Press Release: Sergey Kovalev will face Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title vacated by Andre Ward. The event will take place on Nov. 25th at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing. Kovalev is 30-2-1 and lost his last two fights to Andre Ward, the first one in a battle that most thought Kovalev deserved to win.
He spoke to media recently, and this is what he, along with his promoter Kathy Duva had to say:
Question: Sergey, can you describe what it was like for you to put the losses to Andre Ward behind you? This is like a new beginning for your career. Can you talk about that?
Sergey Kovalev: All life is like a lesson for me. After my last three fights, some felt that I should get more physically into my work life with my boxing again. But right now, I feel all bad things are gone from my mind. Right now I concentrate, and I focus for the future of my boxing career. I'm ready to be again a world champion and collect my belts if somebody will be ready to unify the title.
Question: Sergey, when this fight was made with Shabranskyy you did not know it was going to be for the title. Andre Ward hadn't retired, I don't believe, when this fight was put together and you were going to go in and fight him to get back in action, score a win and get back on track. Can you tell me what it was like for you, as far as how excited you were that when you found out that it was going to be for one of the titles that Andre vacated when he retired? That you'd have a chance to regain one of your belts in your first fight coming off of a defeat?
SK: My next fight without the belt was going to be discouraging, (but now it) should be very exciting. I'm really excited and ready to get my belts back. It would be really interesting and really exciting, and I would fight anybody.
I was ready to fight Sullivan Barrera, but he didn't approve the fight and we got Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. And, after this, Andre Ward vacated the title; it's additional motivation. It's like the most important (in) how my future boxing career is going to be. I'm really happy that this fight will be for the title and for the WBO, because this was the first title that I had already. But now this is like a new chapter in my boxing career. I am recharged. I am much stronger than last three fights and you will see November 25 in New York.
Question: Kathy, you've promoted a lot of fighters over the years. I just wanted your philosophy about what to do when you have a top-notch fighter, like Sergey Kovalev, and they have the situation where they lost a fight, lost maybe a second fight and your philosophy on how you go about bringing them back to prominence once again? What is your thought process when you meet with the fighter's manager to put him back in a position to get him back on top?
Kathy Duva: The first fight, I will say for the rest of my life, he didn't lose. The second one, he was fighting the referee and the fighter, but he lost to the number one fighter in the world. That's not coming back. You don't fall too far when you're that close with a guy who is that good. Ward has a style that is just very, very hard to beat, especially when he's getting help.
My feeling about this is that Sergey is must-see TV. Sergey is still one of the most compelling, exciting fighters in the world. Having lost a debatable decision or a debatable stoppage shouldn't really derail somebody's career all that much. And as things turned out, Sergey is in a position right now to, not only be right back on top, but to be right back on top of one of the most exciting and perhaps the deepest division in boxing.
In my mind, you know, you hit the reset button. That's what we did here. Sergey started out from absolutely nothing and in a few short years made it all the way to the top of the sport. I don't know why everybody thinks he can't do it again. He doesn't have far to climb this time and it's very nice the way the thing is starting to play itself out. You have exciting young fighters winning world titles in the division now. He's going literally back to where we began with the WBO. He wins that belt first and I've already been hearing that some of the other champions want to fight him.
We've got some terrific fights to look forward to. I think, let's put it behind us and move on. These are going to be exciting fights. This is an exciting division. I commend Sergey for reaching for that brass ring and fighting someone he really didn't have to fight to try to grab that mantle of greatness. I think he got it, in essence, because he did it.
In this day and age, there are very few fighters who are going to go win a world title, put their titles on the line against absolutely everyone, one right after another and come right back and start doing it again. To me, this is a little interruption and we're just moving forward now.
Question: Do you think all this leads, Kathy, to Sergey fighting the eventual winner of Dmitriy Bivol and Sullivan Barrera [for the WBA title]?
KD: Of course. If he wants to win his belt back, he's going to have to do that. If the Bivol-Barrera fight gets done. We've had talks. It is certainly makeable, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion at this point.
Question: Sergey, from a tactical standpoint, there were some things that were mentioned during the Ward fight, and I know you're saying that you want to move on and you guys have hit the reset button. I agree, you don't fall far off of the map or the ladder when you take a loss to another world champion. But just from a tactical standpoint, what are some of the things that you took away from the two fights with Ward that you may or may not have seen as things that you could work on moving forward now that you've hit the reset button?
