By Cliff Rold
Set-up fights are fine…if they set something up. What we have this weekend on HBO is something different. What was supposed to be a step towards a showdown ends up being just another night for a defending titlist.
It’s a significant downer.
The idea of a Sergey Kovalev-Adonis Stevenson war sounded great in theory…but Stevenson never sounded that excited about the practice. He always said he wanted Bernard Hopkins. He’s now in position to get him.
What is Kovalev in position to do?
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #2 Sergey Kovalev vs. Cedric Agnew (Saturday, HBO, 10 PM EST/PST)
Strange as it is, without Stevenson over the horizon this might be the most important fight to date in the career of Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO). The WBO Light Heavyweight titlist, if he wants to get the big fights, must not only win but continue to impress. He has a chance to make a statement against Stevenson, if only in the court of populist outrage. Agnew (26-0, 13 KO) is undefeated, but largely untested. Wins over veterans Otis Griffin, Yusaf Mack, and Daniel Judah are decent building blocks but this is another level of danger. Agnew has a chance to take a week’s worth of anger about Stevenson and turn it all on its ear.
Pick Boxcino: Lightweight Semi’s (Friday, ESPN2, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST)
Before March Madness brackets came apart at the seams, the two undefeated Lightweights in the Boxcino field saw their 0’s go and the ‘final four’ move on to this week. Both fights have their intrigue, if also favorites. Chris Rudd (13-1, 8 KO) looks like the underdog against Petr Petrov (33-4-2, 15 KO). Then again, Rudd looked a little of that part before upsetting veteran Yakibu Amidu. Miguel Gonzalez (23-3, 16 KO) looked a little lucky in escaping Miguel Mendoza in his opener while Fernando Carcamo (16-5, 13 KO) scored the lone knockout of the quarterfinals to win his sixth straight. Will this all end with a new contender? Maybe. Will it result in another round of fights as fun as the first? That’s why we tune in.
Pick Solo: Perez and Viloria in Action (Saturday, UniMas, 11 PM EST/PST)
Featherweight Alejandro Perez (19-3, 13 KO) has won four straight and may be on the verge of a crack at WBA titlist Nicholas Walters. First he has to handle Juan Carlos Martinez (19-14-1, 7 KO). Martinez makes his first start since 2012. Let’s assume Walters is coming soon if that is to be. Also on the show, the return of former 108 and 112 lb. titlist Brian Viloria (32-4, 19 KO). Viloria makes his first start since a title loss to Juan Francisco Estrada last year. He faces Juan Herrera (9-7, 4 KO). Seriously, this was the best show they could come up with…
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]