Tag Archives: Boxing Insider Notebook: Kovalev

Boxing Insider Notebook: Kovalev, Canelo, Garcia, Conto, Beterbiev, and more…


Compiled By: William Holmes

The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of October 8th to October 15th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.


Photo Credit: Joe Barbuto

South Philadelphia Heavyweight Sonny Conto Right at Home in the Columbus Day Parade

Sonny Conto took time out from preparing for his hometown bout on Oct. 18 to appear in the annual Columbus Day Parade in South Philadelphia. Riding in a convertible adorned with posters promoting his bout at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, Conto entertained the crowd and spent time after the parade, signing autographs and handing out TEAM CONTO headbands to fans.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Conto. “I went to this parade every year as a kid, and this year, I was actually in the parade. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Conto’s convertible was positioned just behind the car of famed Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo. Rizzo passed away in 1991, but is still a beloved figure among South Philadelphia’s Italian community.

Tomorrow it’s back to work for the heavyweight fighter, as he prepares for his bout this Friday.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Peltz Boxing, tickets priced at $150, $90, $75 and $50 (not including applicable fees) can be purchased at the Liacouras Center Box Office, www.liacourascenter.com or charge by phone at 800-298-4200.
A Russia-Ukraine Story Ten Years in the Making- Friday in Philadelphia

As Russia and Ukraine dominate the news, both countries have become inextricably linked to the current impeachment inquiry in Washington DC. Up the road in Philadelphia, two world champion boxers–one Russian, one Ukrainian–are preparing to meet in a light-heavyweight unification bout.

As their home countries wage war against each other, their thoughts are 5,000 miles away, focused not on the opponent’s country, but on the man he will meet in the center of the ring at Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Oct. 18. The winner will leave the ring as WBC/ IBF Light-Heavyweight Champion of the world.

Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) is the current WBC Light- Heavyweight Champion, having defeated Adonis Stevenson via knockout in the 11th round of their Dec., 2018, bout in Quebec, Canada. The knockout would end Stevenson’s boxing career.

IBF Light-Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs) defeated Gvozdyk when the two met as amateurs–Beterbiev representing Russia, Gvozdyk representing Ukraine.

Ukraine Arrives on the American Stage

In recent weeks, calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment became deafening after Ukraine released the transcript of a phone call between its President, former comedian Volodymir Zelensky, and Trump, which included an exchange about former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Trump urged the newly elected leader to investigate the younger Biden.

The impeachment inquiry will examine whether Trump held up $400M in aid to Ukraine with the intention of releasing it when the country began an investigation of Hunter Biden, and one into Ukraine’s role in the 2016 US Presidential election–a conspiracy theory, which Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, have repeatedly pushed publicly. The premise is that Crowdstrike, a California-based company that was brought in to investigate the Russian hack of the Democratic party’s servers that election year, is owned by a Ukrainian.

Zelensky, who played the President of Ukraine in a television show called Servant of the People for four years, was elected in a landslide victory in April and began his term as Ukraine’s sixth president in May. He’s an unwitting participant in American politics, which was made clear during a 10-hour, informal question-and-answer session last week with reporters in Ukraine. He spoke dismissively about the potential that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election, saying he would have to be shown a reason to proceed with any joint “theoretical” investigation.

Like the boxers training in Philadelphia, who are focused on their fight and not on war and politics, his mind is elsewhere – working to end the conflict with Russia on Ukraine’s Eastern border.

His constituents, the people of Ukraine, are not focused on American politics and elections. “The Trump phone call is being covered right now in Ukraine,” said Petro Shugurov, former Ring Magazine Ukraine Writer and Contributing Editor who lives in the country. “Mostly just that Zelensky was involved. The Ukrainian people have enough to worry about with our own politics.”

The American and the Canadian

While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has a complicated and lengthy history, the roads that led Beterbiev and Gvozdyk to Philadelphia are well-traveled.

