By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — A calm, confident Cedric Agnew has hidden any signs of feeling disrespected throughout the promotion of his fight against heavily favored Sergey Kovalev on Saturday night in Atlantic City.
His manager, Bill Benton, clearly is offended because their 12-round fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title has been portrayed as a complete mismatch. Anyone, Benton claims, that thinks Agnew is in over his head against the undefeated, heavy-handed Kovalev is sorely mistaken.
“I hope they’ve overlooked us like the press has overlooked us,” Benton said. “[Agnew] is a good fighter. I just don’t like somebody saying something about a fighter that hasn’t really checked him out. … Sure they checked us out. I know they did. I know John [David Jackson, Kovalev’s trainer]. They know who we are and they know they have a fight on their hands.”
The relatively anonymous Agnew is undefeated, but the most noteworthy win on his seven-year, 26-fight professional record came against faded former contender Yusaf Mack, who was 33 and had been knocked out in five fights by the time Agnew beat him by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder for the USBA light heavyweight title last April 12. The 27-year-old Agnew has not fought since he overcame Mack (31-7-2, 17 KOs) nearly a year ago in New Buffalo, Mich.
Jackson said he could find footage of only three of Agnew’s bouts, none of which included entire fights. The former junior middleweight and middleweight champion still didn’t seem overly concerned regarding Angew’s chances of upsetting Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs), who owns boxing’s second-highest knockout ratio (88 percent) among current world champions (behind only Gennady Golovkin’s 90 percent).
“I didn’t find much,” Jackson said. “There’s not much footage on him, that we came up with. At that point, what we decided to do was, I said, ‘Listen, we’re not going to worry too much about what he does. We’re going to work on the mistakes you make, correct those,’ and I’m going to let him form his own game plan. … [Agnew is] coming for the title. If he wants it, he’s going to have to come and get it. Not that we’re going to run. But if he really wants it, he has to work for it. So we’re just going to let Sergey do what he does best. I’ll let Sergey formulate his own plan and we’ll work off that. He’s a student of boxing. He understands the game well. The desire is so great and sometimes, you might show him a few things, but let him do what he does best.”
If it’s true that Kovalev knows next to nothing about Agnew, a contention Benton doubts, Agnew’s promoter, Malcolm Garrett, believes that’ll work to Agnew’s advantage when the accomplished amateur faces by far the toughest test of his professional career Saturday night in an HBO “Boxing After Dark” main event (10 p.m. ET) at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom.
“We’re glad that a lot of people are going to underestimate Cedric Agnew,” Garrett said. “Cedric Agnew is a very skilled fighter. This is a fight that Agnew has been chomping at the bit for. He thinks he’s ready for this fight. We think he’s ready for this fight. He was a good amateur, had some hand problems in the amateurs, so he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. However, he’s been flying a bit under the radar, which might not always be the worst thing. He plans on upsetting [Kovalev]. And I believe we’ve got a fight here, gentlemen.”
Handicappers clearly disagree. Angew is widely viewed as such a huge underdog, Las Vegas sports books aren’t even accepting bets on the fight. Several Internet sports books have listed Kovalev, a Russian who resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a 30-1 favorite.
That, too, is fine by Benton, whose son, Bobby Benton, is the Houston-based Agnew’s trainer.
“We’ve trained extremely hard for this fight,” Bill Benton said. “We’ve done everything we were supposed to do to get ready for the fight. We’ve watched film on him. My son is a capable trainer. We know we’re coming into the lion’s den here. He’s got a real good trainer there and he’s going to bring everything that he has. We’re bringing it, too. And if anybody’s overlooking this kid right now, after the fight you’ll know who he is.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.Tags: Sergey Kovalev , Cedric Agnew , Kovalev-Agnew , Kovalev vs Agnew