By Hans Olson
Friday evening at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA, Buffalo, NY’s Lionell “Lonnie B” Thompson (12-1, 8 KOs) returns to action against Sergey Kovalev (18-0-1, 16 KOs).
The fight airs live in the United States on NBC Sports Network.
Kovalev, 29, a Russian native now living in Fort Lauderdale, FL, had originally been set to take on Spain’s Gabriel Campillo until a back injury forced the former WBA light heavyweight champion off the card.
That injury opened the door for Thompson, 27, who comes into the fight 4 months after suffering the first defeat of his career to Nicholson Poulard.
Although Thompson had gone into the Poulard fight heavy—he weighed in at 176 lb., 1 lb. over the contracted limit— it’s something he feels was due to preparations that were less than desirable to say the least. Still, he was rather dominant—so dominant that this writer scored it 97-93 in favor of Thompson while ringside on the night.
“In that fight, I would’ve stopped him if I made weight right,” Thompson told Boxing Insider Thursday evening.
“I sat in a sauna. [to try to lose the last pound]…that training camp wasn’t like, a good training camp. I had to beg just for sparring!”
“What the loss did, it humbled me. And it let me see what I need to work on. Things like where I need to pick it up in certain spots in fights. You know, I’m a pure boxer. I can outbox anybody in the world. I can box my way to a world title, but I learned a lot of things. How to get guys out of there. How to make weight. How to go rounds. How to pick it up…I learned a lot from that Poulard fight.”
While the loss may appear as a setback to some, to Lionell, it’s somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
“I didn’t really lose the fight, but if I was undefeated, I don’t think I would’ve got this fight…that’s why this is a blessing in disguise.”
“I believe that God has very funny sense of humor. I think that this is part of God’s plan for me, like, ‘you know what?’ I can’t get you where you need to be if I keep you undefeated. I’ve got to give you this loss.’”
Then Lionell made some changes. He got his personal life in order, trained even harder, and went out to Las Vegas to hone his craft.
“After the loss, I said, ‘what do I need to do?’ So I went to Vegas and sparred with Chad Dawson and Isaac Chilemba.
Now, he’s in the best shape of his career.
“I made weight right this time. I made weight easy. 175 right on the dot. I only rehydrated up to 183, so I’m good. I’m ready to fight. I had the right preparation for this fight, the best preparation in the world actually, against top notch fighters. I had the best sparring being out in Vegas for two months. I’m in shape.”
As far as Sergey Kovalev?
“Tomorrow night, he’s in for a rude awakening,” said a confident “Lonnie B.”
“He’s an okay fighter…but he’s basic. Real basic. One-two’s, come straight forward…but he’s slow. He’s too slow. He’s not going to be able to match my hand-speed. I got too many tricks, I got too many tools to win. I can box, I can fight inside—but this fight I’m going to put it all together. I’m going to step it up a notch.”
And he likes the pressure of fighting on national TV.
“I like pressure put on me. I believe God controls everything, and I believe this was my destiny to become a superstar. I don’t think differently. I like fights like this. In my mind, I’m still undefeated—because I never lost. It ain’t like Poulard exposed me.”
“Kovalev can’t give me nothing I ain’t seen before. I’m not worried about his punching power…he should be worried about me. He can come forward all he wants. He can come forward, he can try to hit me with his power shots all he wants, but while he comes at me I’m going to rack up points, rack up points. He’s going to pay.”