“The Boxing Federations of Russia and Ukraine are very similar,” said Shugurov. “They still operate like they did during the days of the USSR. The Russian Federation is like God Almighty to boxers in Russia–there are a lot of programs to support them and they receive stipends.”

Both boxers were decorated amateurs. Beterbiev had over 300 amateur fights and won gold and silver in world-level contests in Milan and Chicago. Gvozdyk had over 250 amateur bouts and won a bronze medal for Ukraine in the 2012 Olympics in London.

Gvozdyk is followed closely by those in his home country of Ukraine and Ukrainians stateside, despite moving to California five years ago to focus on his career: “One month ago, we went to the Ukrainian Festival. There were a lot of Ukrainian people there and I was surprised that a lot of them knew me. We spent a couple hours there, signing autographs and taking photos.”

Gvozdyk, whose father had a brief career as an amateur boxer in Ukraine, is living out his dream in California. “When I asked my wife to come to California with me, to leave her home, she said the most important thing is that I’m going to go with you,” Gvozdyk said of his wife, Daria. He acknowledges that it can sometimes be difficult to be away from family as the two raise a family, but the kids–two boys and one girl, ages 3-10–have traveled the world with their parents. “Our kids are the most quiet kids on the plane when they travel. They don’t cry. They know it’s pointless.” Gvozdyk lost his mother in 2014.

Politics is not a topic that Gvozdyk is anxious to discuss, going so far as to say he doesn’t know what’s happening. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m just an athlete. I don’t want to make any parallels to the fight. I am living in California, he is living in Montreal. I just don’t know anything about it.”

“Teddy Atlas, Gvozdyk’s trainer, runs a tight ship,” said J Russell Peltz, who is co-promoting the championship fight with Top Rank. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s not focused on what’s happening on the other side of the world.”

His opponent, Beterbiev, shared the sentiment. “Any war is bad for people, but I really don’t want to talk about it,” said the Russian, who relocated to Montreal six years ago to further his career. “It’s far from me in Canada.”

Shugurov hints at other motives at why the boxers don’t want to talk about life in the former Soviet bloc: “They are high-profile athletes and they don’t want to upset anyone. They don’t want to have problems like those that have happened with other boxers.

“Ukrainians and Russians are everywhere and they are like a network. Fighters as a whole don’t want to get involved. They want to make money and not have problems. Beterbiev, he’s Canadian now. Gvozdyk is American.”

Beterbiev’s family life nearly mirrors that of his opponent. Married with four children ages 2-8, Beterbiev lost his father to an accident when he was only sixteen. His father was just starting to enjoy his son’s career. “A couple days before he died, I won a bronze medal in a tournament. He said to me: ‘You won this fight. Now go go go. I believe in you.’”

Raising a family away from home hasn’t been easy for Beterbiev and his wife, Medena, though Beterbiev’s mother has traveled to Canada to help.

Much Can Change in Ten Years

Ten years ago, Ukraine was led by Viktor Yushchenko, who had survived an assassination attempt by poison five years prior. There was political chaos and a gas dispute with Russia. Putin was not yet President of Russia, but it was understood that he was in charge of the country. There was tension between the two countries, but nothing that matched the war and hostility they are facing today.

“We had beat Germany together,” said Shugurov. “We fought Nazis together. A whole lot of people believed we should be one country. While Ukraine had a Western-friendly leader, there was a brotherhood between the people of the countries.”

The US had a different president, one not embroiled in an impeachment inquiry permeated by Russian and Ukrainian ties.

