By Jake Donovan
If the rumor mill holds true, then the toughest challenge awaiting light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev will be guarding from boredom.
The undefeated knockout artist is due to return to the ring on August 2, headlining a planned two-site tripleheader. With a short list of willing and conflict-free opponents, the leading candidate to have emerged is unbeaten feather-fisted Aussie boxer Blake Caparello, whose appointment would come by obligation rather than choice or public demand.
Both sides have acknowledged that talks have been in place for such a showdown, but that a deal is not yet in place.
Kovalev (24-0-1, 22KO) last fought in March, scoring an 8th round knockout of unbeaten but unheralded Cedric Agnew. The bout served as his first headliner on HBO after having appeared twice before on the network in supporting capacity. His debut in the lead spot for the network produced favorable returns, generating more than 1 million viewers for a bout that received little publicity and was regarded as a gross mismatch heading in.
Should Caparello (19-0-1, 6KO) get greenlighted as the opponent, the event runs the risk of coming across as more of the same. On paper, Caparello has made the right moves, scoring landslide wins over Elvir Muriqi and Allan Green in his most recent bouts. Neither fight did much to bolster his public appeal, other than his showdown with Muriqi serving as his stateside debut following a career spent entirely in his native Australia.
In addition to Caparello’s lack of notoriety, there exists the minor dilemma of the southpaw not rated among the Top 15 light heavyweights ranked by the World Boxing Organization (WBO). Gaining proper sanctioning as a title fight is probably secondary to getting Kovalev back on HBO, but still begs the question if it’s necessary to clear such hurdles for a fight few are in a hurry to see.
Once Kovalev and promoter Main Events are able to nail down an opponent, it will serve as the finishing touch to a midsummer tripleheader that continues to move along in progress. The other two legs will take place at a location to be determined on the West Coast, with Top Rank to promote.
Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9KO) will open the telecast, making the first defense of his 140 lb. title he won in a 12-round decision over Khabib Allakhverdiev. The bout took place in chief support to Manny Pacquiao’s rematch win over Tim Bradley. this past April. Vargas’ next bout comes against yet another unbeaten Russian southpaw, taking on Anton Novikov (29-0, 10KO).
Also on the show, Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23KO) is slated to return for the first time since his loss to Pacquiao in Macau last November. The defeat was two-fold, as the former 135 lb. titlist was claimed to have tested positive for dimenthylamylamin (DMAA) as discovered in his post-fight urinalysis.
The discovery came with a six-month ban, though hardly of consequence as it was doubtful he’d return to the ring prior to that point anyway. His planned August 2 return is to come at the welterweight limit against Argentina’s Diego Chaves, best known for his knockout loss in a war with Keith Thurman last summer. The 28-year old has since rebounded with a win this past February; Rios has lost two straight.
With Kovalev in the lead spot, HBO gets a one-two punch in its mid-summer lineup. One week prior, undefeated middleweight titlist Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin defends his crown versus former champ Daniel Geale, in a bout that was just approved this week. The middleweight title fight takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City, with the opening bout pitting unbeaten heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Michael Perez in a title eliminator.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox