'I'm ready for anyone': Sergey Kovalev interview

Shaun Brown
31/07/2018 5:04am

In a revealing interview Sergey Kovalev talks to Shaun Brown about Eleider Alvarez, his aim to win all four light-heavy belts and visiting a Greek monastery...

There may not be a World Boxing Super Series light heavyweight tournament on the horizon but that hasn’t stopped Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) planning something similar in his own head.

The WBO world champion has a tournament schedule brewing in his mind. Ahead of the second defence of his title against Eleider Alvarez this Saturday night in Atlantic City, the former unified champion told Boxing Monthly that the exploits of Oleksandr Usyk have motivated him to capture all four belts so that, like the Ukrainian, he can become the undisputed king of his division.

“In my head, I have a schedule of my tournament, my championship. I am driven to win this championship. I have a picture in my head, I see my goals and my championship win,” said the 35-year-old.

“It’s already started unofficially, between us [rivals]. Because everybody wants to make unification fights I hope. Everyone who is a champion in the light heavyweight division wants to get all the belts together. We want to see who is first between us.”

Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol: four champions that would have any fight fan altering his or her life’s schedule should they fight one another at some point. And two of the four appear to be on something of a collision course.

While Stevenson has been ordered by the WBC to face their Interim champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, and IBF titlist Beterbiev will defend against Britain’s Callum Johnson in October, Kovalev and Bivol are edging closer to a showdown with both men appearing on Saturday’s card. (Bivol defends his WBA title against Isaac Chilemba, look out for an interview with Bivol on the BM website later this week.)

You could say it is two quarter-finals that we will witness on Saturday, on the Main Events promotion. But despite the 'tournament schedule' Kovalev has thought about, he refuses to overlook his unbeaten Colombian opponent.

"I'm ready to fight any champion, because my goal is to get all four titles, to be undisputed champion. I am fighting everybody who is ready to fight me, who is available at this point. I never had a choice; do I want this fight or this other guy to fight. [Manager] Egis [Klimas] or [promoter] Kathy [Duva] inform me, ‘your next opponent is Eleider Alvarez.’ OK. It’s new, I keep my head and prepare for this guy, because I should be better than him.

“I don’t think about this, who is next. Because I’m thinking right now about Alvarez. He’s busy making plans for me.

“It’s a big test for me. He is very motivated. He’s hungry for this fight and for a victory. He’s undefeated. It’s not an easy fight and I must be ready for what he will bring.

“He’s dangerous. I cannot say whether I can knock him out or get a victory by points. It’s a good fight for the boxing fans. I never said that I don’t want to fight this guy because he’s very strong. I’m ready for everybody. As a champion, as a boxer, I’m ready for anybody.”

Andre Ward was also ready for Kovalev. The American bowed out of boxing with his second consecutive victory over his rival in June 2017. Both fights were controversial. One for its bewildering scorecards, and one for its TKO ending. They were tough pills for Kovalev to swallow. It was an experience for a man who was once the most fearsome fighter on the planet.

And while the subject of those fights wasn’t addressed in this interview, Kovalev made a point to talk about a Greek monastery he visited last year. Something that he credits with clearing his mind and getting him back on track.

“I should visit there every year, for recharging mentally,” he said.

“Every man and every woman should be alone with his Spirit, his God, for two or three days a year. I mean, you should be with God always. But I went there four nights. It recharged me. I cleaned up my mind and body. You follow the prayers. It is a saintly place. I already miss it. Maybe if I have the opportunity this year, I will go again.”

Kovalev will adapt to whatever Alvarez brings this Saturday night. The plan and strategy are ready to be executed. He understands what he needs to do now and for the remainder of his career, and it appears he will not rest until he has all four titles. Only then, it seems, will he consider retirement.

To a man like Kovalev age is nothing but a number he carries. It means nothing. Thirty-five or 25 he has always tried to work on mistakes from previous performances.

“Some fights, I like myself. Some fights, I don’t like myself – I mean my fights. I didn’t like my last fight. I didn’t like my performance. Every fight, something happens. I thought I knew a lot, but something new always happens.”