KovalevMediaDay2 Credit:  Photo by Craig Bennett/Main Events –

Yesterday at Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard, California, former WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) opened his training session to the media in advance of his upcoming showdown with Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (31-0, 15 KOs). Below are quotes from this event. Ward vs. Kovalev 2: “The Rematch” takes place Saturday, June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The championship event, presented by Corona Extra, will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View.

“I don’t like this guy [Ward] and I want to punish him because he puts his nose really up right now. He knows that he lost.”

“I don’t care if [Ward] shows respect to me or not. I know only one thing: I will kick his ass! I want to destroy him. I want to destroy this guy as a boxer, as a champion. For me he is not a champion, he’s a fake champion. He lives right now with this status; he’s a fake champion. He believes in his victory over me and right now he’s trying to get belief of people of this victory. It’s wrong, for me, it’s wrong.”

“It’s not the first fight where I’m angry, I’m always angry when I am fighting, but last two fights were very disappointing for me. Right now, at this point, I am feeling good and I feel not any problem to get back my belts.”

“I was ‘over-trained’ for my first fight against Andre Ward. I did three workouts a day. I tried to do everything faster and stronger. Instead of running five miles, I did eight miles. I did more than I usually do all the time. I over-trained.”

“My preparation right now is doing great, much better than last time because I took care of all the mistakes I did in my last two fights. In those two last fights, I was over-trained, for Chilemba and for Ward, and I fought similar, you saw already. But this training camp I am doing everything very good.”

“Nothing changed with John David Jackson. We are doing same as usual. I just got over-trained last time with physical conditioning, but with boxing we’re doing the same, boxing, sparring, mitts. I do same as I did last fight [with John]; I don’t think I need to change something. I just to get back what gave me success. My two last fights were really not good and I delete these mistakes and I delete this [physical conditioning] coach from my training camps, he’s not a coach that helps me right now.”

“I am happy what’s happening around me, I mean in training camp, my family, my life and my boxing. That I have no belts is for me new motivation to kick more ass because he does not deserve these belts. This is gift for him from the judges for Christmas and Christmas already finished and belts should be back with me.”


How hard does Ward hit?

“One day in my hometown Chelyabinsk one day a girl, 25-years old, slapped me on my shoulder then Andre Ward punched me in the fight it was same. I didn’t feel any hard punches from him. I didn’t feel his uppercut and so I didn’t block his uppercut. I didn’t feel this punch but judges counted this punch. It is touches it is not punches. Punches is punches his was like a tap. Judges counted any tapping as punches.”

Did you watch a tape of the fight?

“I tried but I saw only six rounds. I don’t have patience to watch it. For me it’s much easier to fight than to watch it.”

“I think I should knock him out and I must to knock him out to get my belts back because anything can happen but I believe in judges. I think first fight they made mistakes but right now there will be other judges, not the same. I think they’re gonna be fair and honest to count our fight.”

Why didn’t you finish him in the second round when you knocked him down?

“I thought that if knock down can happen [once], it can happen again. I tried not to rush. But I didn’t know that my energy will finish in the fifth round. In the fifth round, I lost the speed, I lost the energy and I was empty, 100% empty. My body fought because my heart doesn’t say stop. I’ll be like fighting until I die. Andre Ward got like four rounds of victory with empty Kovalev, we’ll see what happens on June 17. I think will be everything on my side.”

What does this fight mean for your legacy?

“Everything. I want to live from this point of the boxing. It’s the highest level in the boxing. HBO Pay-Per-View was my dream someday be on this level. Everything this fight means to me.”

How do you stay focused at this point?

“It’s my job. I’m boxing since I am 11 years old and nothing can break me. Nothing, only kill me. If somebody will kill me, yes I will stop boxing. If I am still alive, you know I will do my job. God bless me and I have to fight and I’m ready for June 17, to get my belts back.”

“I want to prove that he didn’t deserve these belts and I want to get my belts back. It’s my goal. I want to punish Andre Ward too because he doesn’t deserve this money, these belts, this status and to be champion. He’s not champion. In my eyes, he’s not champion.”

“I have more motivation right now than first fight because I have a goal. Last fight I just had a test. Can I fight Andre Ward or no? But right now, I understand that yes, I can fight Andre Ward and I can beat him. Right now, I have a goal: to get belts back. It’s more to motivate me than any test.”

“My goal was, and still is, to collect all four belts. I got three and left to get just one. Right now, Andre Ward’s in my way to this goal and I should move him from my way to my goal. First of all, I must get back my belts. We’ll see what will happen after this.”


John David Jackson – Sergey Kovalev’s Trainer

What are your impressions of Ward from the first fight?

“He’s an intelligent fighter. We knew that going in. I’m not too impressed with much more than that. The fact that he didn’t get hit with a flush punch from Sergey, if it was a solid shot, he might not have gotten up. So, if I had to be impressed with anything I’d say it was the fact that he went the distance. He got up in the second half of the fight, he made the fight closer than it should have been, not close to where he should have got a decision, but I was impressed that he did get up and survive.”

There’s been a lot of talk in the aftermath of the last fight. Has that been a distraction to Sergey in training camp?

“I doubt that there’s been any distractions for Sergey from the last fight. He realizes that he lost the fight, not outright, but the judges didn’t give him the decision so you must accept that; it’s part of boxing and he must move on. I think that he’s accepted it and now he just wants to get his belts back.”

What adjustments do you expect Ward to make?

“In the first fight, he did just enough to survive and somehow the judges gave him the decision; he has to be Superman in the second fight. He has to be more aggressive, with less movement and he has to be willing to trade with Sergey. Can he do that? Maybe he can, but will he do it? I doubt that. That’s not his style. Most people have said now that Ward has survived the first fight, he solved the riddle of Sergey Kovalev. I highly doubt that because this wasn’t the best of Sergey Kovalev that you could have seen, not the second half of the fight. I think Andre has to do more than Sergey does to be even more successful in this second go round. Can he do that? We’ll find out on June 17.”

Sergey said he was over-trained in his physical training. You were in Big Bear, did you notice a difference?

“I noticed that this time around his conditioning coach was a bit different. He has him resting more. The other coach had him doing a lot of things that to me were unnecessary. I don’t get in the way of the conditioning coach’s job and I’m not doing that with this guy, but he seemed more interested in keeping Sergey a little more relaxed and not over-training. If we can just do that, he’s on course. For the next two weeks, if we do the same thing, it shouldn’t be a problem.”



Kathy Duva: “Hello everyone, welcome. We are now, I can’t believe it, just a week and a half away from the most exciting, the most compelling and the most competitive fight of 2016, and probably the last two or three years while we’re at it. We are just beside ourselves here. We are exhausted because everyone has been working so hard, but it’s a great feeling. I can’t compliment the fighters enough for stepping up and making boxing what it’s supposed to be and what it used to be, a sport that involved people competing in fights where we didn’t know the outcome. This is a 50-50 fight and we’re starting to feel the buzz and excitement. I want to thank all of you for participating today and I hope to see you all in Las Vegas very soon.”

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev: “Hello everybody, I’m glad to be here.”

Egis Klimas: “I just want to say hello to everybody. I want to thank Sergey Kovalev for making this appearance for this fight and bringing us to this level. He’s the man and he’s the one who brought us here and he’s the reason we are all here on the line. I just want to thank Sergey and welcome everybody to this phone call. Thank you very much.”

