By: Sean Crose
In just a few days, on August 4th, to be exact, Sergey Kovalev will return to Atlantic City in order to defend his WBO world light heavyweight title belt against the undefeated 23-0 Eleider Alvarez. Atlantic City, which has been home to several notable Kovalev bouts, hasn’t hosted a fight featuring the man named “Krusher” since Kovalev outskilled the iconic Bernard Hopkins back in 2014. Much has changed since that time, but the 32-2-1 Kovalev is eager to once again leave his mark on the famous fight town. “Long time,” he says over the phone, discussing his time away from Atlantic City. “I’m really happy (to be) back.”
Since losing twice to Andre Ward (once in controversial fashion) in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Kovalev has returned to the ring with two straight knockouts in the past year. Needless to say, the 35 year old isn’t slowing down. Alvarez may only be a year younger than Kovalev, and not much of a knockout artist, either – but the challenger is hungry and will be coming into the ring with a unique skill set which has led to an undefeated career (so far at least) in the professional ranks. Yet Kovaelv, the veteran champion, isn’t one to let his own nerves get the better of him.
“You know,” Kovalev says of his training in easygoing, slightly broken English, “(I’m) just making shape to be ready for anything.” It would be easy for the man to look ahead, to imagine completing his dream of unifying the light heavyweight titles. “Right now,” though, his goal is to “focus (on Alvarez).” Should he win on August 4th, however, people will once again be asking for a bout with fellow titlist Adonis Stevenson. They will also ask if Stevenson, who – fairly or not – has earned a reputation in various quarters for ducking Kovalev, will be willing to finally meet his counterpart in the ring.
Not one to project, Kovalev makes it clear that it would be unwise for him to to look beyond Alvarez at this point. “Chickenson,” Kovalev says (Chickenson is his name for Stevenson) “should fight Alex (the undefeated Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who Stevenson is said to be facing in November).” And if both Kovalev and Stevenson emerge victorious in their next bouts? “After this (the Alvarez match), we will speak about any possible fight,” Kovaelv says. To Kovalev, it seems, the most important business is the business at hand. “We have a big test next Saturday,” he states. No doubt Eleider Alvarez agrees.