By Peter Lim
According to Cornelius "The Beast" White, "defense will be crucial" for his former gym-mate Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) to produce an upset against streaking WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (23-0, 21 KOs) on Saturday at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
White (21-3, 16 KOs) has traded punches with both fighters, having sparred numerous rounds with Agnew at the Main Boxing Gym in Houston and losing via third round TKO to Kovalev in June. Agnew has the tools and talent to pull off the upset, White said, provided he applies the skill set with prudence and patience throughout the course of the bout.
"He pretty much just has to be Cedric," White told The Houston Chronicle. "I've sparred with Cedric a bunch of times. He's a very talented, young, athletic fighter. His defense is what's going to save him."
Agnew's best chance for victory, White said is to ride out Kovalev's early blitzkrieg and take the fight into the later rounds, a game plan he failed to follow in his loss to Kovalev. Kovalev has never had to fight past eight rounds while Agnew has gone the 12-round distance twice.
"The first four to five rounds, he needs to be defensive - just jab and move and not be a stationary target like I was. My inexperience came into play," White said.
The most glaring difference between Kovalev's and Agnew's unblemished records is their knockout percentage; Kovalev has stopped 91 percent of his opponents compared to 50 percent for Agnew. Kovalev has also faced better caliber opponents.
By White's account, the TNT in the Russian's punch is everything it is reputed to be.
"It's like remarkable power," White said. "Looking at him and his size, you just don't believe it's real."
Having first-hand experience against Kovalev, White would have been an ideal sparring partner for Agnew, but he was unable to fill that capacity due to an eye injury which will most likely require surgery to repair before he can resume his career.