By Jake Donovan
Sergey Kovalev heads to Atlantic City for the first time in his career, facing unbeaten but unheralded challenger Cedric Agnew this weekend in a light heavyweight title fight.
Veteran referee Samuel Viruet – a regular official on the New York/New Jersey boxing scene – has been tabbed to officiate the scheduled 12-round affair, which headlines live on HBO.
The event marks the first time that Viruet has ever officiated a fight featuring Kovalev or Agnew. The 67-year old official has served in more than two dozen major title fights, including a mercy stoppage of badly battered Giovani Segura at the hands of Brian Viloria in Dec. ’11.
Earlier that year – and in his last high-profile fight officiated in Atlantic City, Viruet was the only official to avoid the guillotine following Paul Williams’ highly controversial majority decision win over Erislandy Lara. Ringside judges Donald Givens, Harold Whitaker III and Al Bennett were handed an indefinite suspension for what was classified as subpar work turned in for the HBO-televised contest.
Few believe this weekend’s bout stands much of a chance going to the scorecards, largely due to the two-fisted power of Kovalev (23-0-1, 21KO). The unbeaten knockout artist hasn’t allowed an opponent to last the distance since Dec. ’10. Each of his past seven bouts have ended in stoppage, none lasting deeper than round seven.
In the event that judges are required for Saturday’s light heavyweight title fight, the fighters and third man are all in good company. Offiiciating the bout from ringside will be Julie Lederman, John Stewart and Alan Rubenstein.
Of the trio, only Lederman has served as a judge for previous Kovalev bouts. None of the three judges have ever officiated any bout featuring Agnew (26-0, 13KO), which makes sense since the Chicago native has never previously fought east of Michigan through seven years as a pro.
Kovalev fights for the first time this year following a breakout 2013 campaign. The Florida-based Russian puncher scored four knockouts in as many ring appearances last year, including his first major title with a 4th round knockout of previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly. The bout marked his HBO debut; Saturday’s fight will be Kovalev’s third straight on the network.
Agnew has never previously appeared on HBO or in a major title fight.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox