The Red Corner
Danny Wayne Armstrong
A round-up of everything in the ring from the world’s biggest nation.
It’s (almost) official. Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward is, whisper it, happening. Ward outclassed Colombian Alexander Brand in front of a home crowd in Oakland to set up a super-fight with feared puncher Kovalev on November 19 to contest the Russian’s WBO, WBA Super, WBC and Ring magazine light heavyweight championships.
Speaking at the post-fight presser, Ward (now 30-0 with 15 KOs), his face fresh and free of abrasions, praised his future opponent, calling their match-up “the biggest fight in boxing”.
“You can say that I’ve accomplished enough where no matter what happens in that fight that legacy is set and I think that’s the reality of the situation. But that’s not how it's going to be viewed. This is a career-defining fight,” Ward said, FightHubTV reported.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn't be able to get that task handled. And that takes nothing away from Sergey Kovalev because he’s everything that people say that he is. But this is Sugar Ray Leonard - Tommy Hearns all over again, in that it’s 50-50, who will rise to the occasion?”
Kovalev, (31-0-1 26 KOs) who was ringside for the fight at the Oracle Arena, had this to say about his next opponent:
“It’s the biggest test for me in my career, but I should be ready. How will I beat him? It’s my goal right now and I will try to decide this problem and this goal [on] November 19. His style is very interesting. He is good, he’s a champion I cannot say something more. What I saw today it was a very good performance against Alexander Brand but I know that Andre is going to be much better in our fight.”
The fight is due to take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with a reported dispute between Kathy Duva and Ward’s people RocNation concerning the venue having delayed the official confirmation of the bout.
Meanwhile at the Rio Olympics, boxing was one of the few disciplines not enveloped in shame and scandal for Team Russia in the run-up to the 2016 Games. Russian athletes didn’t need another reason to be mistrusted, but they nevertheless inadvertently received one in the form of questionable judging calls.
Heavyweight (91kg) Evgeny Tishchenko won his gold medal match against Kazakh Vassiliy Levit unanimously on all cards; but after the bout most observers were unanimous in condemning the decision. The shaven-scalped Levit was the aggressor throughout and seemed to drop his counter-punching counterpart in the third, but it was ruled a slip. Levit cut Tishchenko in the same round but the fight was scored 3-0 to Tishchenko, who exhaled in apparent relief when the referee raised his hand. He offered a bowed head to Levit, while the crowd offered boos and whistles.
In another contentious decision, bantamweight Michael Conlan had some choice words for the AIBA after his loss to Russian Vladimir Nikitin. Irish hotshot Conlan had been favourite to win 56kg gold but when Nikitin’s hand was raised at the end of their fight, Conlan raised his middle fingers to the judges. His post-fight interview was of much less ‘craic’ than that of his countrymen the O’Donovan brothers. In a twist of fate, Nikitin then withdrew from the subsequent semi-final due to cuts received in the bout. The Conlan protestations were enough to prompt a reaction from the AIBA, who suspended judges operating “not at the level expected”.
Elsewhere, there were shocks for London 2012 welterweight bronze medallist Andrey Zamkovoy, who was eliminated at the first time of asking, as was Petr Khamukov, while last year’s world silver medallist and European champion Vasilii Egorov lost his only fight in Rio. Misha Aloyan came up just short in his final with Uzbek Shakhobidin Zoirov to win silver.
Brave Anastasia Belyakova fractured her arm in the first round of her semi-final bout with Frenchwoman and eventual gold medallist Estelle Mossely to come away with a bronze in the women’s lightweight category. Vitaly Dunaytsev also won bronze in the men’s light welterweight to bring the Russian medal haul in the boxing to four medals: one each of gold and silver, and two bronze.
Olympic gold medallist at Athens 2004 Alexander Povetkin has been told he can fight again after the WBC decided not to impose any sanctions on the heavyweight following its investigation into alleged doping that put paid to his planned May clash with champion Deontay Wilder.