John David Jackson: “I just want to thank everybody for being here and I want all of the fans to come out and watch this fight, it’s a great fight between two very good fighters. It’s definitely a fight for the fans to see, so thanks everybody for participating.”

Q: Do you consider Andre Ward to be the best fighter you’ve ever faced?

Sergey Kovalev: “We’ll find out on November 19. I don’t know, but I think so, yes.”

Q: Sometimes Andre Ward brawls, sometimes he boxes. What do you expect him to do in this fight and how are you prepared for his different strategy?

Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t have any different strategy, my strategy is just the one, any cost to get the victory over him. He’s right now in my way to my goals and to my dreams and I should to do my job and fight for my goals and for my dreams. I want to destroy him.”

Q: Have you done anything differently in training to prepare for Andre?

Sergey Kovalev: “Why should I do something different if what I did before gave me success? I followed my same training camp as usual and it should get me in great shape for November 19.”

Q: “Do you think this fight will get you first place in the pound for pound rankings?”

Sergey Kovalev: “I don’t think about what will be after the fight. I have focused my whole attention on this fight and Ward and what I should do inside the ring. We’ll see about this after the fight.”

Q: Do you expect this to be a wrestling fight or a war?

Sergey Kovalev: “Of course this fight is an opportunity for both of us to show the boxing world who is the best pound for pound. I’m sure he will be there to do everything he can to get the victory over me and it’s the same for me. It’s going to be a war between us. Who is the best boxer and who is the best athlete?”

Q: What do you think makes you the more mentally tough boxer in this fight?

Sergey Kovalev: “I think this is most important thing. For me this is a mental fight. It’s not who is stronger, but who is smarter and brings best skills into the ring and who is mentally stronger. If I happen to knock him out, it will be a bonus for boxing fans and for me myself.”

Kathy Duva: “I’ve seen Sergey demonstrate his mental toughness time and time again. He’s been through more adversity in his life than most fighters have ever even contemplated. I’m aware that Ward has faced adversity, but I never heard Sergey talk about how boxing is a sacrifice, where we frequently hear from Ward about how it is. Sergey’s attitude towards boxing has always been, oh wow, this is a great opportunity and I’m so happy I’m doing it. I know he has tough times and there’s days at the gym where he probably doesn’t feel that way. But his attitude has always been about loving his work, and loving what he’s doing. He can’t wait for the fight to start. He works hard because he wants to be the best. It’s not just his mental toughness, it’s his mental attitude, I think it’s very positive and I think that’s the thing that carries him. That and the chip on his shoulder that has been there forever of just wanting to prove that he’s the best. You take that combination of work ethic, and chip on his shoulder and focus like a laser, and then loving what he’s doing. Sometimes when he gets in the ring he looks like he’s about to have a steak, that’s kind of the look on his face. I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun to watch him.”

John David Jackson: “I agree with what Kathy Duva. It’s his upbringing. Growing up in Russia, the hard time that he’s been through I think that’s what makes him the more mentally tougher fighter. That and his desire to be champion and stay champion. He loves the lime light and the adulation that he gets, but I think he’s the mentally tougher fighter and the mentally stronger fighter.”

Q: Does that make it tougher or easier for you to work with him sometimes?

John David Jackson: “A little bit of both. Sergey knows what he wants to do and his plan is already set. I just work off what he wants to do. In the ring he knows what he wants to do as all fighters should know what they want to do. For me it could be hard sometimes when his mindset is set on one thing. But I make it a little bit easier because I allow him to do what he wants and work off what he wants to do and that makes him a better fighter.”

Q: Kovalev has been with you for four and a half years. Can you describe your thoughts from when you first saw him and nobody wanted to sign him to where you are now?

Kathy Duva: “From the moment I saw him in Bethlehem I immediately imagined him being the best fighter in the division. I thought it at that second. I remember Russell Peltz coming up to me saying who wouldn’t you put this guy in with and I couldn’t think of anyone. To be where we are now, in a position to become number one in the world, this is the dream. Main Events has worked with some tremendous fighters and we’ve had some really good runs, but for the most part those were guys that came with Olympic medals and nobody was really surprised when they succeeded. To take Sergey from the point where nobody in Russia knew who he was, where he has never been given a leg up by anybody, where nobody wanted to even look at him to take him where he is today, I have to say, and we at Main Events couldn’t do that with anybody, but when a person came along with the skill and the desire to do it, it was the perfect marriage for us. Sergey gets to show his abilities and talents and Main Events to have the ability to know exactly how to move him perfectly. This is kind of the opportunity that I have been waiting for for a very long time, to prove myself, to prove my staff, to prove my company that we were still there and we could do this and I think we gave Sergey the opportunity to prove what he can do. It was a beautiful thing and meant to be.”

Q: “Ward was expected to be here, he was a gold medalist from the United States, he had a big signing bonus. We hear Andre talk about the sacrifice of boxing whereas with Kovalev this is a great opportunity to box. Andre was expected to be here from day one, maybe Sergey expected it from himself, but it’s a surprise to everybody else, do you think there’s something to that?”

Kathy Duva: “I think there is and I think you make a good point. Even when it comes to the job of making this event work and promoting it, Sergey has taken the attitude from the start that this is my job, this is my opportunity and I’m not going to have any regrets when it’s over so I’m going to do everything I have to do. I think we worked really hard to manage that load for him so it doesn’t interfere with his training. In the brief time I’ve worked with Ward the attitude is different, it’s not hey I’m really happy you’re all paying attention to me, it’s ok we’ll make a list of what we’ll do. I think when it’s always come to you and there have been people standing around you with lights and cameras from the start there’s a natural tendency to kind recoil from it a little bit. Sergey is running towards the light here and I know sometimes it isn’t exciting or fun for him to do that and I know how hard he has worked and I appreciate it more than anything in the world, how hard he has worked to become that fan friendly star that people want to see and know and it shows. He has a very different attitude, for him this is not a chore, this is an opportunity.”

Q: When you were coming up at Don Turner’s camp in North Carolina coming up and Egis was bringing you around from fight to fight to different places and you had no idea if you ever be able to show your talents to a wider audience to the point where you are now. What were your own expectations? How did it go for you in your mind to go from where you were at with Don Turner and Egis pounding it around the country to this fight? Are you surprised at all that you’re here?

Sergey Kovalev: “I’m very surprised myself. When I was in the amateurs I never thought that someday I would turn pro at all. For me professional boxing was very crazy, I thought pro boxing was just beating the whole brain out of your head. It’s very dangerous. In amateurs it was enough with injuries and some hard fights. I felt like I would never be able to do twelve rounds. My wife pushed me to turn pro and one man Anatoliy, Egis’s friend, found me in Russia and he met with me in Moscow and we started to talk about professional boxing. I started to think about it, but it was a maybe. Finally, I made my decision after the 2008 Russian Championships when I won the final fight and the victory was given to my opponent. When I turned pro and came to North Carolina, I was disappointed really. I thought if I turned pro I would get to this level where I am right now. For three years we fought without any promoter, I fought with the support of Egis. Throughout everything he was my father, my brother, my guide, for me he was everything…”

Egis Klimas: (cuts in) “But not the girlfriend!”

