By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Sergey Kovalev has seen just one of Eleider Alvarez’s fights.
That bout, Alvarez’s majority-decision victory over Isaac Chilemba, gave Kovalev more than enough insight into what he should expect August 4 in Atlantic City. Kovalev knows that the Colombian southpaw will provide a much tougher test than each of his last two opponents – Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin.
Kovalev knocked down Ukraine’s Shabranskky (19-2, 16 KOs) three times on his way to a second-round, technical-knockout victory November 25 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The hard-hitting, 35-year-old WBO light heavyweight champion returned to The Theater to stop Russia’s Mikhalkin (21-2, 9 KOs), a former amateur teammate, in the seventh round March 3.
“Alvarez, I think he’s [on] a different level,” Kovalev said Saturday prior to a press conference at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. “You know, like, he’s already on the next level – level ‘A,’ because he’s undefeated, he’s the No. 1, mandatory in the WBC. I don’t know why he didn’t fight with [Adonis] Stevenson. I don’t know the reasons. But he deserves this fight, to be [my] challenger. But we’ll test him August 4th.”
The 34-year-old Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) has been the mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title since he beat South Africa’s Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs) in November 2015 in Quebec City, Canada. Alvarez has fought four times since beating Chilemba, twice on Stevenson’s undercards, but never received his title WBC-mandated title shot.
Alvarez’s manager, Stephane Lepine, was working with his promoter, Yvon Michel, on a step-aside agreement to allow Stevenson to make another optional title defense Saturday night against Badou Jack when Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, called Michel to offer Alvarez a fight against Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs). They quickly accepted Duva’s offer, which allowed Quebec’s Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) to move forward with his fight against Sweden’s Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) at Air Canada Centre (Showtime; 10:05 p.m. ET/PT).
When asked if he thinks Stevenson avoided Alvarez, Kovalev couldn’t answer definitively.
“I don’t know,” Kovalev said. “It’s not my business. My business is to kick his ass August 4th and to get a victory over this guy. That’s my job, not to follow what happened in another federation or association or council. I follow only my WBO [title].”
HBO will televise Kovalev-Alvarez as the main event of a “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader August 4 from the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. The opener of that two-bout broadcast is expected to feature WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), whose opponent hasn’t been secured.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.