Ten years ago, two fighters, one from Ukraine, one from Russia, met in a boxing ring with the Russian besting the Ukrainian. The two fighters, now husbands and fathers, undefeated world champion professionals, living away from home and seeking the glory that comes with unifying world titles, will meet in the most pivotal fight of their respective careers. It’s a fight that transcends politics and war, whose winner, at least in the boxing world, will be declared Unified Champion of the World.
Andrew “El Chango” Cancio to Face Rene Alvarado in Rematch for WBA Super Featherweight Title

WBA Super Featherweight World Champion Andrew “El Chango” Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KOs) will defend his title for a second time in a 12-round rematch against Rene “Gemelo” Alvarado (31-8, 20 KOs). The event will take place on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. and will be streamed live exclusively as part of fight season on DAZN.

“Andrew Cancio is a very resilient fighter and has proven himself with his raw talent and passion, showing his true potential to grow in this industry. Meanwhile, Rene Alvarado has also put in hard work during his tenure, with an impressive determination in the ring that has kept up his winning streak over the past couple of years,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy. “This year, we’ve put on many high-quality bouts at Fantasy Springs and are confident this event will be the best so far. We’re also excited to add this card to this fall’s action-packed fight season on DAZN. You don’t want to miss this!”

Cancio is a 30-year-old world champion who recently made two back-to-back stoppage wins against former undefeated world champion Alberto “Explosivo” Machado. The native of Blythe, Calif. has become a hero in his hometown, where he received a “Key to the City” after his first win against Machado. Cancio is managed by Ray Chaparro and recently re-signed with Golden Boy before his win against Dardan Zenunaj. Since his return to the sport after a two-year hiatus, he has become one of Golden Boy’s most prominent and determined champions.

“I’m very excited to return to my second home, Fantasy Springs Casino on November 23 for the rematch with Rene Alvarado,” said Andrew Cancio. “This is my 12th time fighting there, and I love the enthusiasm my fans bring to the venue in support of my fights. Rene Alvarado and I have fought before and now he’s earned another opportunity to fight me. I know he’ll be very well prepared to try and take my WBA world title. However, I plan on defending my championship in impressive style once again and show boxing fans in attendance and watching on DAZN that I’m the best 130-pound fighter in the world, period!”

Alvarado is a 30-year-old super featherweight contender who has faced challenging opponents in his professional career including Robinson “Robin Hood” Castellanos, Rocky Juarez, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz, Manuel “Tino” Avila, Jayson Velez, Yuriokis “El Ciclon de Guantanamo” Gamboa, and Carlos “The Solution” Morales. A veteran in the ring that originates from Nicaragua, Alvarado hopes to avenge his loss against Andrew Cancio.

“Nicaragua is known for its great world champions, and I’m one step away from becoming one,” said Rene Alvarado. “I’m coming for the victory against Andrew Cancio on November 23. We know each other very well, and it’s going to be a war.”

In the co-main event, Xu Can (17-2, 3 KOs), China’s third world champion, will defend his WBA Featherweight World Title against rising contender Manny Robles III (18-0, 8 KOs) of Los Angeles in a 12-round fight. Robles is a crafty fighter whose grandfather and father were renowned trainers. After victories against the likes of Edgar “Kid Neza” Valerio and Rigoberto Hermosillo, Robles is ready to take on the biggest challenge of his career against a man who has become a national hero in his home country.

“I’m ready to make the second defense of my world title,” said Xu Can. “I defended it with honor in my home country of China, and now I’ll come back to the United States to defend it against a tough fighter. Manny Robles III as earned his opportunity. He is smart and tough, but I plan to remain champion for a very long time.”

“My time has come,” said Manny Robles III. “All of my amateur experience, the hours spent in the gym, and the tough fights as a professional have prepared me for this challenge. I’m ready to bring a world title to Los Angeles and make everyone at home proud. Xu Can is a phenomenal fighter, but on Nov. 23, the Robles family will crown its very own world champion.”

Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis (21-0, 14 KOs) of Boston will fight Eddie “Eboy” Gomez (23-3, 13 KOs) of the Bronx, N.Y. in a 10-round rematch for the vacant WBA Continental Americas Welterweight Title. Ellis is very close to a world title opportunity, while Gomez is eager to avenge his stunning first-round knockout loss to him in 2016.

