Sergey Kovalev looks for redemption, WBO title

Andre Ward, left, fights Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Andre Ward, left, fights Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Las Vegas. AP

Sergey Kovalev is ready to release the frustrations from his two fights with Andre Ward.

The native of Russia and part-time Fort Lauderdale resident makes his ring return Nov. 25, intent on recapturing the light-heavyweight belts he lost in his two consecutive bouts against Ward. Kovalev will face Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the vacant World Boxing Organization title at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I’m really happy that this fight will be for the title and for the WBO because this was the first title I had already,” Kovalev said in a conference call last week. “But now this is like a new chapter in my boxing career.”

For Kovalev, his recent career chapters were not pleasant reading.

When he first faced Ward in November 2016 to defend his multiple sanctioning body titles, Kovalev considered it the ideal platform to stake his claim as the sport’s best fighter. Ward, after all, was regarded pound-for-pound elite despite repeated ring absences because of injury.

A second-round knockdown of Ward further fueled Kovalev’s aspirations. But the early-fight dominance proved insufficient as Ward won a questionable unanimous decision.

The rematch against Ward seven months later ended in a disputed stoppage, when Ward won via eighth-round technical knockout. Kovalev was ahead by three points on one judge’s scorecard and trailed by one point on the other two cards when the bout was stopped.

Given the circumstances of the two results against Ward, Kovalev, although not immediately, would have pursued a third match. Ward, however, retired in September, vacating the belts he took from Kovalev.

“Right now, I feel all bad things are gone from my mind,” Kovalev said. “Right now I concentrate and I focus for the future of my boxing career. I’m ready to be again a world champion and collect my belts if somebody will be ready to unify the title.”  


▪ Miami residents and Cuba natives Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) and Yuriorkis Gamboa (27-2, 17 KOs) each landed appearances on the Kovalev-Shabranskyy undercard.

Barrera, angling for a light-heavyweight title fight next year, will face Felix Valera while Gamboa will fight Jason Sosa in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout. A two-division world champion, Gamboa replaced Sosa’s original opponent, Robinson Castellanos, who withdrew because of an injury. Castellanos stopped Gamboa in the seventh round May 5. 

▪ After two years of building his fight resume away from home, Aventura resident Ahmed Elbiali returns to South Florida for another important step in his four-year professional career.

Elbiali will face former light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal Dec. 8 in the main event of a card at Hialeah Park and Casino.

A Krop High graduate, Elbiali has won his first 16 professional bouts, including 13 by knockout. Elbiali, 27, has made the successful progression through the prospect stage and now will face a different level of opposition in Pascal.

Pascal enjoyed a two-year, four-fight run as World Boxing Council champion that ended after his loss against Bernard Hopkins in 2011. A native of Haiti and Montreal resident, Pascal (31-5-1, 18 KOs) subsequently had two unsuccessful title attempts against Kovalev in 2015 and 2016. 

▪ Daniel Jacobs defeated Luis Arias by a lopsided decision late Saturday in Long Island, N.Y. Jacobs (33-2) won the bout on all three judges’ scorecards 120-107, 119-108 and 118-109, in his first match since losing a close decision against middleweight champion Gennady Golovk March 18.


Coming up

Friday (10:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Anthony Dirrell vs. Denis Douglin, 10, super-middleweights.