By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol is very familiar with Vyacheslav Shabranskyy.
They sparred numerous rounds against each other recently in preparation for Bivol’s victory over Trent Broadhurst on November 4 in Monte Carlo and Shabranskyy’s fight against Sergey Kovalev on Saturday night in New York. Bivol respects Shabranskyy’s strength and toughness, but he expects Kovalev to win their scheduled 12-round fight for the unclaimed WBO light heavyweight title in The Theater at Madison Square Garden (HBO).
“It will be interesting to see this fight because it’s his comeback,” Bivol told Sky Sports. “I don’t know him personally, but he is one of the best and strongest fighters, so I want to fight him at some stage. He is the best.”
Kyrgyzstan’s Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) doesn’t think Kovalev will be a lesser fighter in his return from an eighth-round, technical-knockout defeat to Andre Ward in his last fight, June 17 in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think Kovalev will change much,” Bivol said, “and because of the type of fighter he is, and the skills he’s got, it will be enough for him to win on Saturday night.”
Bivol, the WBA light heavyweight champion, does expect Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) to give Russia’s Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) some trouble, despite that Kovalev is listed as a 14-1 favorite in their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event.
“We’ve sparred a number of times, and he’s a good guy and a great character,” said Bivol, who knocked out Australia’s Broadhurst in the first round. “One thing I can tell you is, he won’t give up. He will definitely make this a great fight.
“I would say his height is one of his biggest advantages [6-feet-3½]. He’s pretty strong and his punches are pretty hard when they land and, as I say, he has a lot of character. There are boxers and then there are fighters, and he’s a fighter.”
Shabranskky has lost only to Sullivan Barrera, who got up from a second-round knockdown to knock out Shabranskyy in the seventh round 11 months ago in Indio, California. Cuba’s Barrera dropped Shabranskyy three times in that scheduled 10-round bout.
Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) also will fight Saturday night in a 10-round light heavyweight fight against the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KOs). HBO’s tripleheader is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, when former 130-pound champions Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs), of Camden, New Jersey, and Yuriorkis Gamboa (27-2, 17 KOs), an Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, will meet in a 10-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.