HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy
By: Ste Rowen
This coming Saturday the Madison Square Garden Theater, New York sees the return of Sergey ‘The Krusher’ Kovalev as he looks to regain the crown in the light heavyweight division after his two controversial defeats to Andre Ward. In his way stands Ukrainian fringe contender Vyacheslav ‘Lion Heart’ Shabranskyy, a man looking to establish himself as a frontrunner for a world title shot.
Photo Credit: David Spagnolo/Main Events
Twelve months ago, Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1) was reeling from his first professional career defeat. An unjust defeat to many. The highly anticipated bout between Sergey ‘The Krusher’ Kovalev and Andre ‘S.O.G.’ Ward neither disappointed, nor set alight into a real classic however, it did decide who was the consensus number one P4P fighter in the word. Unfortunately for the Russian, it was Andre who was given that crown, and the belts he held before their 19th November bout last year.
Almost seven months later he looked a completely different man to the feared light heavyweight juggernaut who stepped into the ring for the first bout. Rumours of needle between himself and trainer, John David Jackson did nothing to help convince those who backed Ward to a get a second win without any controversy this time.
Controversy is what unfolded though. Unlike the previous fight the Russian struggled to beat Ward to the punch and there was no knockdown in his favour to make the scorecards close even before the stoppage. Ward did what many thought was impossible, not the TKO victory, but the fact that Kovalev looked broken, and searching for a way out.
The old ‘Krusher’ wouldn’t have complained about Ward’s low blows, ‘The Krusher’ of previous fights would’ve fired back his own illegal shots ala Ricky Hatton vs Kostya Tszyu, but instead, after six unanswered punches to head, body, and almost definitely lower, the referee stepped in and called off the bout as Kovalev leant on the ropes almost folded in half.
In a recent interview with ‘Fight Hub TV’ Sergey said he’s cleaned up now, dropping the one or two beers he drank a day, and sticking to only water. He looks in supreme condition now, another criticism that followed Sergey going into the rematch with Ward, S.O.G. calling him soft bellied due to the training camp vodka Kovalev was supposedly enjoying. He also has a new trainer in tow but there remain questions over whether Abror Tursunpulatov is the man to rein Sergey back in if he’s lacking discipline in the fight itself or in camp.
Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1-0) himself twelve months ago was a relatively feared light heavyweight picking up notable victories over Paul Parker & Derrick Findley via stoppages, and a majority decision over, then 16-1-0 Yunieski Gonzalez. Momentum was slowed abruptly though when he was handed his first defeat comprehensively in December last year by Cuban, Sullivan Barrera, who fights on the undercard of Saturday’s main event vs Felix Valera.
In previous fights Vyacheslav has looked quick on his feet, constantly on his toes, looking for the opportunities to fire off quick left and right hooks. In his longest bout when he went ten rounds with Gonzalez, Shabranskyy took a more methodical approach, working behind the jab, counter-shots and short spurts of hooks; but last December there seemed a gulf in class between himself and Barrera.
Despite all the signs seemingly being that this would a well-matched fight, perhaps leaning toward the Ukrainian, after the first bell rang, Shabranskyy was ruthlessly dominated. Despite dropping the Cuban in round two, he himself was dropped in the 1st, 5th and 7th when the referee called the fight. He’s steadily built himself back into winning form with a routine win over journeyman Larry Pryor and a fight ruled a TKO victory for the Ukrainian, in an ugly encounter with Todd Unthank May; the fight stopped in the seventh due to cuts.
Shabranskyy is not as polished as Kovalev despite his amateur background. If allowed to attack he will hit the throttle and test what resolve Kovalev has left after the two Ward fights. The Ukrainian however, leaves his chin wide open for the counter, and even if Saturday night’s Kovalev isn’t the Russian of 2015, if the power is still there, Kovalev will only need a few opportunities to put it on his opponent and turn the fight.
At his best, ‘The Krusher’s’ jab was king, and if he’s able to throw it as he did in fights before the second defeat to Ward, it will be a sure sign the Russian is back somewhere close to his best. Another positive for Kovalev is that it was evident in Shabranskyy’s sole defeat, he couldn’t work out how to get around the jab, which setup his eventual downfall in the fight.
