Superman vs The Bomber

By Steve Bateson on November 28, 2013
HBO want Stevenson vs Kovalev in a title unification bout. But Tony Bellew has different ideas.

Every weight class has a definitive fight that the fans want to see. At welterweight you have Mayweather-Pacquiao. Middleweight you have Gennady Golovkin-Sergio Martinez. And the Light-Heavyweight division is no different. There isn’t a fight fan out there currently who would moan at the sight of Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev on opposite sides of the ring.

This Saturday night, HBO haven’t managed to make that fight happen but they have managed to get both fighters in the same building, on the same card, which can only be deemed as a positive sign in regards to a future clash between these two hard-hitting titans. Quebec, Canada is the setting for this world championship double-header in what promises to be a memorable night of boxing action.

Stevenson, who shot to prominence earlier this year with a first round demolition of Chad Dawson, will defend his WBC strap against Liverpool’s Tony Bellew (20-1-1). Bellew earned this opportunity with a re-match victory over Issac Chilemba in May (they had previously drawn in March) and although his task seems a daunting one, Bellew will not have fear in his eyes when he steps into hostile territory.

Sure, Stevenson has power, 19 of his 22 victories have come early, but he does have a KO defeat to his name at the hands of Darnell Boone, who is somewhat unfairly listed as a “journeyman”, giving the indication that there is kryptonite out there to derail “Superman”. Stevenson is the heavy favourite, back to back victories over Dawson and Tavoris Cloud are the reason why, but Bellew is being somewhat overlooked by the boxing fraternity and the feisty Scouser will be definitely looking to prove the doubters wrong in Stevenson’s own backyard. Bellew can box well off the back foot, utilising his hefty height and reach advantage, as well as packing a little spite in his own punches to cause the champion difficulties.

Bellew’s only other attempt at a world title was a 2011 majority decision defeat to then WBO boss, Nathan Cleverly. He will have learned a lot from that fight and British fans know from his scraps with Ovil McKenzie that “The Bomber” has tremendous powers of recovery when needed, this fight is far from a foregone conclusion. If Bellew can drag Stevenson into the later rounds it will be interesting to see how the champion adapts but if Adonis can land his bombs from the get-go then it might be an early night for the UK fighter. Stevenson showed in his last fight with Cloud that he isn’t just a “banger” and he does have skills to back him up if he needs them, something Bellew will be more than aware of. Occasionally, Bellew’s workrate has been called into question and he cannot allow that to be the case in Stevenson’s home country, he needs to stay busy at all times because if he gets caught napping then it could very well be lights out or a disappointing decision on the scorecards.

Sticking my neck on the line here but I am predicting a contender for Fight of the Year in this one and quite possibly an upset victory.

The co-main event is for the WBO Light-Heavyweight Championship and pits current champion Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1 with 20 KO’s) defending against former amateur star Ismayl Sillakh (21-1 with 17 KO’s). Kovalev has been the talk of the division since August when he blasted away Welshmen, Nathan Cleverly in four one sided rounds to seize the WBO crown for his own. Before that fight “Krusher” had easily disposed of the usually durable Gabriel Campillo and, former Stevenson conqueror, Darnell Boone putting the world on notice that he was ready for the big time.

He certainly proved he was ready with his defeat of Cleverly in Wales and immediately the talk turned to what was next for the Russian juggernaut. The question was who would be Kovalev’s first defense, many names were touted, but in the end the call was made and the opportunity presented to Ukrainian fighter, Ismayl Silakh. Silakh was touted for big things before his shock defeat to Denis Grachev in 2012 and it has taken him some time to build himself back up to the position where he can be considered a “contender” for a world championship. He gets his chance this Saturday and whilst there are few who give him any hope of victory, we won’t know until the bell sounds and the two men are face to face. Silakh is a good boxer with punching power and Kovalev, despite his growing reputation, is largely untested when it comes to facing a legitimate challenge.

Kovalev has never gone more than eight rounds and if Silakh is able to absorb his opponent’s devastating punching power for the first half of the fight then there is no telling how formidable “Krusher” will be down the stretch. But it would take some fighter, possessing an iron chin and an unbreakable heart, to stand up to Kovalev’s blows and still be able to fire back by the time round seven is underway. Silakh’s defeat to Grachev showed that he can be hurt, that perhaps his dedication and motivation is questionable, and that is not the best sign going up against one of the most feared punchers in the sport today.

Kovalev is the favourite for good reason and whilst it would be interesting to see the Russian answer a few unknown questions about his ability, it is highly unlikely that we will get what we want in this fight. Silakh may start brightly but Kovalev’s relentless pressure and thirst for destruction will prove too much. Don’t expect this to go past the halfway stage.

Two world title fights, one bill, and all eyes will be on matching the two winners around April-May next year. HBO would love to pit Stevenson and Kovalev together in a unification slugfest, the boxing world would rejoice at such a bout. Even if that fight cannot be made immediately then Stevenson could potentially line up lucrative all-Canadian clashes with fellow Light-Heavies Jean Pascal and Lucien Bute whilst the evergreen Bernard Hopkins is an option that any 175 pounder would struggle to ignore. But I would implore neither fighter to overlook what stands in front of them on Saturday night, blink once and this could all turn into a distant dream.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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