Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 knockouts) is 10-0-1 with 10 stoppage victories in his past 11 bouts heading into the clash with Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs).
Meanwhile, Sillakh has won four straight, three of them by stoppage, since falling by eighth-round knockout to Denis Grachev in April of 2012. In his last fight in August, Sillakh stopped Konstantin Piternov in the sixth round.
Many expect Kovalev to get beyond Sillakh for a clash with RING/WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (22-1, 19 KOs), who will be after his 10th straight knockout and his fourth of the year in Saturday’s main event against Tony Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KOs) of Liverpool.
RingTV.com received the opinions of 13 boxing insiders as to their thoughts on what will transpire in Kovalev-Sillakh, the results being below.
Sergey Kovalev KO Ismayl Sillakh: Sergey Kovalev is one the biggest punchers in the sport and should score another big KO. Ismayl Sillakh can box beautifully at times, but Kovalev is a big step-up in competition.
In his toughest fight to date, Sillakh demonstrated he could use improvement in the punch resistance department, as he was knocked out by Denis Grachev. Kovalev and Stevenson are likely to meet in 2014 in a showdown of light heavyweight power punchers.
Record: 11-6 [Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Sergey Kovalev, KO 6 Ismayl Sillakh: Sergey Kovalev is talking about Adonis Stevenson, but he’d be wise not to look past Ismail Sillakh. Kovalev, a Russian, must know him. Sillakh was an accomplished amateur in The Ukraine before going pro.
Sillakh’s 17 stoppages in 22 pro bouts and a solid amateur education add up to potential danger. Sillakh lacks Kovalev’s world-class experience and might have a weak chin, exposed in 2012 by Denis Grachev in an eighth-round stoppage.
The guess is that Kovalev is paying attention and will finish Sillakh a couple rounds faster than Grachev did.
Record: 25-9 [Pacquiao UD 12 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev TKO6 Ismayl Sillakh: Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev made a believer out of me last August with his impressive destruction of Nathan Cleverly for the WBO light heavyweight title. Here we now have a well-trained and well-handled young champion with outstanding technique and crushing power.
His challenger, Ismayl Sillakh, was once thought of very highly as a top prospect, but Sillakh squandered his potential against soft touches before the raw but powerful Denis Grachev introduced him to reality with a late-round TKO last year.
Since then, Sillakh has done nothing to demonstrate that he’s earned this title shot and nothing to prove he stands a chance to win. It’s Sergey Kovalev by stoppage some time in the first half of the fight.
Record: 22-9 [Pacquiao TKO 10 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev TKO5 Ismayl Sillakh: In August I had the pleasure of watching Sergey Kovalev work from ringside in Cardiff, Wales. I had picked Nathan Cleverly, the WBO light heavyweight champion, to tuck up and win on points against him.
But Kovalev dominated from start to finish without going through all the gears. Kovalev cuts the ring down brilliantly, he is deadly accurate, and he was in the Russian army.
Sorry, but I’m not writing this guy off against anyone for the foreseeable future. Sillakh will box smart initially, but find himself drawn into a punch up and I can only see one winner.
Record: 15-8 [Pacquiao KO 7 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev TKO 9 Ismayl Sillakh: It’s the wrong place to be if you are Ismayl Sillakh, considering that Segey Kovalev has been steamrolling opponents and is looking to make an example out of Sillakh prior to Adonis Stevenson’s clash with Tony Bellew.
It’s not that Sillakh isn’t a good fighter, it’s that Kovalev has been a man possessed as he’s stopped 10 of his last 11 opponents inside of the distance. They weren’t cream puffs either, as names like Darnell Boone, Gabriel Campillo and Nathan Cleverly all are victims to the Russian’s assault.
I don’t expect Sillakh to avoid being his 21st KO victim either, even though Sillakh’s lone loss was a shocking eighth round TKO to Denis Grachev in a fight he was handily winning. Sillakh has sound technical skills. The problem is that Kovalev is a huge step up in competition.
I’m figuring that Kovalev will struggle early with Sillakh’s boxing, but will make the adjustments and change the tide with thudding power shots by the middle rounds. Sillakh’s body won’t be able to take any more punishment, and he’ll crumble by the ninth.
