Kovalev’s Trainer: Agnew Must Box to Survive Longer

by David P. Greisman

John David Jackson, trainer of light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev, spoke with on March 28 about this weekend’s bout between Kovalev and Cedric Agnew. How much did you know about Cedric Agnew coming into this fight, and how much did you learn from tape?

Jackson: “Didn’t know much about him coming in. Learned a little bit about him. Not much film on him. So for this particular fight here, I had to pretty much work on Sergey and just work on his mistakes, have him be a little more aggressive with feints and set his opponent up, not just going in looking for the knockout. I did that to make sure that I got him more prepared. I couldn’t worry much about Agnew because I didn’t know much about him. So I just told Sergey, ‘We’re going to work on what you do best, take away your bad stuff and try to improve you a little more for this fight here.’ ” What do you think adding feints will do for him?

Jackson: “I worked on the feints and a few other things because most guys know that he can punch. That’s the word on Sergey, so rather than just have him walk in, you feint so you can set your opponent up, make your opponent flinch and see where he’s going to go defensively, if he’s going to slip it, if he’s going to roll with it, whatever. The feints just set you up and get you closer so when you let your hands go, you’ve got your chance to get your opponent and set him up for your shots.” What did you see of Agnew, of the footage you did see?

Jackson: “I saw that he had a pretty decent right hand, a quick short right hand. Honestly, the film was so bad, the opponent was so bad, there wasn’t much that I could really take from it. That’s why I decided for this particular fight, we would just work on Sergey more.” Do you expect Agnew to come out and box? Brawl?

Jackson: “I think once he gets hit, he’s going to revert to his survival mode and box more. If he boxes, then it might go a little bit longer. If he decides to punch, then he’s written his own death sentence. I think he’s going to box. He’d be smart if he boxed.” How does Sergey handle boxers?

Jackson: “I’ve had a few guys move on him. He’s getting a lot better. He cuts the ring off and is not just chasing them. He’s going to the body and hitting them in the arms and their shoulders, biceps, wherever he can hit them at to slow them down.” Is there any pressure on him to get a knockout against Agnew and keep on impressing fans?

Jackson: “I mean, the talk’s there. I don’t really worry about the pressure of it, ‘cause it’s something that he does natural. If the knockout doesn’t come early, I don’t worry about that. Let’s just put the rounds in the bank. The knockout will come when it comes. If it doesn’t, as long as you win convincingly, that’s all that counts.”

Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at or internationally at Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by ShoulderRoll on 03-29-2014

Work on what he does best and take away the bad stuff, that's a solid plan regardless of the opponent.

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