Victor Morales Jr. (12-0, 7 KOs) of Vancouver, Wash. will return in an eight-round super featherweight bout. This will be Morales’ first fight on a Golden Boy card after signing with the company.

Alberto “Impacto” Melian (5-1, 3 KOs) of Buenos Aires, Argentina will participate in an eight-round super bantamweight fight. Melian is a two-time Olympian who will return after his first loss against Leonardo “Leon” Baez for the NABA Super Bantamweight Title.

Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-3-1, 6 KOs) of Urumqi, China will face Saul Corral (30-14, 20 KOs) of Sonora, Mexico in an eight-round super lightweight bout.

Daniel Barrera will make his professional debut in a four-round super flyweight fight.

Alex Rincon (7-0, 6 KOs) of Dallas will return in a six-round super welterweight fight.

Opponents for this undercard will be announced shortly.

Ryan Garcia to Face ‘Ruthless” Romero Duno in Co-Main Event of Canelo-Kovalev

The Canelo vs. Kovalev undercard will be brimming with action as it features the returns of Ryan Garcia, Bakhram Murtazaliev, Seniesa Estrada, Marlen Esparza and many others. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will be streamed live exclusively as one of the most anticipated events this fight season on DAZN.

“We have put a lot of thought into this long-awaited night, and we’re eager to deliver one of the best undercards of the year,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy. “This event will feature some of our brightest talents taking on the toughest fights of their careers. With Ryan Garcia, we have a huge star in the making, but he’ll need to get past a tough, hard-hitting contender in Romero Duno to secure his path for a world title. We also have Seniesa Estrada and Marlen Esparza, who will look to final end their rivalry in a fight for the Interim WBA Flyweight Title. So, whether in person or live on DAZN, a new chapter in boxing’s history will unfold on November 2.”

As announced previously, rising superstar Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs) of Victorville, Calif. will look to unify the vacant WBC Silver Lightweight Championship with NABO Lightweight Champion “Ruthless” Romero Duno (21-1, 16 KOs) of Cotabato City, Philippines in the 12-round co-main event to Canelo vs. Kovalev. This will be a fight between two of the hardest-hitting lightweights in the Golden Boy stable.

“This is a big moment for me,” said Ryan Garcia. “These opportunities don’t come often. It’s my chance to show what I’m capable of on the biggest stage in boxing. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip. I’m fighting against Romero Duno, the opponent I wanted since the beginning, so I’m going show that I’ve reached another level on Nov. 2.”

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Romero Duno. “I’m so excited to be part of a such a big night as the co-main event of Canelo vs. Kovalev. This fight has been building up for some time. I’ve had my eye on Ryan Garcia for a while now. I promise to do everything it takes to beat him on Nov. 2 and take home a big victory for the Philippines!”

Undefeated Russian prospect Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0, 13 KOs) will face the biggest test of his young career in a 12-round elimination bout with Jorge Fortea (20-1-1, 6 KOs) of Valencia, Spain for the mandatory position in the IBF Junior Middleweight Division. Murtazaliev was originally supposed to fight Jeison Rosario on September 21 for the #1 position but Rosario pulled out due to an injury. This exciting bout will be co-promoted by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Sampson Boxing.

“I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. I am excited for my first fight with my new trainer, Virgil Hunter. We will be ready on November 2nd to face Fortea and become mandatory challenger. Thank you to my team Main Events, Krusher Promotions, Kathy Duva, Sergey Kovalev, my manager, Egis Klimas and Virgil Hunter for making my dream a reality.”