Record: 11-1 [Pacquiao TKO 10 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev KO5 Ismayl Sillakh: Ismayl Sillakh can punch, too, and there are legitimate questions about Sergey Kovalev’s chin. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sillakh lands something that affects Kovalev.
But ultimately, Kovalev will continue his impressive knockout streak and generate greater interest in a fight against Adonis Stevenson by knocking out Sillakh before their WBO light heavyweight title fight reaches the midway mark.
Record: 20-6 [Pacquiao TKO 9 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev TKO 10 Ismayl Sillakh: Back in the ring for the fourth time this year, light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev defends his title for the first time against Ismayl Sillakh.
Kovalev overwhelmed Nathan Cleverly to win the title three months ago.
Sillakh has rebuilt his career after being shockingly stopped by Denis Grachev last year. The former amateur standout can fight, but can he withstand the pressure of Kovelav?
I don’t think so. I see Sillakh doing some good work in the first few rounds. Kovelav will eventually catch him with a big shot leading to a stoppage in round 10.
Record: 13-5 [Pacquiao TKO 11 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev TKO 8 Ismayl Sillakh: I think Sergey Kovalev with have some trouble with Ismayle Sillakh early before settling down and eventually breaking him down for an eighth round TKO
Record: 18-6 [Ward W 12 Rodriguez]
Sergey Kovalev KO Ismayl Sillakh: Sergey Kovalev may get a bit of a test here as Ismayl Sillakh can box, and box well. Sillakh can’t afford another loss and he knows the danger the WBO titlist presents.
Knowing, and doing enough to win, are two different things. Kovalev is a bad man and should score a bad knockout in the second half of the fight.
Record: 23-9 [Pacquiao KO Rios]
Sergey Kovalev KO 8 Ismayl Sillakh: Sergey Kovalev has become one of the most feared fighters in the world for a reason: The Russian has dismantled everyone in his path, including a stunned Nathan Cleverly in his most-recent fight.
Kovalev has ridiculous power and good skills. Ismayl Sillakh is no joke, but has never seen anything quite like Kovalev.
Record: 18-7 [Pacquiao KO 9 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev KO Ismayl Sillakh:I’m looking for Sergey Kovalev to win by a mid-rounds stoppage over Ismayl Sillakh. I just believe he is hitting too hard right now, has a lot of momentum going his way and is too hungry at this point in his career.
Record: 19-6 [Pacquiao UD 12 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev KO 7 Ismayl Sillakh: Ismayl Sillakh, also known as “The Black Russian,” to others, was once touted by the great Roy Jones Jr. as the potentially the next great light heavyweight, that is, until he was violently upset by Denis Grachev.
In his last outing, Sergey Kovalev scored his most significant career victory over Nathan Cleverly, dethroning him as WBO beltholder. Sillakh has demonstrated exceptional hand speed, good mobility and superior boxing skills, along with a very nice, short uppercut on the inside.
An early knockout loss in a young fighter’s career should not define him to damaged goods, or his ability to take a punch. But Kovalev is a terror, indeed, and among the boogey men of the 175-pound division.
Kovalev is heavy-handed, consistent with his pressure, and is a prime finisher. Sillakh will begin the round displaying his athleticism, fluid movement and pilling up the points as he takes the fight to Kovalev.
But an exchange will begin in the fifth round during which Kovalev may even be hurt or dropped. But Kovalev is a freight train, and will eventually derail Sillakh’s hopes and dreams inside of seven rounds.
Record: 4-2 [Pacquiao TKO 10 Rios]
Sergey Kovalev KO 7 Ismayl Sillakh: I really like Ismayl Sillakh offensively, at times he’s looked a beast. Though it was at a lower level he was highly impressive a few years back stopping Daniel Judah in two rounds on the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. II card.
He’ll be against a very strong, heavy handed guy in Kovalev who just keeps coming behind and educated jab with underrated head movement, something I’m sure his trainer John David Jackson has worked on with him.
I can see Sillahk doing well early but as the fight progresses Kovalev will continue to come and while Sillahk is impressive offensively he looks fragile, I believe when Kovalev catches up to him he’ll inflict enough damage to stop Sillahk in the mid rounds.
Record: 14-7 [Pacquiao TKO 6 Rios]
By a one-sided 13-0, the experts have Sergey Kovalev easily defending his WBO light heavyweight belt against Ismayl Sillakh.
Photo by Scott Heavey, Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org