By Jake Donovan
Sergey Kovalev can control a lot of things in the ring. What he and his team can’t fully control is what writers and fans choose to talk about.
Given his stance as an unbeaten light heavyweight titlist, it’s only natural that his name is linked to that of fighters such as Adonis Stevenson – the division’s lineal king – and future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, who currently possesses a couple of trinkets of his own.
Plans at the start of the year called for a collision course between Kovalev and Stevenson, but the latter opted to go in another direction – specifically to Showtime in pursuit of a future unification bout with Hopkins. That fight has barely budged beyond wish-list status for the moment.
Meanwhile, Kovalev (24-0-1, 22KOs) is forced to abandon his own wish-list in favor of staying active, which leads to his next ring appearance. The red-hot knockout artist will next face unbeaten Aussie challenger Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6KOs) on August 2 at Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The fight - which will air live on HBO - marks just the second time Caparello fights outside of his native Australia, with his first trip coming earlier this year on the opposite end of New Jersey. His win over Elvir Muriqi was nationally televised on ESPN2, yet still largely forgettable as the fight was completely devoid of action.
That doesn’t mean Kovalev gets to take the night off.
“Luckily for me Sergey Kovalev is a true professional,” notes trainer John David Jackson, a former middleweight titlist who has since found major success as a chief second. “I don’t have to watch him or babysit him. He trains like he is still the challenger. Blake is a decent puncher and boxer. Sergey understands this. He knows we have break down Blake slowly. He is not overlooking Blake. He trains very, very hard. I just try to prepare him so he can go on to bigger and better things.”
If rumors are to be taken seriously, then among those bigger and better things could be a showdown with Hopkins somewhere down the road. The 49-year old freak of nature went on record earlier this month, claiming he was ready to pursue a showdown with Kovalev, and that it’s a fight he claims to have always wanted dating back to when the Russian was his mandatory challenger last year.
The two fighters wound up heading in opposite directions. Kovalev fought and knocked out Nathan Cleverly last August in his HBO debut and for his first major title, while Hopkins joined the rest of his Golden Boy family on Showtime, where he went on to beat Karo Murat in a 12-round decision last October.
Such a fight hasn’t been seriously discussed since then, nor has there been any interaction between camps despite Hopkins’ newfound urge to land Kovalev in the ring. When a legend like Hopkins speaks, naturally people will stand up and take notice. With the lack of notable fights happening in a division loaded with talent, naturally the media will salivate over the possibility of any progress made.
Of course, it can be argued that Hopkins can afford to talk (gossip) about such a fight, since he doesn’t have anything lined up for the foreseeable future. Kovalev isn’t above calling out a fighter, but at the same time his team isn’t interested on wasting energy over a fight that may or may not happen. They’ve been down that road already; talk is talk, but the proper time will come to seriously explore his next move with a victory on August 2.
“Sergey and I have never talked about a fight with Bernard Hopkins,” insists Jackson, who once fought – and lost to – Hopkins in 1997, and also served in his corner several years ago. “We are focused is on Blake. (Talks of other fights haven’t) been a distraction at all. We aren’t looking past him we are looking right at him. After we get past him we will look at Bernard Hopkins.”
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