By Keith Idec
Vyacheslav Shabranskyy’s biggest takeaway from his knockout loss to Sullivan Barrera is to be more mindful of defense.
The then-unbeaten Ukrainian had overcome a first-round knockdown in their fight to drop Barrera in the second round. He was too reckless thereafter, though, and was knocked down twice before suffering a seventh-round knockout defeat December 16 in Indio, California.
That taught Shabranskyy “to work a little more on his defense,” according to Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez. He’ll have to be more effective defensively if he expects to upset Sergey Kovalev in their WBO light heavyweight title fight November 25 in New York.
“You can’t just walk into a fighter,” Gomez said during a conference call Tuesday. “You’ve gotta come behind a jab and work on his head movement a little bit more. So those are the things he’s been working on in the gym, and I think those things are gonna be beneficial when you’re fighting a guy like Kovalev. He probably has one of the best jabs in boxing. He’s so long and he uses it so well. So [Shabranskyy] has his work cut out for him. He’s gonna have to get past that jab, so he can be able to get on the inside and do some work.”
The 30-year-old Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) has won two bouts, both by knockout, since Barrera beat him. Russia’s Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) will try to bounce back from an eighth-round technical knockout loss to since-retired Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) in their rematch June 17 in Las Vegas.
“I can make the argument that Kovalev won the first fight with Andre Ward,” Gomez said. “I mean, that was a very, very close fight. I felt he won that fight. And then, he made some technical errors in the second fight. He’s still the top guy [at light heavyweight], especially now that Andre Ward retired. It’s gonna be a very tough fight, but you know, the key is Shabranskyy’s been waiting for this fight his whole life.
“This is the opportunity. This is what he’s wanted ever since he signed with Golden Boy. He wanted the opportunity to fight one of the top guys and fight for the title. Is he gonna rise to the occasion? That’s the question. He’s doing everything right in camp, he’s looking great. In talking to his trainer, he’s doing everything that he’s supposed to. He’s motivated. We’re gonna have to wait and see November 25th.”
Kovalev-Shabranskyy will headline HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader from The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 25.
HBO also will broadcast Barrera’s bout that night, a 10-rounder against the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KOs). The other televised fight will pit Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa (27-2, 17 KOs) against Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs), of Camden, New Jersey, in a 10-round, 130-pound matchup.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.