Sergey Kovalev: “Not the girlfriend, of course. I can get help from Egis anytime and when I fought 15 or 16 fights, I thought I should go back to Russia and do something to get money another way. After 15 or 16 fights, I had no money, no promoter and not really any future in boxing. When I fought in Russia in 2011, I stayed in Russia for two, three months and I almost decided not to go to America because we didn’t have any plans. We didn’t have a promoter or any plans for the future. I would be back in Big Bear for a workout and I thought, why? Egis called me in Russia and said to me that one promoter, Main Events, Kathy Duva wants to give me opportunity to prove myself and I believed once again that maybe this is the chance, so I should try again. We fought Darnell Boone for the second time and after that I signed with Main Events and Kathy Duva.”

Q: Egis, you’re the one who had the vision, what was it that you saw in him at that time and is the end result right now beyond what you expected?

Egis Klimas: “I was inexperienced. I was the new kid on the block and Don Turner was my tutor, but I didn’t know much about what’s going on. Bringing Sergey to this point, we were in Kazakhstan and he did shadow boxing and Don Turner said Egis, where did you get this guy from? After that we went on a very long run. I used to call every single promoter, I used to try to put him on every single show. I used to try to show him to everybody who was around.”

Sergey Kovalev: “We were like kittens in this business. Like a kid being thrown into the water to learn to swim, we were just trying to get somewhere, to get to the shore. Kathy was the one who gave a hand to Sergey and said come here, come this way, swim this way.”

Egis Klimas: “If anybody is trying to bring me today manager of the year or to manage other fighters, it’s Sergey who brought me to that stage.”
Sergey Kovalev: “We brought each other, the three of us have helped each other and right now we all have success.”

Egis Klimas: “Exactly, he makes a very good point. Nobody knew who Egis Klimas is, nobody knew who Sergey Kovalev is, everybody knew Main Events but at that point Main Events didn’t exist, but now we have one big team and we are winners. And after November 19 we are going be winners, no question about it.”

Q: Andre Ward is known for his high boxing IQ; you’ve been saying you’re going to be the smarter fighter. Can you speak on how confident you are that you will be the smarter fighter when you guys meet?

Sergey Kovalev: “You will see on November 19. I am making a great training camp to kick his ass, this is my goal. A lot of people around the world will watch this fight and I understand this, and I’m going to prove who I am.”

Q: John David Jackson, can you speak on how Sergey is going to be the smarter fighter when he faces Ward?

John David Jackson: “A lot of so called experts and people in boxing say that Ward is a smarter fight. Listen, Ward is smart at what he does, but a lot of what he does is not fighting, it’s surviving and making his opponent frustrated with the tactics that he uses. Sergey on the other hand is a pure all around fighter. He can fight you if it comes down to it, but on the flip side to that Sergey is a very intelligent boxer and he knows how to fight. He doesn’t come into the ring trying to be a one punch knockout artists. If you watch Sergey’s fight, in his brilliance he looks to break down his opponents systematically. He does want a knockout, but he’s learned how to build up to the knockdown. He knows how to cut the ring off and break guys down to the body and if you want to fight with him and you’re looking for a shootout, you’re not going to win because his clip is fully loaded. Andre may be smart and very intelligent, but he’s fighting with half a clip. It’s like LL Cool J once said, you can’t fight an army with a handgun. Ward has a handgun and he’s a fighting against a tank, and the tank is smart, he knows how to fight and how to systematically beat him. For those that don’t know and realize how smart Sergey is in the ring, on November 19 they’re going to find out.”

Q: Have you guys been stressing having more patience in this fight because it is Ward and he’s a patient and crafty guy?

John David Jackson: “I think Sergey has figured that out by himself and we work off that. Ward is crafty and patient, but you can’t be that patient and crafty when you got a guy who has bombs in both hands. Sergey is going to break him down the way he has to. You don’t have time to dictate the pace of the fight and jab here and hold there. When you have a guy coming at you with power in both hands, he’s not going to have the time to be able to do all of the things that he wants to do. This fight here, he has to fight and if he’s not willing to fight he’s in trouble.”

Q: Who do you think has the physical advantage in this fight?

John David Jackson: “As an amateur Andre fought at 178 and he turned pro at 168, so he’s always been the bigger guy after he hydrated. But he can’t be the bully for this fight because he’s not the bigger fighter. Sergey is going to be the bigger fighter. As far as the advantage, it depends on how much he had to lose for this fight himself because he walks around pretty big himself. The seven-pound difference wasn’t a big deal to him because he was killing himself to make 168. I still say the advantage goes to Sergey, he’s the stronger fighter and in the ring it’s going to show. He’s more physical. How much more? We’ll find out that night, but I still give the advantage to Sergey.”

Q: You have a great right hand, are you expecting Andre to be turning southpaw the night of the fight? Do you think he’ll be doing that a lot?

Sergey Kovalev: “Yes, I think he will be changing his positions during the whole fight because in some moments he will be feeling uncomfortable after my punches.”

Q: It seems like he switches southpaw when he has his opponents frustrated. What do you think about that?

Sergey Kovalev: “I know one thing; I will be ready for anything he has to offer in the ring. I understand this and my goal right now is to be ready for everything that he will offer.”

John David Jackson: “Ward may turn southpaw, but when he does get hit by Sergey I think he’ll go to southpaw less and less and get back to his comfort zone which is the right handed stance. If you look at Sergey’s career, he does very well against southpaws so Ward can turn southpaw if he wants to.”

Q: Kathy what fight would you compare this one to from a historical perspective?

Kathy Duva: “I guess the easiest comparison would be to the first time two undefeated fighters fought for pound for pound supremacy and that was Meldrick Taylor versus Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Main Events promoted Meldrick Taylor so we have been here before. We have also been involved in major fights with people like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Arturo Gatti and Pernell Whitaker and on and on and on. But I have to say this is the first time we’ve taken a guy that didn’t come out with an Olympic medal or the heralded amateur career, because Sergey did indeed have an amateur career where he clearly learned a lot, it’s the first time we’ve taken someone who nobody expected to this level of achievement and for that one we’re really proud and really happy. It’s a different kind of excitement for us, it’s a lot more fun when nobody expects you to do it.”

Sergey Kovalev: “Everybody in the world wants to see somebody who kicks my ass, but it’s not happening.”

Q: That depends on who you ask; a lot of people want to see you kick his ass.

Sergey Kovalev: “Believe me, there’s a lot of haters. It’s new motivation for me, I really like to disappoint these people.”

Q: John, what was the game plan for the Bernard Hopkins fight and why did it work?

John David Jackson: “First of all, Bernard is an old fighter. Even though he sayshe’s an Alien and the Executioner and all that, the bottom line is he’s an old fighter, so you have to treat him like an old fighter. You have to do things that take him out of his comfort zone. You have to make him work. Sergey was able to use his jab to offset Bernard’s trickery, Bernard is very well-schooled and he’s a student of the game. He was just older and unable to do what he once did.”

Q: If Sergey beats Ward do you think he will get full credit for the victory?

Kathy Duva: “As Sergey points out, haters gonna hate. If you look at the picks the reporters are making and the betting line is favoring Ward a little bit, which is awesome because it’s always better when you’re the underdog and, as we’ve been saying on this call, not having it be expected. But Ward, the position he’s in for better or worse, he’s expected to win, that’s who he is. That’s the guy he’s always been, he’s the guy who hasn’t lost a fight since he was a child. You put that out there, then you’ve got to defend that and we don’t think he can. When it’s over I hope Sergey gets the credit he deserves and it should be a whole lot because this is a tough fight.”