Like most fighters returning from a possibly career defining loss, the big question is, ‘Will Kovalev be motivated to keep on fighting?’ He achieved light heavyweight supremacy, even if the WBC title held by Adonis Stevenson alluded Sergey. The WBO strap will be on the line for the weekend’s bout, a belt Sergey won back in 2013, when he beat up recently retired Nathan Cleverly for four rounds.
The current light heavyweight division, even without retired Andre Ward, is one of the most stacked. To name just the current title holders, newly crowned IBF and WBA champions respectively, Artur Beterbiev & Dmitry Bivol, along with WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson. Then add in contenders, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Badou Jack, Sullivan Barrera, Eleider Alvarez and Marcus Browne.
There will be no easy fights for any of the light heavyweights who dare to unify.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Kovalev, Shabranskyy, Carto, AIBA, Linares, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of September 5th to September 12th, covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Sergey Kovalev to Face Vyacheslav Shabranskyy on November 25th
Former Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) returns to the ring Saturday, November 25 at The Theater Madison Square Garden to take on hard-hitting contender Vyacheslav “Lion-Heart Chingonskyy” Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-round light heavyweight showdown.
Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy will be promoted by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Golden Boy Promotions, and televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Tickets for this exciting event will go on sale soon.
The Krusher, 34, from Chelyabinsk, Russia, rose to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings as he quickly tore through the light heavyweight division, stopping 26 of his 33 opponents. He won the WBO Light Heavyweight Title from Nathan Cleverly in 2013 when he stopped the then-unbeaten champion in Cleverly’s backyard. After three straight title defenses, all knockouts, Kovalev dominated future Hall-of-Famer Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins in a unanimous decision shutout to add the WBA and IBF belts to his collection. He continued his run as the unified light heavyweight champion for two more years before meeting undefeated champion and Olympic gold medalist Andre “SOG” Ward in Las Vegas and on HBO pay-per-view. Kovalev dropped two controversial and hard-fought losses to the current pound-for-pound king.
Now, Sergey Kovalev is ready to write the next chapter of his career. Before returning to the United States from a summer in Russia, he spent time at a monastery in Greece to clear his head and prepare mentally and spiritually for his climb back to the top of his division. Kovalev said, “I learned a lot from my fights with Andre Ward. When you don’t win and when you suffer adversity, it makes you stronger.
It also shows you who your real friends are. I feel like I cleaned out my life and now I’m ready to start fresh. I’m very excited to get back in the ring, and fight at Madison Square Garden for the first time, and I’m focused on the future. I’m not looking back.”
Shabranskyy, 30 of Zhytomyr, Ukraine, and fighting out of Los Angeles, California has quickly made a name for himself in the light heavyweight division. “Slava” made his professional debut in 2012 with 17 straight victories and 14 knockouts. His only career blemish is a hard-fought TKO loss to Sullivan Barrera, the Cuban sensation who is currently ranked #3 by the WBC and #2 by the WBA at light heavyweight. Since his loss to Barrera, Shabranskyy has two straight wins both coming by way of knockout including his most recent win over Todd Unthank May where he secured the WBC USNBC Light Heavyweight Title. This is Shabranskyy’s opportunity to shoot to the top of his division if he can pull off an upset of the former unified champion.
“I’ve been waiting for this fight a long time. I will take this chance to show everyone my abilities and qualities in the ring,” Shabranskyy said. “My coach, Manny Robles and I have been working on movement and defense, which together with my natural power will be more than enough to defeat a great fighter such as Kovalev. I’m proud to represent USA and Ukraine at this fight.”
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said, “The Theater at Madison Square Garden is really a perfect place for Sergey to start the next chapter of his career. He needs to go out and remind people why they love the Krusher. Sergey is an exciting fighter who is a pleasure to watch in the ring and that’s what everyone is going to see on November 25th.”
“Vyacheslav Shabranskyy is back, and ready to prove he will do everything to climb to the top, including facing a top-level fighter such a Kovalev.” said Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya. “Shabranskyy is stronger and smarter inside the ring, and will show off his mastered talent when he faces Sergey. We are excited to partner with Kathy Duva and the Main Events team yet again for an amazing show that will no doubt bring the action.”
