LAS VEGAS — A deal is in place for Russian WBO light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev to make his first defense against Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh on the Nov. 30 undercard of RING/WBC 175-pound champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson showdown with Liverpool’s Tony Bellew at The Pepsi Colesium in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
The card will take place on HBO, according to Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva of Main Events, and his manager, Egis Klimas, as well as Stevenson’s promoter, Yvon Michel, all of whom are in Las Vegas for tonight’s Tim Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez fight at The Thomas & Mack Center.
“The contracts are not signed, but we’ve gone back and forth, and I’m sure that we have an agreement,” said Duva. “We’re still talking, but it’s not signed yet. It’s leaking out, so it’s not a secret. The fight’s gonna happen.”
Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 knockouts) scored his sixth straight knockout in August when he dethroned previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round stoppage, flooring Cleverly twice in the third.
Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs) has won four consecutive bouts since suffering an eighth-round stoppage to Denis Grachev last April.
Should Kovalev be victorious against Sillakh, and Stevenson (22-1, 18 KOs) take care of Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KOs), a clash between Stevenson and Kovalev would “be a dream matchup,” according to HBO’s Jim Lampley.
In March, Stevenson scored a sixth-round stoppage against journeyman Darnell Boone in a super middleweight bout, avenging the Canadian’s second-round knockout loss from April of 2010. In June, he rose into the light heavyweight division for a clash of southpaws with Chad Dawson, whom he stopped in 76 seconds with what he called his “Superman punch” to become the RING and WBC 175-pound champion.
In August — six days after his 36th birthday — Stevenson registered his 10th straight knockout in as many consecutive victories when he out-boxed and out-slugged former IBF titleholder Tavoris Cloud in defense of his belts.
Prior to facing Cleverly, Kovalev had third-round stoppages former titleholder Gabriel Campillo and once-beaten Cornelius White in January and June. He is 10-0-1, with 10 knockouts in his past 11 fights.
“I don’t know of a reason to wait,” Lampley said in August, prior to Stevenson’s win over Cloud. “I think that if they can get it done, and if both sides can come to an agreement, then it’s a fight that everyone would want to see.”
Stevenson likes having Kovalev present on the Nov. 30 card.
“This is good. If Kovalev fights Sillakh on my undercard, that’s good, because then, in Canada, people are going to know him. This will really help to build the fight, because, right now, nobody knows him in Canada,” said Stevenson, who, nevertheless, is focused on Bellew.
“Of course, I’m focused on my next fight with Bellew, and I’m training hard for this fight, and I’m in great shape for this fight. Next week, I’m going to be focused even more on Tony Bellew. He’s my mandatory, and he’s very dangerous. So I’m not talking about any other boxer as far as what I’m going to do.”
Klimas also likes a potential bout against Stevenson.
“”There’s a possibility that they Kovalev and Stevenson could meet each other for the mega bout. Canada is very good for drawing people for a fight like that, and there will be a lot of fans watching it,” said Klimas, who is in Las Vegas as manager for Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko, a winner of his second Olympic gold medal at the 2012 Games in London who will face Mexican l Jose Luis Ramirez on the Badley-Marquez card.
“You can’t do much better. But what we’re looking for is Sillakh on Nov. 30 in Quebec. I think that Sillakh has a very good style, and he’s a very talented boxer. When it comes to the fight, I think that it’s going to be one of the toughest opponents that Sergey has ever faced. I’m going to be honest with you. It’s going to be a good fight, and we’re all looking forward to it.”
Should he get beyond Bellew, Stevenson has also expressed the desire to face IBF light heavweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins, who, at 48, scored a unanimous decision over Cloud in March, extending his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown. Hopkins first set the record at the age of 46 in May of last year by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s 175-pound belt.
Michel likes Kovalev-Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KOs) for the future as opposed to Stevenson-Kovalev.
Since falling to Hopkins, Pascal has won two straight over Aleksy Kuziemski and George Blades by unanimous decision and fifth-round stoppage in December and September, respectively. Pascal’s other loss was by unanimous decision to current IBF and WBA super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch by unanimous decision in December of 2008.
“Look, Adonis is willing to fight anybody. Right now, he’s focused on the Bellew fight because it’s his mandatory, and if he doesn’t beat him, then there is nothing after. But once Adonis does that, then he would like to fight guys like Bernard Hopkins or Carl Froch that will mean a lot in Canada for right now. Kovalev will not mean that much,” said Michel.
“But we hope that Kovalev will look good against Sillakh, and will win, and then, maybe will do a Pascal-Kovalev fight, because we have a lot of good light heavyweights at home. If he beats Pascal, which I doubt, because I think that Pascal is better than him, then Adonis wants to fight him. So, then, we’ll see in the mix what can be. Right now, we are focused on Bellew in Quebec City at the Pepsi Coliseum.”
Photo by Scott Heavey, Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org