Q: As a promoter does it frustrate you that Sergey is the B side here?

Kathy Duva: “To me he’s not the B-side. His name is first on the poster, he does have the world titles. I think that designation of A- and B-side is an unfortunate thing in many cases, but when you have two guys who could argue all night over who’s going to win then there’s no A-side and no B-side. It’s two great fighters fighting each other. Sergey holds the titles right now, Ward has held titles in the past. Ward is a legendary fighter; Sergey is trying to become one. There’s little different points in the legacy aspects of their careers, but nevertheless this is the fight that we wanted. We wanted it sooner, but we had to wait and so we did. Ward has had his fights that he needed and there’s no excuses. There are certain fights that defy that A-side/B-side description and I think this is one of them.”

Q: Do you think Sergey’s last three opponents, Bernard Hopkins, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal, have built him up for this fight before it was even signed?

John David Jackson: “To a degree maybe. What people don’t realize is that Sergey can fight against any style. He’s very intelligent in the ring, he knows how to solve the fighters’ defensive mechanisms. Those three fights have helped him prepare for this fight, but I think Sergey would have been able to solve the Andre Ward problem regardless. Ward is crafty and he’s not going to be a big problem offensively. If he does, then he’s rolling the dice and he’s going to leave himself open for wide open shots and I don’t think he’s going to do that, especially after he gets hit by Sergey. I think he’s going to be evasive and try to avoid Sergey’s power shots, and if he’s really evasive, how can you win a fight being an evasive fighter? He’s going to have to stand and fight eventually.”
Closing Remarks:

Sergey Kovalev: “Pay attention to November 19 everybody. It’s going to be a huge fight with Andre Ward. He’s never lost before, but it’s my job. So let me be the one to do it.”

Egis Klimas: “We’re looking forward for somebody to lose and that would be Andre Ward. I’m sorry about it, but that’s the only thing I think I can say. Tune into HBO PPV on November 19.”

Kathy Duva: “You’re going to see the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on November 19. Make sure all of your readers and viewers know about it because this is the fight Mayweather-Pacquiao should have been.”
Kovalev vs. Ward “Pound For Pound”, a 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA light heavyweight title at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, is presented by Main Events, Roc Nation Sports, Krusher Promotions and Andre Ward Promotions and is sponsored by the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Corona Extra, Zappos, JetLux and Monster Products. The championship event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. Tickets are available on axs.comand the T-Mobile Arena box office.


Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev – Mohammedi Presser
Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Credit:  Photos by David Spagnolo/Main Events –

The final press conference was held Thursday for the HBO-televised clash between WBO/WBA/IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) and mandatory challenger Nadjib “Irondjib” Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs) on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. The co-feature will include a ten-round light heavyweight match-up between Jean Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KOs) and Yuniesky Gonzalez (16-0, 12 KOs).

Sergey Kovalev: “Thank you to WBO. This was my first belt and mean a lot to me. Thank you for this ring. Thank you for everybody that came here today. Thank you Kathy Duva my promoter, Egis Klimas my manager and Nadjib Mohammedi. I want to show this Saturday who I am. I would like to still be champion as long time as possible. I did not get all my goals in my career yet. My amateur career I didn’t give me a lot of opportunities. I was hurt in amateur career and I had to try not to closed doors. Some of my dreams in the boxing and my goals not finished. For my dreams, my goals this Saturday is the next step in my career…I cannot say who is the best. I try to be better with every day, fight and build my career as I would like.”

Nadjib Mohammedi: “I am very excited and happy. Thank you Sergey Kovalev, Main Events and HBO. I have hard work in my training camp for this fight. I am very happy. I promise Saturday a good fight. I am ready. Thank you very much.”

Kathy Duva/CEO of Main Events: “There has been a lot of discussion lately about where the best fighters fight. The place that has developed every major fighter in the last 30 years is HBO and that is why Sergey Kovalev is an HBO Fighter. This event is going to be promoted with a group of great promoters. Krusher Promotions, Sergey’s promotional company, will be our new partner going forward. Our sponsor is Myagkov Vodka. It is so nice to be back here at Mandalay Bay. We have had a long relationship with Mandalay Bay going back to Fernando Vargas. It is in my view my favorite place in Las Vegas to come. It is associated with the great people at MGM International and my good friend Richard Sturm.”

“Our first time in Nevada was in 1981 when Sugar Ray Leonard fought Thomas Hearns. This is my first time working with the current commission here in Nevada. We are forging a good relationship with them. I want to thank Cisco Aguilar and Bob Bennett.”

“The first time Sergey Kovalev fought in Las Vegas it was on an undercard. Those fighters work just as hard as everyone else. We have a great undercard for this Saturday’s event and it is always fun to watch the undercard fighters because you never know if one of them could be the next Sergey Kovalev. The opening bout on HBO World Championship Boxing telecast will feature Jean Pascal, the former light heavyweight champion of the world, against the undefeated Cuban Yuniesky Gonzalez. Pascal is truly a warrior in the best sense of the word. His promoter is InterBox and he also has his own promotional company, Jean Pascal Promotions.”

“We got to know Nadjib Mohammedi a year ago when he fought Anatoliy Dudchenko on one of our shows. He came in as the under dog and came away as the mandatory challenger. I thank God every day for the day I met Egis Klimas and he brought me Sergey Kovalev. He has a great team around him. Sergey Kovalev’s trainer is a former world champion. I have known John David Jackson for a long time and he is one of the best trainers in the world. Bernard Hopkins said to me that Sergey is getting better with every fight. He is powerfully fast and shockingly dominating. He is the kind of guy that people want to see. Hopkins warned Sergey not to get complacent. I think a mark of a great fighter is no matter what you do you are never satisfied and that is the best way to describe Sergey.”

Bob Bennett – Nevada Athletic Commission: “On behalf of the Nevada Athletic Commission, we are pleased and privileged to bring you this fight. We would like to thank Main Events, HBO, Richard Sturm and Mandalay Bay and last, but not least, we really want to thank the fighters because without them none of us would be here.”

Paco Valcarcel – WBO President: “Sergey Kovalev was a sensation. Sergey, we have something for you. He is a great human being. He is a great fighter, outstanding. You going to have a lot of excitement in this fight. We have a real diamond ring for him. This is something we give to our champions.”

Egis Klimas – Sergey Kovalev’s Manager: “Good afternoon. First I want to thank Don Turner who gave me my first steps in boxing. He is the man who introduced me to this sport. He noticed Sergey and told me I had to sign him. Coming back to Vegas brings back a lot of good memories because this is where Sergey won his first belt. He won the NABA Light Heavyweight Title. We were celebrating here and he grabbed his belt, put a shirt over it and brought it downstairs. He said he wanted to give it to me. He gave it to me and said it was our title together. I still have it at my house, he never took it back. I want to thank HBO and Nadjib Mohammedi for taking this fight, Mandalay Bay and media for coming for this good event. We are looking for one of the best fights in the light heavyweight division. When Sergey came to United States in 2009 the light heavyweight division was dead and nobody was talking about it. I strongly believe the division is burning today and that is because of Sergey. There is not a match in this division that happens without mentioning his name.”

John David Jackson – Sergey Kovalev’s Trainer: “I am not going to talk too much. I am going to let Sergey do the talking in the ring Saturday night. But I was a WBO champion during my career and where is my ring, Paco? (laughing)”

“I think Sergey Kovalev is in the top five fighters pound-for-pound and he can become #1.”

