The master plan, the end game consists of a high profile, all Russia unification fight ensuing eventually; but until then HBO’s WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will continue to build and showcase Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Dmitry Bivol on the same broadcasts. Saturday, August 4th will be another featured occasion, commencing from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (9PM CST).
There’s a suspicion HBO’s been granting Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KO’s) confidence builders and fair play to them if that’s indeed the case. Roughly 13 months ago, Kovalev suffered his second consecutive defeat, both to Andre Ward, the last of which by stoppage. On that night, Kovalev was broken down psychologically as much as he was physically; Ward consumed a bit of his fighting spirit, his soul. It makes all the sense in the world for HBO to put the “Krusher” into advantageous situations, to get him back to crushing again. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin were picture perfect foil and Kovalev disposed of them accordingly, but the training wheels and safety nets are being removed this Saturday.
Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KO’s), a replacement opponent for 2012 U.S. Olympian, Marcus Browne, is a very live underdog. In fact, it may look silly to have considered him an “underdog” at all, when it’s over and done with. For starters, Alvarez punches with considerably more conviction than his number of knockouts would lead you to believe. It’s as if he thinks he’s an old school bomber the likes of John “The Beast” Mugabi, Wilfredo Gomez, or a modern-day specialist in the concussive arts like Kovalev himself. Alvarez fights with a chip on his shoulder, isn’t terribly interested in glove-touching and talks shit to foes mid-fight. He’s not a face-first brawler, yet he’s combative nonetheless, if that makes sense. You don’t have to go looking for Alvarez and he’s not averse to fist fueled drama. From Canada, by way of Colombia, Alvarez has been the WBC Light Heavyweight mandatory contender for quite some time. Unable to secure a fight with champion, Adonis Stevenson, Alvarez stepped in for Browne, to challenge Kovalev for the WBO version of the 175-pound title.
If Alvarez can withstand Kovalev’s vaunted power, he has the all-around skill, hand speed, built-in contempt for whomever he’s facing and self-belief to pull an upset here. Conceivably, he could revert Kovalev to the dark places and insecurities he was unable to overcome vs. Ward, but none of that will matter if Alvarez can’t take a punch.
If HBO’s guilty of babysitting Kovalev, of milking and preserving him a bit, they’ve been kicking the tires and test-driving Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KO’s). Paired with Sullivan Barrera, who’d only lost to Ward at the time, by decision, and beaten Shabranskyy, Joe Smith and Felix Valera, Bivol dominated and stopped him in the 12th and final round. No one had ever performed quite like Bivol did against Barrera. This Saturday, he’ll be squaring off with the perennially tough Isaac Chilemba, who went the distance in a challenge for Kovalev’s title. It’s not a matter of if Bivol can defeat Chilemba, it’s about whether he can make another statement, doing so inside of 12 full rounds.