About Kovalev-Shabranskyy: The Saturday, November 25 bout between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy is a 10-round light heavyweight match-up at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event is promoted by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Golden Boy Promotions and will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
World Boxing Super Series to Feature Murat Gassiev vs. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
World Boxing Super Series action comes to the east coast as the cruiserweight quarter-final showdown between IBF champion Murat “Iron” Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) and former world champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) is set for Saturday, October 21 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Promoted by Ringstar Sports in association with World Boxing Super Series, tickets for the live event are on sale now and are available at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available to purchase at the Prudential Center box office beginning Monday, September 11 at 11 a.m.
“It’s a great pleasure to promote this exciting World Boxing Super Series matchup,” said Richard Schaefer, Chairman and CEO of Ringstar Sports. “Murat Gassiev is clearly one of the top cruiserweights in the world but he will have a great obstacle against the battle-tested former champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, who will have a big boost from the raucous Polish fans in New Jersey. Prudential Center is the perfect venue for this event and I know that the fans will enjoy this matchup as both men vie for the Muhammad Ali Trophy.”
“It’s so exciting that the Ali Trophy is coming to a fighting place like New Jersey,” said Kalle Sauerland, Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer. “Hold tight and enjoy the ride, October 21 is going to be a unique experience, think ‘Game of Thrones’ meets boxing. Can’t wait!”
A full slate of undercard bout will be announced soon.
“I promise that I’m going to come to the ring to win and do everything possible to get this victory,” said Gassiev. “I want to take advantage of this opportunity to fight the best boxers in my weight class.”
“I have a very serious opponent in Krzysztof Wlodarczyk who is a two-time world champion and his resume speaks for itself. He has fought the best and I’m looking forward to a very hard fight.”
“It is a great honor for me to fight in the World Boxing Super Series for the Muhammad Ali Trophy,” said Wlodarczyk. “I trained for two weeks in the Polish mountains and now I am back in Warsaw putting in the work for October 21.”
“I am very happy to have the opportunity to fight a champion like Murat Gassiev. He is a young, strong champion like I was a few years ago but I am ready to show that I am still the best in the division.”
One of the hardest punchers in the sport, Gassiev trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, California and hails from Vladikavkaz, Russia. The 23-year-old made his U.S. debut in 2015 and delivered four straight knockout victories, including a “Knockout of the Year” contender when he flattened Jordan Schimmel in the first round in May 2016. Gassiev then challenged Denis Lebedev in Russia last December and was able to drop the champion on his way to winning the IBF title.
Fighting out of Piaseczno, Poland, Wlodarczyk first became a world champion when he defeated Steve Cunningham in 2006 to capture the IBF crown. After fighting to a draw against WBC Champion Giacobbe Fragomeni in 2009, Wlodarczyk stopped Fragomeni in their 2010 rematch to become a champion again. He would go on to defend the title six times and enters his October 21 matchup on a four fight winning streak.
California’s Most Exciting Prospects and Contenders to be Part of Linares-Campbell Undercard
California’s most exciting prospects and contenders will showcase their talent on the explosive non-televised undercard of the lightweight showdown between Jorge “El Niño de Oro” Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) and Luke Campbell (17-1, 14 KOs) for the WBA, WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine Lightweight World Championship on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The Linares vs. Campbell non-televised undercard action will be live streamed on RingTV.com beginning at 3:00 p.m. PT/ 6:00 p.m. ET.
As previously announced, super lightweight contender Antonio “Relentless” Orozco (26-0, 17 KOs) of San Diego, Calif. will make the first defense of his WBC USNBC Super Lightweight title against veteran Roberto “Massa” Ortiz (35-1-2, 26 KOs) in the co-main televised opening bout.
Topping the non-televised portion of the card, Filipino lightweight sensation Romero Duno (14-1, 13 KOs) will take on Juan Sanchez (29-13, 14 KOs) of Tabasco, Mexico in an eight-round lightweight fight. Duno, a member of the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. was last seen in the U.S. blasting Christian “Chimpa” Gonzalez in only two rounds in a knockout upset on the March 10 edition of LA FIGHT CLUB. Duno then stopped Jason Tinampay via second-round technical knockout in June in his return to the Philippines. This will be Duno’s first fight on U.S. soil since signing with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year.
Azat Hovhannisyan (12-2, 10 KOs), a member of the Glendale Fighting Club, will return in a 10-round fight for the vacant WBC Continental Americas Super Bantamweight title against Sergio Frias (19-7-2, 10 KOs) of Guadalajara, Mexico. Hovhannisyan was last seen in the ring headlining the June edition of LA FIGHT CLUB, beating Isao Carranza by unanimous decision.