Vince Caruso: “Nadjib Mohammedi, a lot of people didn’t know who we were not too long ago. After Saturday he will be known everywhere. I can make two guarantees: He will weigh 175 pounds tomorrow on the scale and he will have the best game plan possible. That is because of Abel Sanchez, who I believe he is the best trainer in the business. When Nadjib’s trainer couldn’t make it into the country back in November, I had the chance to call Abel to step in. It is like putting sugar in the Duncan Hines…Nadjib Mohammedi is Saturday’s challenger but he will be Sunday’s champion.”

Jon Ali – Nadjib Mohammedi’s Co-Manager: “I am glad to be here with my brother, Nadjib Mohammedi. I am very proud of him. Back in France he came a long way to get here. Saturday night will change his life forever.”

Abel Sanchez – Nadjib Mohammedi’s Trainer: “Nadjib earned this right by moving up the ladder to become the #1 contender. I believe we are fighting the best light heavyweight in the world. We know we are fighting a very tough guy. I hope everyone enjoys the fight.”

Jean Pascal: “Hi everybody. There is no place like home. I have been fighting at home my whole career. I am glad to be in Vegas, it is my first time fighting here. Every fighter on my level wants to fight at least one time in Vegas. This is my chance to make a statement on Saturday night. I know am still among the best in the world and best in my division. I know Yuniesky Gonzalez is hungry and he wants to make a statement. I want to give you guys a great show on Saturday night.”

“My philosophy is the best must fight the best. I believe I am still among the best in the world. I am the best light heavyweight in the world but I had a bad night on March 14.”

Yuniesky Gonzalez: “Good afternoon. Thank you to Jean Pascal team, HBO and Joe DiGuardia and Kathy Duva of Main Events for this opportunity. Gracias. We are going to see high quality boxing from Yuniesky Gonzalez Saturday night.”

Pierre Duc – InterBox Promotions: “Good afternoon. InterBox has been one of the lead promoters in Canada for a long time but this is our first time in Vegas, so this is a great thrill for us. Thank you to HBO, Kathy Duva and Main Events for having us here. Following Jean Pascal’s fight with Sergey Kovalev one of Pascal’s requests was to step back into the ring as soon as possible. We are so happy to make this happen for him. You are going to see a very exciting fight on HBO. Jean Pascal is a former light heavyweight champion. Kathy Duva described him as a warrior. This is going to be a long and very difficult fight for both fighters.”

Marc Ramsay – Jean Pascal’s Trainer: “Thank you for being with us today. After the fight with Sergey Kovalev, Jean Pascal requested a fight right away on HBO with the best opponent available. With the style of both fighters we are going to have a great fight. We had a great training camp and it should be a great fight Saturday night.”

Joe DiGuardia – Star Boxing, Gonzalez’s Promoter: “Thank you. It is great to be back here at Mandalay Bay where I have also had some great fights and my best success stories. I want to thank Kathy Duva and Main Events from having us, Peter Nelson and HBO for giving this opportunity to Yuniesky Gonzalez. Jean Pascal is a great champion. Sergey Kovalev is one of the greatest of our time. Yuniesky Gonzalez is pleased to have this opportunity. Yuniesky Gonzalez is an exciting fighter. I guarantee you will see an exciting fight with Yuniesky Gonzalez and Jean Pascal. Yuniesky Gonzalez has been clawing his way to get this opportunity and he will take advantage of it.”

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Kovalev - Mohammedi Presser  Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas



By Brian Campbell –

Despite being a heavy underdog, Nadjib Mohammedi is undaunted by the challenge ahead of him on Saturday.

Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs) challenges unified light heavyweight titlist and knockout sensation Sergey Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT).

The native of France, who enters his third fight under the tutelage of trainer Abel Sanchez, has steadily improved in recent years.

Mohammedi, 30, has won 13 straight fights since his last defeat in 2011 against Dmitry Sukhotsky. He upset Anatoliy Dudchenko by seventh-round TKO in June 2014 to become the mandatory challenger for the IBF title.

Speaking through a translator, Mohammedi recently talked with ESPN.com about his mindset entering the Kovalev fight.

It has been more than a year since you became the mandatory title challenger. Why was now the right time for you to challenge Kovalev?

I took my time because I needed to change my team. It was time for a change and now I have an American team with Abel Sanchez as my trainer. I needed to become more famous in America to make my name here. That’s why I waited.

In what ways has Sanchez helped you improve your fighting style? 

Abel Sanchez did not change my style but he upgraded it. With Abel Sanchez’s experiences, he brought to me a lot of things from his own style.

How would you describe your fighting style and the balance between being a boxer and puncher? 

I have made changes and am more powerful now. Also with the way I move in the ring, I am more of a target.

Sanchez has experience as Kovalev’s former trainer. How much of an advantage will that be for you in this fight? 

Abel Sanchez knows the style of Kovalev. He knows his talent and his mistakes. But for now, we can say that the style of Kovalev has changed a bit [since joining new trainer John David Jackson]. He has always been a straight boxer — jab, right, left, jab. But at the end, we never know.

Considering the platform available to you with this fight, what do you hope to teach American fans about who you are as a fighter?

I can bring to American boxing fans a new story and a new generation of light heavyweight champions. I can really show them that everything is possible if you work hard because I came from a hard and mighty long way. I want to show them that everything is possible, a little bit like “Rocky.” It’s not the same story, but I will be Rocky against [Ivan] Drago.

Kovalev is an extremely large betting favorite in this fight. What does that do to motivate you? 

It is normal that everybody thinks that Kovalev will beat me. He is No. 1 and a favorite. But it motivates me a lot because at the end I will show them that because Kovalev is No. 1, I want to beat him. I want to show to the boxing fans that, once again, anything is possible. You never know what can happen, even if it’s against the No. 1. You never know.

In his last fight in March, Kovalev was hurt at times before going on to score a stoppage against Jean Pascal in Montreal. What was your opinion of his performance in that fight?

I was at this fight and I saw the same thing that you saw: Kovalev was hurt, and I saw a lot of possibilities against his boxing style.

What it is about your childhood or upbringing that has prepared you to take on the kind of challenge that you’ll face against Kovalev? 

My life prepared me to fight because I have had to fight for a living and work hard since I was very young. My life prepared me to fight for everything. This is my shot and I’m ready.

Outside of the ring, what do you like best about being in America? 

First of all, I love the weather in California. I love the women in California and I love the American style of living. I feel free here. Because in some way in France, a lot of people look at you because of your origin or ethnicity. I don’t feel the same way here in America. No matter what my origin is, I am a champion of the people. I like the American style and I love California.

Kovalev is currently ranked among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Do you believe he is worthy of all the hype he has received? 

Kovalev deserves his place in the ring as No. 1 and light heavyweight champion. But at the end, he’s just a man.

Above all else, what needs to go right in order for you to pull the upset against Kovalev?

There are many factors. One of the most important factors for us to stay close in this fight and keep good distance. That will be the key.



Credit:  Photo: David Spagnolo/Main Events –

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion

On coming off big fights against Pascal and Hopkins but now facing a lesser known fighter:

“For me, any fight means a lot because it is the next step. Who I am and how I do my job means a lot. He is the #1 IBF contender. He deserves this fight. I very excited that I have three titles and I have the opportunity to defend it against Mohammedi. He deserves this fight. He is #1. He is very motivated. When a boxer is motivated or any man is motivated it makes him very dangerous.”