According to Fortea, “It’s a moment I have been waiting for whole my life, to be part of the undercard of Canelo vs Kovalev for my US debut is like a dream. I trained 15 years for this. I want to thank Sampson Lewkowicz for making it true, Main Events and Golden Boy for hosting the eliminator. Murtazaliev is indeed a strong and dangerous boxer but I will be ready for that and my skills will prevail. I won’t waste the opportunity to fight for a world title”

Bakhram is a terrific fighter and we are so pleased to be able to give him this great opportunity on such an auspicious night,” said Main Events’ CEO Kathy Duva. “With any luck, Main Events and Krusher promotions will have another world champion soon.”

Two of the most exciting and popular female boxers in the sport today will finally settle their heated rivalry as Seniesa “Superbad” Estrada (17-0, 7 KOs) of East Los Angeles, Calif. and Marlen Esparza (7-0, 1 KOs) of Houston, Texas battle for the vacant Interim WBA Flyweight Title. This clash has been building up for over two years as both fighters have been exchanging words over social media and various interviews.

“Thank you to my promoter Golden Boy, especially Roberto Diaz for making this fight possible,” said Seniesa Estrada.“I’m happy to give the fans the fight they’ve been wanting to see. I’m looking forward to representing women’s boxing in a positive way. I’m going to put on a great show and demonstrate my skills, showing things that people have not yet seen from me. Thank you to all the people who continue to support me.”

“My team and I have been pushing for this fight,” said Marlen Esparza. “I know this is what the fans want. Now I’m forcing her to back up everything she has ever said. She knows it’s going to be a long night for her.”

Blair “The Flair” Cobbs (12-0-1, 8 KOs), a fan-favorite native of Philadelphia, will fight for the vacant NABF Welterweight Title against Carlos Ortiz (11-4, 11 KOs) of Torreon, Mexico. Cobbs is an exciting, unconventional fighter who has taken the undefeated records of Ferdinand “Lucky Boy” Kerobyan and most recently against Steve “Manos de Oro” Villalobos.

Rising 17-year-old prospect Tristan Kalkreuth (2-0, 2 KOs) of Duncanville, Texas will return in a four-round cruiserweight fight.

Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8 KOs) of Merki, Kazakhstan will fight in a 10-roumd middleweight battle against Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13 KOs) of San Ysidro, California for the WBC – USNBC Middleweight Title. Nursultanov is a top prospect in the hot middleweight division and is current ranked #10 in the IBF. Olivas hits hard with power in both hands and has never been stopped. This should be an explosive match-up.

Evan Holyfield, the son of legendary Hall of Famer Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, will make his much-anticipated professional debut in a four-round junior middleweight fight against Nick Winstead (0-1) of Abita Springs, La.

Canelo –Kovalev Stacked Undercard at MGM on November 2nd

The Canelo vs. Kovalev undercard will be brimming with action as it features the returns of Ryan Garcia, Bakhram Murtazaliev, Seniesa Estrada, Marlen Esparza and many others. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will be streamed live exclusively as one of the most anticipated events this fight season on DAZN.

“We have put a lot of thought into this long-awaited night, and we’re eager to deliver one of the best undercards of the year,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy. “This event will feature some of our brightest talents taking on the toughest fights of their careers. With Ryan Garcia, we have a huge star in the making, but he’ll need to get past a tough, hard-hitting contender in Romero Duno to secure his path for a world title. We also have Seniesa Estrada and Marlen Esparza, who will look to final end their rivalry in a fight for the Interim WBA Flyweight Title. So, whether in person or live on DAZN, a new chapter in boxing’s history will unfold on November 2.”

As announced previously, rising superstar Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs) of Victorville, Calif. will look to unify the vacant WBC Silver Lightweight Championship with NABO Lightweight Champion “Ruthless” Romero Duno (21-1, 16 KOs) of Cotabato City, Philippines in the 12-round co-main event to Canelo vs. Kovalev. This will be a fight between two of the hardest-hitting lightweights in the Golden Boy stable.

“This is a big moment for me,” said Ryan Garcia. “These opportunities don’t come often. It’s my chance to show what I’m capable of on the biggest stage in boxing. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip. I’m fighting against Romero Duno, the opponent I wanted since the beginning, so I’m going show that I’ve reached another level on Nov. 2.”

