considered by most to be the top light heavyweight boxer in the world today. The one knock against Stevenson is that he rarely fights outside of his home country and is accustomed to having the support of the live crowd. Saturday will be no different since he is fighting in Canada for his seventh straight fight.
His opponent Tony Bellew has a solid record, but he does not have the power of Stevenson. He has only stopped twelve of his opponents and two of his last five opponents. He also doesn’t have the professional resume of Stevenson. His last two fights were against Issac Chilemba, one he won by decision and the other resulted in a split draw.
His list of notable victories includes Chilemba, Roberto Feliciano Bolonti, and Edison Miranda. He had a prior title shot against Nathan Cleverly in October of 2011, a fight he lost by a close majority decision.
He’s a solid boxer who wears down late. He was winning against Cleverly in the early rounds but Cleverly was able to outbox him in the later rounds as Bellew began to tire. Bellew has also spent his entire career fighting in the United Kingdom and he is not accustomed to fighting in front of a hostile crowd.
Bellew got this title shot against Stevenson because he is considered by the WBC to be the mandatory challenger even though he really hasn’t defeated anyone to be deserving of a world title shot.
Quite simply this will be a showcase fight for Stevenson and HBO hopes to make a Stevenson vs. Kovalev matchup in 2014. It only takes one punch to win a fight, and that punch will likely come from Adonis Stevenson.