On training in Oxnard:

“Oxnard is different place compared to my last training camp. I am very happy here and everything is comfortable. Everything is good. Big Bear training camp is conditioning and physical training camp. Now training camp in Oxnard is boxing camp with sparring and heavy bags. For the boxing, I feel very comfortable here. My sparring partners help me. I feel good.”

On his last fight against Pascal:

“I had some problems in my training camp for Pascal. I made some mistakes. I started to make my weight very late. I was very happy after Hopkins fight. It was a lot of things. I celebrated New Year and Christmas in Russia. Christmas is biggest holiday in Russia. I got a lot of overfull. It made for me big trouble to make the weight for the fight. I didn’t have a good sparring partner for the fight. It was a lot of things. Right now everything is clean and going very well.”

On the possibility of a Pascal Rematch:

“I don’t want to speak about Pascal because he does not deserve to get attention. He lost my respect for him even before the fight. I cannot respect even his team. He is piece of shit. Same as Stevenson. I think all fighters make terrible fighters in Canada. I don’t respect and I want to kick his ass again and much, much bigger this time. If it will happen rematch, he will sleep in four rounds because he is a piece of shit.”

On the added pressure of headlining a fight in Las Vegas:

“No for me it doesn’t matter where I am fighting. I don’t have any problems. I feel very comfortable and happy that my fight is in Las Vegas. I wait a long time for my fight. I wanted LA or Las Vegas and it will happen July 25. I am very happy and excited because I wanted to give to my fans who long time waited to watch my fight live and now it will happen. Las Vegas is biggest place for the fight and Las Vegas is terrific place a lot of people from everywhere come to Las Vegas to get more fun. July 25 they will be very happy and very fun day.”

On Nadjib working with Abel Sanchez, Kovalev’s former trainer:

“Who is this Abel? I don’t know any Abel.”

On Adonis Stevenson:

“He is a piece of shit.”

On where he stands among all current boxers:

“I don’t think about this at all. I don’t care where I am. It is most important what I have, not where I am.”

On his opponent, Nadjib Mohammedi:

“I can say that I will kick his ass.”

On the added pressure to impress:

“I want to be better and want to be improved for every fight because a boxer can never to be perfect. 100% everything is good, no. Every boxer wants to be better, better, better. My goal in my preparations is to get better and remove all my mistakes from last fight. To show to people I can not only to punch, I can do boxing. I am disappointed people couldn’t see in my first 14 or 15 fights. I can do boxing. I just started to get good opponents when I signed contract with Kathy Duva. Very big respect with Kathy Duva and her team that they got attention on my boxing. I am very happy that I signed contract Main Events and right now my career is going up. It will continue be going up because we are together right now. We are a team – Egis Klimas, Kathy Duva, Main Events and Krusher Promotions. We are going up. We give to boxing fans good boxing fight because right now it is very seldom in real fights. Because a lot of fighters are making business but not making boxing. I can count on my left hand who are the real fighters in boxing: Gennady Golovkin, Miguel Cotto and Keith Thurman and I don’t remember more. And maybe me. I don’t want to push me that I am the best, but if people are thinking it I am very happy. I wake every morning and get running and working hard. I happy that people are thinking that I am good boxer.”

Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events

“We are very pleased to be working with HBO and Mandalay Bay where we have had such a great history here at Main Events. Sergey Kovalev is a throwback fighter who wants to take on every challenge. He has fought the #2 and #3 guys in his division in Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal. Now he is fighting his mandatory against Nadjib Mohammedi. It will be a great fight. It always is when Sergey gets in the ring.”

On why fans just want to see Sergey Kovalev fight no matter who he is fighting:

“It is the same thing that makes fans wants to watch Mike Tyson or Gennady Golovkin. Fans want to see knockouts. This is a blood sport. Sergey brings all of that. Sergey is a bad, bad man. He’s got that edge and that danger to him. My barometer has always been when I get excited myself to watch a fighter after the thousands of fights I have seen. I still get excited when Sergey fights. Every fighter when he becomes accomplished enough will have to get themselves up for absolutely everybody. He needs to prove this too. He is still on the way up, but he is a lot further along the way. He has had two difficult and challenging fights and there is a natural tendency to taper off in that situation. He needs to stay focused on Nadjib.”

On Mohammedi’s hunger:

“He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He has had a year to focus on nothing else but this fight. Sergey has had to face two huge challenges. He also had a child and moved across the country. Nadjib has had nothing to do except focus on this fight. He is working with Abel Sanchez, who used to work with Sergey, and they don’t like each other very much.”

On Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba fighting on the undercard:

“Jolene [Mizzone, Main Events’ matchmaker] was still working to find opponents for them. I believe they are still on the card. Jolene is the best and she will figure it out. If Chilemba can’t fight on this card, he will be ordered to fight as mandatory for the WBC title soon.”

On the current status of ticket sales for this fight:

“There has been a tendency in boxing lately to give all the tickets away. Tickets are in no way sold out. It will take a lot of time before the damage to this market can be undone. We are hoping for a big walk up. I have no thoughts at all on the show down the street. Giving tickets away on the same night that people are charging for a fight down this street is another example of anti-competitive behavior. Our prices are reasonable, tickets start at $25. Sergey is well worth the price of admission and you get what you pay for.”

On why Main Events signed Mohammedi:

“When we met Nadjib, he fought on one of our NBC cards against Anatoliy Dudchenko and became the #1 challenger. As Sergey’s promoter I became interested in him. We struck a good relationship with him and his team. It made sense for us to work with him. When he came here for his fight on the Hopkins’ undercard, his trainer couldn’t make it so he ended up working with Abel [Sanchez]. He decided to wait very patiently for Sergey’s other fights. He is exciting and aggressive and that is what we like to see.”

On the odds for this fight:

“We don’t set the odds. The odds don’t reflect the competitiveness of the fight but certain people’s willingness to bet on the fight.”

On the possibility of a rematch with Pascal:

“I think Sergey just made it a lot more interesting with his comments about Pascal. From a business perspective, it is a great fight. We are keeping Pascal close. He is fighting in the co-feature but first Pascal has to defeat Gonzalez.”

On the possibility of a fight against Andre Ward:

“We have been talking to Andrew Ward’s people all week. We all agree the fight is going to happen; it is just a matter of when. Sergey’s schedule for his next few fights is planned. That fight should happen by the end of next year. Sergey wants to fight the best. The best fighting the best is what people want to see. We want to complete that deal in the foreseeable future.”

On the other potential opponents for Kovalev in the light heavyweight division:

“There are plenty of opponents. There are always new fighters coming along. The landscape of boxing changed six months ago and I am willing to bet that in another six months it will change again. I think between the fighters in the light heavyweight division and guys at 168 that are going to moving up there will be no shortage of opponents for Sergey. When you have that kind of star power in the division, they are going to draw together like magnets. Sergey has a contract with HBO and his career is mapped out for the next three years.”

On Nadjib Mohammedi:

“He has had an education with Abel that he didn’t have before. He came in as the opponent and he showed up on his own and did the job. You have to respect a guy that can do that. He has had a year to focus on this while Sergey has been focused on 1,000 other things over that same year.”