Povetkin handler Andrei Ryabinsky had earlier threatened to sue should his charge not be allowed to compete for the WBC belt again. The WBC has instead made Povetkin the subject of extra, self-funded testing for the next 12 months. Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs) is now scheduled to fight Canadian former champ Bermane Stiverne for the interim WBC title, with Wilder currently injured.
Former 140 lbs titleholder and fan-friendly pressure fighter Ruslan Provodnikov has told Boxing Monthly that he plans to step in to the ring again. The 2013 Fight of the Year participant, who dismantled Mike Alvarado for the WBO title, has taken time off since losing his last fight to John Molina Jr. in June. But ‘The Siberian Rocky’ said he would like one more “important fight” and would make himself available if an offer presents itself.
In news of another Siberian, IBF super lightweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky has a challenger for his next title defence. The Omsk slugger, (24-0, 21 KOs), will fight relatively unknown former Japanese and OPBF champ Keita Obara at Moscow’s Krylia Sovetov on September 9.
Troyanovsky is a dark horse in a division teeming with talent and, although a champion, little is known about him. Some rate him highly though, and, although he is still unseasoned at age 34, he could go on to great things.
Only two of Obara’s 18 outings have gone the distance, with 15 knockouts in 16 wins since being halted on his debut in 2009. The only time he has been the championship distance (barring a 12th-round stoppage victory) was against rugged Walter Castillo in his US debut last November.
Troyanovsky should be sternly tested by the 5’10” Obara, who keeps his hands high, works off the jab and awkwardly prefers to duck and hold in defence. A former ice hockey stadium, the fight’s venue is surprisingly low-key, but if Troyanovsky can pull off a win, brighter lights will surely beckon. The card also features cruiserweight Rakhim Chakhkiev (25-2, 18 KOs) who was knocked out by Ola Afolabi last November.
Vadim Kornilov has a stable of talented fighters based Stateside and in Russia. LA-based Kornilov chatted recently with Boxing Monthly about plans for three of his undefeated charges: light heavyweights Dmitry Bivol (7-0, 6 KOs) and Egor Mekhontsev (12-0-1, 8 KOs); and super featherweight Evgeny Chuprakov (16-0, 9 KOs).
“We’re looking for Dmitry Bivol to defend the [WBA light heavyweight interim] title one more time, sometime in the fall, probably in October, maybe November in Russia or United States. We’re currently working with the promoter of Bivol, Andrey Ryabinsky, figuring out what the next step will be. As for Mekhontsev, he’s currently taking a small break, he’ll be back in the ring later this year.”
Twenty-six-year-old WBO European champion Chuprakov, who has the intriguing nickname ‘Happy Gilmore’, looks to be a potential star that could soon be unleashed on the British or American stage.
“Definitely we’re looking at opportunities for him to fight in the United States,” Kornilov said of his plans for Chuprakov. “He’s fought there twice, and that’s definitely one of the goals: to bring him back working with opportunities there.”
WBA interim welterweight champ David Avanesyan’s proposed fight with regular belt holder Keith Thurman is still in the balance. The fight was ordered to purse bids last month and should be ordered within 30 days. Avanesyan’s manager Neil Marsh told Boxing Monthly that proceedings are at “purse bids still” but nothing has been settled yet, although he says an announcement is imminent.
Elsewhere, Denis Lebedev looks set to defend his WBA Super and IBF cruiserweight titles against rugged, rock-fisted countryman Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17 KOs) in an all-Russian showdown. Beibut Shumenov had previously penned a petition to the WBA to force Lebedev to face him as mandatory, but that doesn’t look likely to be happening.
Standout fights of the new season in Russia see unbeaten Roman Andreev (17-0, 12 KOs) take on Rolando Magbanua (26-4, 18 KOs) for the WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title on September 17. Madrid-based Petr Petrov (37-4-2, 18 KOs) will face off against Michael Perez (24-1-2, 11 KOs) on September 30 in an eliminator for the WBA lightweight belt, which will be contested between Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares in Manchester six days prior.