By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – John David Jackson offered some gratuitous advice to Vyacheslav Shabranskyy.
Sergey Kovalev’s former trainer says if Shabranskyy can get to Kovalev’s body in their fight November 25, he’ll have “a hell of a shot” to pull off an upset. Russia’s Kovalev is a 20-1 favorite over Ukraine’s Shabranskyy as their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event nears, but Jackson considers his former fighter’s inability to handle body shots a vulnerability that could hurt his career moving forward.
Andre Ward hurt Kovalev to the body several times on his way to winning their light heavyweight championship rematch by eighth-round technical knockout June 17 in Las Vegas. While some of the body blows Ward landed were below Kovalev’s belt line, the since-retired, undefeated champion also connected with legitimate body shots that affected Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs).
“I’ll tell any fighter this – if you go to the body with Sergey, you can beat him,” Jackson told BoxingScene.com recently. “If Shabranskyy goes to the body from round one on – it’s like I told [assistant trainer] Don Turner before the second fight, ‘If Ward goes to the body, he’s gonna stop him.’ And that’s what he did, he stopped him. Ward went to the body and found his weakness. And any fighter that fights Sergey, if you go to the body you have a hell of a shot.”
Jackson noticed early during his time training Kovalev that he had difficulty dealing with opponents that fought inside and hit him to the body.
“Even in the gym, when you hit him hard to the body, he turns away,” Jackson said. “He started doing the same thing in the [second] fight [with Ward]. There were times he’d stop the sparring. He’d just walk away and come back, same way he did in the fight. But you can’t stop.”
Jackson, who parted ways with Kovalev after his second defeat to Ward, expects Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) to crowd Kovalev to make their fight for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title physical and rough a week from Saturday in The Theater at Madison Square Garden (HBO).
“If Shabranskyy can make the weight effectively and go to the body, he has a shot,” Jackson said. “If he can just go to the body, he has a shot. I’m gonna give him a little help here – try to close the gap and go to the body. You can’t let Sergey throw those long shots. You can cut off his power because he needs distance to get that good shot in on you. Close that gap and go to the body. That goes for any fighter. I’ll tell anyone. I’ll tell their mama, ‘Tell your son to go to the body.’ ”
During their time together, Jackson was surprised more of his opponents didn’t try to force Kovalev to fight inside.
“They were afraid because all they heard about was his power,” Jackson said. “They said, ‘If I stay away from him, I can beat him.’ No, you’ve gotta get inside. I saw that when Glen Johnson sparred with him. Glen kept in close and went to the body.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.