On Mohammedi working with Abel Sanchez:

“He fought on the undercard of the Hopkins-Kovalev fight and worked with Abel on that fight as well. He has been in the gym with other tremendous other fighters. I give Nadjib a lot of credit.”

On Sergey’s improving English:

“I don’t have to tell him that it is important. He came to me about it. Every time I talk to him it gets better. He finds ways to express himself. That is just part of the fun of Sergey Kovalev. He is working with a teacher. I had a similar situation with Tomasz Adamek and now he can express himself as well as anybody. The perfectionist part of Sergey will drive him to continually improve. What you don’t see is when he is in a relaxed setting he is much better. You will see more of that as time goes on.”

John David Jackson, Sergey Kovalev’s Trainer

On Nadjib Mohammedi:

“He is unconventional. He has his own style. He’s wild with some of his shots. Getting ready for him isn’t an easy task. We have to prepare correctly. Now that Abel is working with him they may have a formidable fight plan to combat what Sergey is brings to the table. However, once he gets hit we will see what he is made of. We know they are going to prepare the best they can and so are we.”

Egis Klimas, Sergey Kovalev’s Manager

“Welcome to conference call and we are looking forward to the fight.”

Vince Caruso, Nadjib Mohammedi’s Co-Manager

On Nadjib’s ethnicity:

“Nadjib is of Algerian descent but he was raised in France.”

On the odds for this fight:

“HBO told me that they were up to 45-to-1 and that is about as high as Buster Douglas was. I think we are about 100-to-1 shot. We are in with a guy who doesn’t make mistakes. Odds are against us but this will be the last time he will be overlooked.”

On how Mohammedi started boxing:

“His older brother took him to a boxing gym and he fell in love with it. He was 14 years old and was working in the markets. He’s been in love with it ever since.”

On Nadjib’s preparation for this fight:

“This is the first training camp where I know nothing. Nadjib is secluded with Abel. They are going to do it their way. He is up there doing their thing. I am down here dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. I can tell you this, his weight is on target and he is in tip top shape.”

About Kovalev vs. Mohammedi

WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) will compete in his first mandatory title defense against Nadjib “Irondjib” Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs) on Saturday, July 25 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. The co-feature will include a ten-round light heavyweight match-up between Jean Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KOs) and Yunieski Gonzalez (16-0, 12 KOs). Tickets are on sale now and start at $25. Tickets can be purchased through TicketMaster and all MGM Resorts Properties Ticket Offices. The HBO World Championship Boxing® telecast begins at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.



ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Following 11 rounds of utter domination, the only thing left for Sergey Kovalev to accomplish early Sunday morning was to become the first opponent in Bernard Hopkins’ 26-year career to knock him out.

If Kovalev had 10 more seconds at his disposal in Round 12 of their light heavyweight title unification fight at Boardwalk Hall, he might’ve accomplished that feat, too.

The Russian knockout artist instead settled for handing Hopkins the most lopsided loss of his Hall-of-Fame career, a 12-round unanimous-decision defeat so thorough the 49-year-old Hopkins acknowledged afterward that it’s “50-50” whether he’ll fight again. Regardless, as Hopkins’ legendary career nears its conclusion, the most impressive victory of Kovalev’s five-year pro career should thrust him toward stardom.

“He did just what I knew what he would do,” said John David Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer. “Tonight he was the teacher.”

Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 knockouts), who hadn’t boxed beyond eight rounds in any of his first 26 professional fights, easily demonstrated that he was prepared to win championship rounds against the most accomplished, experienced opponent he has faced. All three judges – New Jersey’s Lawrence Layton (120-106), New York’s Carlos Ortiz (120-107) and Rhode Island’s Clark Sammartino (120-107) – credited Kovalev with winning each of the 12 rounds.

Kovalev took Hopkins’ IBF and WBA light heavyweight titles and retained his WBO 175-pound championship. He also won the respect and admiration of boxing experts who wondered whether his record was more the byproduct of his opposition than Kovalev’s skills and power.

“I don’t care how old he is,” Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins’ promotional partner, said. “To beat somebody like Hopkins, Kovalev did a tremendous job. He executed his game plan perfectly, and that’s not easy to do against a legend like Bernard Hopkins.”

Kovalev, 31, dropped Hopkins with a right hand to the side of his head with a little less than a minute to go in the first round. Hopkins reached his feet quickly and made it to the end of the round, but mostly employed a cautious approach for the rest of the fight. Hopkins opened up in Round 12, but his aggression only encouraged Kovalev to unload an array of power punches that hurt him, left him stumbling all around the ring and pushed the Philadelphia native dangerously close to getting knocked out.

“I’ve just got a great chin,” Hopkins said. “I can take a punch.”

Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs, 2 NCs) took 166 of Kovalev’s 585 overall punches, according to unofficial CompuBox statistics. Kovalev landed 38 punches in Round 12 alone, the most connected on Hopkins in any single round of the 41 Hopkins fights CompuBox has worked.

“He’s 49 years old,” Kovalev said. “To go 12 rounds with me, I was very surprised. … Really big respect to him.”

Hopkins now respects Kovalev’s boxing ability, not just his vaunted power.

“He had a really good game plan,” Hopkins said. “When he got hit with some of my shots, he would step back. But he used his reach and distance and that was the key to his victory tonight. He has very good mechanics and patience. Because after I hit him, he would step back. That would cause me to have to reset. He had a good game plan, I’ll give him that. He’s a good technical fighter. He would counter his right hand over my jab. I give him a lot of respect.”




Sergey Kovalev will headline an HBO bill for the first time on March 29, but the extra attention isn’t getting to the WBO light heavyweight titleholder.
Sergey Kovalev has fought twice on HBO, once via tape delay and once live, but he’s never headlined on the network or on any network larger than NBC Sports. Until now, that is. Kovalev will be facing Cedric Agnew in the HBO main event on March 29 in Atlantic City, and though he’s got that and a lot of media hype around a potential fight against Adonis Stevenson swirling around his head, his team says he’s staying the course and operating as usual.

“Once a fighter becomes more comfortable with his status as a world champion, some can be tempted to lose focus and get distracted by all the attention,” promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events said. “He can’t always walk down the street without being recognized anymore, but luckily Sergey has managed to stay focused on Agnew and winning on March 29th.”

Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO) smashed both Nathan Cleverly and Ismayl Sillakh in prior HBO appearances, whetting the boxing world’s appetite for a clash with Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO), another powerful, elite light heavyweight at the moment, and the true champion of the division, as well as the WBC titleholder.

But that’s not next, and with the way the media hype between the two has gone, with back-and-forth trash talk, it may not be happening any time soon.

Trainer John David Jackson says that Kovalev isn’t having trouble staying focused. “Sergey is on course,” Jackson said. “He is a really hard worker. He is definitely training hard for this fight. He is doing what he is supposed to do.”

With HBO cameras on hand for training camp, Jackson says Kovalev hasn’t had any negative reaction to the added attention as he prepares for the fight. “He probably loves it. They stay out of our way so it is just like any other training camp.”

Kovalev himself said, “I am already used to them being there. They don’t bother me at all.”

Agnew (26-0, 13 KO) is a largely unknown fighter, with no marquee fights to his credit. The 27-year-old from Chicago last fought in April 2013, beating Yusaf Mack at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, which having been there myself, I can tell you isn’t exactly the mecca of boxing.

“The key to this fight for Sergey is to be more strategic offensively,” Jackson said. “There isn’t much film on Agnew but we are approaching this fight like we do all the others. Sergey will do his thing.”