Contender Abraham “Chamaco” Lopez (22-1-1, 15 KOs)of La Puente, Calif. will fight in an eight-round featherweight bout against Isao Carranza (15-9-1, 9 KOs) of Mexico City. Lopez will return after his first professional loss, which was against Jesus Rojas, who will now fight Claudio Marrero for the interim WBA Featherweight title on Sept. 15 edition of Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN.
Manuel “Tino” Avila (22-1, 8 KOs) of Fairfield, Calif. will also return to the ring in an eight-round featherweight bout against Ramiro Robles (14-6-1, 9 KOs) of Queretaro, Mexico. Avila suffered his first defeat against Joseph “Jojo” Diaz, Jr. in May 2017, and will look to return to his climb of the competitive126-pound division with a win on Sept. 23.
Rafael “El Alikin” Gramajo (8-1-1, 2 KOs) of Los Angeles’ Westside Boxing Club will open the night of boxing in his return after more than a year away from the ring in a six-round super bantamweight fight against Pedro Melo (17-15-2, 8 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico.
AIBA Statement on Interference During 2017 African Continental Championships
Following an incident on 25 June 2017, during the AFBC African Boxing Continental Championships hosted by the Congolese Boxing Federation (Fecoboxe) in Brazzaville, Congo and in light of reports made by AIBA officials present at the tournament, the AIBA Disciplinary Commission has decided to exclude Fecoboxe from organising any AIBA competition for two years and suspend with immediate effect the President of the African Boxing Federation (AFBC), AIBA Vice President and member of the Executive Committee, Mr Kelani Bayor, from all boxing activities, duties and responsibilities for a period of three years.
The Disciplinary Commission found that a hostile and threatening reaction to AIBA officials by spectators after the result of a bout on the last day of the competition was exacerbated by comments from Mr Bayor, who committed serious and unacceptable violations of the AIBA Disciplinary Code. The intimidation felt by AIBA officials as a result of insufficient security planning from Fecoboxe, their inadequate response to the situation and Mr Bayor’s own actions, was fully outlined in the Tournament Supervisor’s written report. The Commission’s decision was also based on written testimony from the majority of those officials present. The Commission’s decision is final and is not subject to appeal.
Christian Carto to Face Alonso Melendez on September 29
Undefeated bantamweight sensation, knockout artist, Christian Carto has been added to an already loaded night of boxing on Friday night, September 29th at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.
Carto (11-0, 11 KOs) is set to take on Alonso Melendez (14-1, 11 KOs) of Chihuahua, Mexico in a bout scheduled for eight-rounds.
The show is promoted by King’s Promotions.
The 20 year-old continues to step up in competition, and on September 29th, he will be taking on his toughest foe in Melendez.
Carto has kept extremely busy as he fought all eleven of his bouts in a 13-month span, with his latest being a 2nd round stoppage over Phillip Adyaka on August 11th in front of a sold-out crowd at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia.
He will be making his 1st appearance at the 2300 Arena.
Melendez will making his United States debut. He has won three in a row, and the five-year professional has a win over previously undefeated Edgar Garcia. Alonso is coming off a 7th round stoppage over Jesus Limones on September 9, 2015 in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Carlos Rosario (7-2, 4 KOs) of Pennsuaken, New Jersey and Jerome Conquest (8-2, 1 KO) of Philadelphia will meet in a highly anticipated eight-round lightweight bout.
In a ten-round super middleweight attraction, Junior Castillo (14-1, 10 KOs) of the Dominican Republic takes on Gabriel Pham (9-1, 4 KOs) of Atlantic City.
Mykal Fox (14-0, 4 Kos) of Forestville, MD will take on Marlon Aguas (9-1, 4 KOs) of Quioto Ecuador in a eight-round welterweight bout.
In six-round bouts:
Maynard Allison (9-1, 6 KOs) of Philadelphia meets Juan Rodriguez (7-7-1, 5 Kos) of Haymarket, Virginia in a junior lightweight bout.
David Gonzales (8-2-2, 2 KOs) of Philadelphia battles Darius Ervin (4-1) of Los Angeles in a super lightweight bout.
Erik Spring (9-1-2, 1 KO) of Reading, PA will fight Anthony Prescott (6-7-2, 2 KOs) of Cherry Hill, NJ in a super welterweight fight.