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Romero Duno. “I’m so excited to be part of a such a big night as the co-main event of Canelo vs. Kovalev. This fight has been building up for some time. I’ve had my eye on Ryan Garcia for a while now. I promise to do everything it takes to beat him on Nov. 2 and take home a big victory for the Philippines!”

Undefeated Russian prospect Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0, 13 KOs) will face the biggest test of his young career in a 12-round elimination bout with Jorge Fortea (20-1-1, 6 KOs) of Valencia, Spain for the mandatory position in the IBF Junior Middleweight Division. Murtazaliev was originally supposed to fight Jeison Rosario on September 21 for the #1 position but Rosario pulled out due to an injury. This exciting bout will be co-promoted by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Sampson Boxing.

“I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. I am excited for my first fight with my new trainer, Virgil Hunter. We will be ready on November 2nd to face Fortea and become mandatory challenger. Thank you to my team Main Events, Krusher Promotions, Kathy Duva, Sergey Kovalev, my manager, Egis Klimas and Virgil Hunter for making my dream a reality.”

According to Fortea, “It’s a moment I have been waiting for whole my life, to be part of the undercard of Canelo vs Kovalev for my US debut is like a dream. I trained 15 years for this. I want to thank Sampson Lewkowicz for making it true, Main Events and Golden Boy for hosting the eliminator. Murtazaliev is indeed a strong and dangerous boxer but I will be ready for that and my skills will prevail. I won’t waste the opportunity to fight for a world title”

“Bakhram is a terrific fighter and we are so pleased to be able to give him this great opportunity on such an auspicious night,” said Main Events’ CEO Kathy Duva. “With any luck, Main Events and Krusher promotions will have another world champion soon.”

Two of the most exciting and popular female boxers in the sport today will finally settle their heated rivalry as Seniesa “Superbad” Estrada (17-0, 7 KOs) of East Los Angeles, Calif. and Marlen Esparza (7-0, 1 KOs) of Houston, Texas battle for the vacant Interim WBA Flyweight Title. This clash has been building up for over two years as both fighters have been exchanging words over social media and various interviews.

“Thank you to my promoter Golden Boy, especially Roberto Diaz for making this fight possible,” said Seniesa Estrada. “I’m happy to give the fans the fight they’ve been wanting to see. I’m looking forward to representing women’s boxing in a positive way. I’m going to put on a great show and demonstrate my skills, showing things that people have not yet seen from me. Thank you to all the people who continue to support me.”

“My team and I have been pushing for this fight,” said Marlen Esparza. “I know this is what the fans want. Now I’m forcing her to back up everything she has ever said. She knows it’s going to be a long night for her.”

Blair “The Flair” Cobbs (12-0-1, 8 KOs), a fan-favorite native of Philadelphia, will fight for the vacant NABF Welterweight Title against Carlos Ortiz (11-4, 11 KOs) of Torreon, Mexico. Cobbs is an exciting, unconventional fighter who has taken the undefeated records of Ferdinand “Lucky Boy” Kerobyan and most recently against Steve “Manos de Oro” Villalobos.

Rising 17-year-old prospect Tristan Kalkreuth (2-0, 2 KOs) of Duncanville, Texas will return in a four-round cruiserweight fight.

Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8 KOs) of Merki, Kazakhstan will fight in a 10-roumd middleweight battle against Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13 KOs) of San Ysidro, California for the WBC – USNBC Middleweight Title. Nursultanov is a top prospect in the hot middleweight division and is current ranked #10 in the IBF. Olivas hits hard with power in both hands and has never been stopped. This should be an explosive match-up.

Evan Holyfield, the son of legendary Hall of Famer Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, will make his much-anticipated professional debut in a four-round junior middleweight fight against Nick Winstead (0-1) of Abita Springs, La.

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