A la Russe: Kovalev Meets Chilemba

By Robert Ecksel on April 25, 2016
A la Russe: Kovalev Meets Chilemba
The last time Kovalev fought in Russia was on December 5, 2011, against Roman Simakov.

Sergey Kovalev has become the champion’s champion. He’s returning to Russia triumphant and in his prime…

The last time Sergey Kovalev fought in Russia was on December 5, 2011, against Roman Simakov. A seventh round TKO for Kovalev turned into a disaster when Silikov lapsed into a coma and died.

Much has happened in the intervening years. Kovalev has become the champion’s champion. He’s returning to Russia triumphant and in his prime.

On Monday, July 11, at the DIVAS Palace of Sports in Ekaterinburg, Russia, WBA/WBO/IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), the mad bomber from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, by way of Kopeysk, Russia, returns home to defend his WBA/IBF/WBO titles against Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs), the awkward contender from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, by way of Blantyre, Malawi.

“I am so excited to fight in my home country of Russia,” said Kovalev. “I’m very excited that my next fight is happening almost in my hometown. It gives me great pride to bring my titles home at last. Chilemba is a tough opponent and I will be ready for him on July 11.”

Kovalev and his 87 percent knockout ratio are always ready. And as far as Chilemba being tough, the tougher the better.

The hard man from Malawi counts his blessings.

“First of all I thank God for the blessings and opportunities,” said Chilemba. “When I received a call regarding this opportunity, I was over the moon. I have met a lot of obstacles and every time I think I’ve got it right, I fall again, but I know my goals and I never stop following my dreams. I thank Sergey and his team for putting their titles on the line to face me. All I want to say to them is: they are in for a surprise, they gave the wrong guy an opportunity. I’ll work my ass off and I’m in it to win it! Russia here we come!”

Watching “Krusher” crush opponents has become a thrill-a-minute pastime. The Russian Wrecking Ball, the prodigal son, is returning to Mother Russia.

Kovalev collects belts the way a headhunter collects trophies.

He won vacant WBA-NABA US light heavyweight title in 2011. In 2013 Kovalev won the WBO belt in 2013 when he stopped undefeated champion Nathan Cleverly in Cardiff, Wales. Three successful title defenses followed, all knockouts, before Krusher decisioned the ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins in 2014, and won the WBA and IBF belts. Kovalev had three more successful title defenses, all knockouts, including two satisfying KOs of former WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal.

The fight with Chilemba will be Kovalev’s first title defense in Russia.

“He’s a very interesting opponent,” said Kovalev. “Chilemba is like a spoiler. It’s not an easy fight. He’s not fighting you directly, he’s more of a defensive boxer who moves and does wrestling-type moves. His style is uncomfortable for anybody and he’s never been stopped. It’s going to be my goal to solve this problem and stop him early.”

Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events, is promoting both fighters.

“I’m so happy that we are finally able to bring Sergey back to Russia to defend his titles in his home country for the first time,” she said. “This is no easy fight for Sergey, though. Sergey wanted a challenging opponent for his return to Russia and someone who would help him prepare for Andre Ward in November, assuming he emerges with a win. Isaac Chilemba has the right style and came ‘this close’ to becoming the WBC mandatory contender. We, and many observers, thought that the scorecards easily could have gone his way. Fortunately, we are in a position to give Isaac his world title fight and the opportunity to become a unified world champion. This is a perfect situation for all involved and I can’t wait to go to Russia!”

Duva added, “We think Isaac is great preparation for Sergey, a boxer, which is what Ward is. He’s not the same style as Ward but he’s not somebody that Sergey can walk through, he’s a real contender.”

Kovalev was in Oakland on the night of March 26, 2016, scouting Ward in his fight with previously unbeaten Sullivan Barrera.

“I didn’t pay much attention to what he was doing,” said Kovalev. “I was just watching to see how he moved. I haven’t studied him in that fight. I haven’t watched tape of the fight. I don’t do that. Boxing to me is like a street fight, but with rules.”

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