Kovalev, as usual, kept it short. “I feel good. Everything is normal. I feel no pressure and everything is going by the book.”



By Sam Geraci

On February 13, Main Events hosted a teleconference for its March 29 light heavyweight showdown in Atlantic City between WBO champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) and top-rated but relatively unknown Cedric “L.O.W.” Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs). The bout will be televised on HBO and is the first bout at the Boardwalk Hall for Main Events since Arturo Gatti took on Alfonso Gomez in 2007 in Gatti’s final bout. Here are the highlights from the teleconference:

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev

“I have only one big wish, and that is to win this next fight, and I have a main goal to win one more title this year.

“The public and the fans and everybody want this fight (Stevenson-Kovalev). Everybody pushes him, and this year will be this fight.”

“This fight (with Agnew) is dangerous for me too, and who will win we will see. I’m going to the ring to win.”

“All my focus is to win and then win my next title to get better and fight Stevenson.”

“It’s not my fault that my opponents all get knocked out.”

“In my division the best boxer is Stevenson, and I need to beat Stevenson. After this, I will be in first place in my division. I’m ready for any fight in my division.”

“I just want to fight Stevenson right now.”

“I love to spend time with my family and friends.”

Cedric “L.O.W.” Agnew

“I prepare (for Kovalev) the way I’ve been preparing. Training hard, taking things one day at a time, hard sparring and hard work with my trainer, but I take no fight lightly, and I don’t care who I’m fighting.”

“A fight with Sergey Kovalev is a great fight for us, and we wouldn’t have taken the fight if we didn’t think we could win the fight. With that being said, I don’t look at him as no terminator or nothing. He’s a human just like I am. He can be hurt just like anybody else can be hurt. Come March 29 we’ll see what’s gonna happen.”

“Well, to me it doesn’t matter how many fighters I went the distance with or how many I stopped. Everybody knows that styles make fights, and I believe, I mean I know I have the style to defeat Sergey Kovalev or anybody else they put in front of me.”

“Come March 29th, you’ll see what style that is.”

“Like I say, I’m gonna go out there and do what I’ve been doing for years. I don’t look at it as there being pressure from back home because my hometown is gonna stand behind me regardless. On fight night, I’m ready to take care of business.”

“I’m not focused on the fight they’re trying to make or the fight they’re thinking about. I’m focused on March 29th, and I’m not focused on people underestimating me. I’m training, staying positive and staying focused.”

“I don’t know how you guys are taking it. I’m not sounding overconfident. I’m just humble, and I know the roads I’ve had to take to get here and now that it’s here, I have to show the world all of my talent. I have to show the world who is Cedric Agnew.”

“In that fight with Yusaf Mack I just did what I needed to do to win the fight.”

“I don’t see nothing spectacular coming from this guy. My personal opinion I just think he’s ordinary.”

Kathy Duva, Promoter of Main Events

“The bigger names take time to make, and that fight (Stevenson) will get made, but our goal is for Sergey to stay active and Sergey’s goal is to stay active. This is the fight we found. This young man is willing to step up and test his skills, and that’s what this sport is all about. I remember people talking a long, long time ago when Mike Tyson was fighting Buster Douglass when we were trying to make the Tyson-Holyfield fight and you know what happened then, so I never ever discount anyone’s chances of winning a fight and nobody ever should.”

“From what we know, Cedric is a boxer and he is undefeated so he doesn’t know what it feels like to lose.”

“I think no matter what, we’ll see a sensational performance from Sergey Kovalev. Like I said, nobody gave that guy against Mike Tyson much of a chance. There’s no such thing as a sure thing. It’s easy for someone to lose focus when there’s talk of other big fights, and there’s millions of examples of people who have lost focus and walked into something that they didn’t expect. I think Sergey is a great fighter and think he can beat everybody in the world, but I’ve been at this long enough to know that you have to take everybody seriously.”

“As a promoter, I can’t come out and say that I think the outcome is preordained because I don’t think any outcome is.”

“The real challenge aside from Cedric Agnew is not to get distracted by fights that are out there of potentially happening. I mean there’s been more questions on this phone call about Adonis Stevenson than there have been about Cedric Agnew.”

“A fight between Sergey and Andre Ward is certainly something that is gonna happen someday, but it’s not going to happen at 168.”

“When you start out (looking for opponents), you have to look at the top fifteen. You have to see who’s available and then discuss with HBO. Fonfara is someone that HBO would approve but he moved on. Cedric was also on that very short list of people that HBO asked us to approach first, and once we knew that Fonfara wasn’t going to work out, we approached Malcom.”

“He’s American; he’s undefeated; the fight’s in the United States and Sergey’s last two opponents have not been American so it made all the sense in the world.”

Malcom Garrett, Promoter of Garrett Promotions

“Number one, we’re glad that a lot of people are gonna underestimate Cedric Agnew. Cedric Agnew is a very skilled fighter. This is a fight that Agnew is chomping at the bit for. He thinks he’s ready for this fight. We think he’s ready for this fight. He was a good amateur, but had some hand problems in the amateurs, so he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do; however, he’s been flying a bit under the radar, which may not always be the worst thing. He plans on upsetting, and I believe we got a fight here, gentlemen.”

“Cedric would rather have fought Kovalev (than the IBF eliminator). Style-wise we like Kovalev’s style for Cedric.”

“I know everybody wants to see Kovalev and Stevenson. I’d like to see the fight my self. We’d all sit down and watch it, and I’m sure HBO will buy it later this year; however, they’re just going to have to do it without the WBO title.”

Jolene Mizzone, Main Events Matchmaker

“Sergey Kovalev is must see television, and someone you have to watch.”

“The biggest point that everybody has to realize is that Cedric Agnew wants to fight Kovalev. This is a fight that they’ve been asking for. There’s not many guys out there from doing the matchmaking that want to fight Kovalev. ”

John David Jackson, Kovalev’s Trainer

“Sergey’s become an all-around fighter. He’s going to the body a lot more. He’s placing his punches a lot better, and he’s not rushing his shots like he once did.”

“He (Sergey) has boxing skills, but we haven’t seen those because most guys don’t go past four rounds, so maybe in the future we’ll get a chance to see him display his boxing abilities.”

“He’s not just one-dimensional, and that’s what a lot of fighters don’t realize. They hear he’s a “Krusher” or “Terminator” and they think he’s just one-dimensional. Sergey has a lot of tools to work with. I’m hoping in this fight here that maybe Cedric will make Sergey show people what he can do and Sergey can showcase his talents.”

“It’s an intriguing fight, and we’re not taking this kid lightly. Sergey takes no opponent lightly. When we’re in the gym training, every fighter is the most important person on the planet at that moment.”

“I’m in the same boat you’re in, but we’ll get films on him in the next week or so and then we’ll dissect him and see what he is.”

“Once he became champion, he became the hunted. He’s no longer the hunter. This kid stepped up, so that means he’s hungry.”

“Our sole focus is Cedric Agnew.”

Bobby Benton, Agnew’s Trainer

Cedric’s been fighting since he was eight, and he’s got a bunch of amateur fights and knows how to fight. We’ve been begging for exposure and now we’re getting it. He’s gonna be ready; he always is.”

“Since he’s been down here in the last four years, he’s maybe taken ten days out of the gym. He’s a gym rat, and he’s ready.”