The ships are sailing in the right direction toward a marquee light-heavyweight bout between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward later this year.
The unbeaten fighters recently reached an agreement for the highly anticipated match. The bout provides appealing qualities considering that Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs) and Ward (29-0, 16 KOs) are considered among the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
And, despite his sporadic ring activity because of injuries and promotional conflicts the past four years, Ward built sufficient accomplishments as a super-middleweight champion to warrant lofty recognition among the pound-for-pound elite.
Kovalev, a part-time Fort Lauderdale resident, realizes he needs the high-profile opponent like Ward to earn crossover status. As a result, Kovalev has not fought in his native Russia since 2011. Instead his ring appearances have been in the United States and Canada, scoring impressive victories over former 175-pound champions Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.
But Kovalev will finally provide his compatriots a hometown treat. Before he sets his sights on Ward, Kovalev will defend his multiple sanctioning belts against Isaac Chilemba on July 11 in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
“It truly feels as if the entire country is behind my back in this fight,” Kovalev said in a statement. “I can tell I’m fighting at home. This support means a lot to me.”
Kovalev also moved his training camp for the Chilemba fight to Armenia, instead of preparing for the bout in the United States.
“I try to look for mountainous regions that provide the right elevation and terrain for my conditioning training,” Kovalev said. “Armenia is well known for the mountains and terrain, plus it was also a good opportunity to get away from the attention — to focus solely on training.”
AROUND THE RING
▪ Miami resident Niko Valdes improved his professional record to 2-0 and two knockouts following his TKO victory over Michael Andrews on Friday night in Los Angeles.
Valdes, a Gulliver High graduate and former state Golden Gloves champion, wore down Andrews (0-2) with solid shots through the first three rounds of their super-middleweight match at the Bellasco Theater. The punch buildup forced Andrews’ cornermen to stop the fight before the bell to answer the fourth round.
“I was keeping my hands too far down during that fight and wasn’t putting together combinations,” Valdes said. “But I felt comfortable out there, maybe the most comfortable I’ve felt in the ring.”
▪ Late Saturday, Russia’s Denis Shafikov scored a 10th-round TKO win over previously unbeaten and 2012 U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Shafikov, unsuccessful in two world lightweight-title fights, wore down Herring (15-1) with power shots to the head. The punch buildup forced Herring’s cornermen to end the fight at 36 seconds of the round.
Shafikov is now 37-2-1 with 20 KOs.
On the same card, former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron won a unanimous decision over Carlos Garcia in their eight-round junior-middleweight bout. The win was the second in two months for Cintron (37-5-2) since returning to the ring following a two-year absence.
Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Antonio Moran vs. Juan Pablo Sanchez, 10, lightweights.
Saturday (9 p.m., ESPN): Mario Barrios vs. Devis Boschiero, 12, junior-lightweights.