SK: The most important thing in my boxing career that I should do during all my time here in America till I finish my boxing career: when I'm doing boxing, I should do boxing. Not another business or a lot of flights to come back and forth to Russia to spend free time. Because when I'm in Russia, I don't have the time like for locals and doing the boxing. Just a lot of meetings, a lot of businesses, a lot of wrong things. I mean.not sport at all. But right now, I'm here in America, and started a new chapter in my boxing career.
Question: You think it was more or less you were having distractions from outside of the ring being in Russia with family and other businesses. Here in America you're able to focus 110% on boxing. But then, once you are 110% zoned in here in America, with your training, what are some of the things that you're doing inside of the gym? Or are you just getting back to the basics and working hard and going back to the things that got you all the way to where you currently are? Is there anything different outside of the training?
SK: By being in the U.S., I am a more disciplined fighter. All the traveling that I did, changing the time zones, doing the non-boxing business, it was hard for me to get back into the tip-top condition before my fight. When I do too much traveling and when in other businesses, I'm not 100% focused. By staying in the U.S., I would have been disciplined all the time. That's what's going to help me to have that reset button and to get to my next title fight.
Question: Kathy, do you see many big challenges for Sergey Kovalev at 175?
KD: Oh yes. My Lord, they're just lining up. You saw Dimitry Bivol the other night, certainly, announce his rival very emphatically. You've got Artur Beterbiev, there's that grudge match that hasn't happened yet that certainly is still on the horizon between Sergey and Beterbiev. Particularly if Beterbiev is successful in his [IBF] title fight that's coming up shortly. You've got Sullivan Barrera who's going to be on this card. He's got Felix Valera who's going to be fighting him in, we think, maybe the sleeper fight of the night. Of course, Gvozdyk, who is also managed by Egis Klimas is another one. You've got Eleider Alvarez who I'm hearing isn't getting a title fight. So, who knows? Maybe he'll arrive and, you never know, if that WBC titleholder ever grows a pair, we may see him some day. There are so many good fights in this division.
If you think about it, Dimitry Bivol is in his 20s. He is the only one, actually, who is in his 20s. The rest of these guys are in their 30s. There's going to be a whole crop of new fighters coming up right behind them. I do mean it when I say I think this is the deepest division in boxing. I think it is.
Question: Sergey, with these names: Eleider Alvarez, [world champion] Adonis Stevenson, Dmitriy Bivol, all the guys, do you feel that you are the main guy? You are the strongest guy in 175?
SK: Take your time. Let's just see what will happen after next year. Right now I have a focus on my next fight and I do not say that I'm the best. But I want to be the best. And I already have proved a lot of things to myself and to lot of people, to the boxing fans, that I can be the best. But the three last fights, it was something is wrong with me. Next fight and next year I will show everything, who I am. But take your time. I'm working on it.
KD: That will be so much fun finding out.
Question: Sergey, I was just wondering if your upcoming opponent, if his style is going to offer you any problems, his movement and his defensive boxing?
SK: If I will be in the best shape and right now, everything is going very good with my training camp and I'm feeling very good and I hope that everything will be much better than the last fight, you know.. If I will be in the best shape, not any problem against Shabranskyy or anybody.
Question: Our Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, we are trying to get him to come to Bellator and he's expressed some interest in fight sports. Will he have to buy a ticket or will there be a VIP pass if he wish to attend?
KD: [laughing] I'll probably make him buy a ticket because the last time I made a deal with him, he didn't pay us the whole amount of money he owed us. So he's going to have to buy a lot of tickets before we make up that 2.6 mil.
Question: Do you think Sergey's opponent can offer him any problems or present any challenges?
KD: Of course. Every time a fighter like Sergey has to take the next step in his journey, learn to deal with the loss, move on from it, the next opponent is obviously going to present a problem. Shabranskyy is a great big puncher and this is boxing, anything can happen. I know Sergey is taking this very seriously and putting 100% into it. Because you've got to do that every time when you're in there with a world-class fighter, which is what he's going be in with on November 25th.