By Keith Idec
Sullivan Barrera has turned down a fight against Sergey Kovalev again.
According to an ESPN.com story posted Monday afternoon, Kovalev will make the first defense of the WBO light heavyweight title he regained last month by boxing Igor Mikhalkin on March 3 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The fight first was offered to Barrera, but Barrera declined for the second time in the past four months to face Kovalev.
Cuba’s Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) is expected to instead challenge WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) on the Kovalev-Mikhalkin undercard March 3. HBO has committed to televising the Kovalev-Mikhalkin and Bivol-Barrera bouts.
Kovalev and Barrera both are promoted by New Jersey-based Main Events. Kathy Duva, Main Events’ CEO, declined comment when reached by BoxingScene.com because the deals for the Kovalev-Mikhalkin and Bivol-Barrera fights are not finalized.
Barrera, 35, agreed to a purse for his WBA-mandated shot at Bivol before he defeated Felix Valera (15-2, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision on the Kovalev-Vyacheslav Shabranskyy undercard November 25 at The Theater. The agreement would’ve allowed Barrera to instead challenge the 34-year-old Kovalev, who won back the then-vacant WBO 175-pound championship by stopping Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) in the second round.
Russia’s Kovalev (31-2-1, 26 KOs) lost the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles to Andre Ward, who scored a controversial unanimous-decision victory over Kovalev 13 months ago in Las Vegas. Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), who stopped Kovalev in the eighth round of their rematch June 17 in Las Vegas, gave up those titles when he announced his retirement September 21.
The 32-year-old Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs) has won 10 straight fights since suffering his lone loss, a 10-round unanimous decision to Poland’s Aleksy Kuziemski (23-5, 7 KOs) in May 2010. He also owns the IBO light heavyweight title.
Mikhalkin, a native Russian who resides in Germany, was not ranked among the WBO’s top 15 light heavyweight contenders in its November ratings. The sanctioning organization’s December rankings have not yet been released.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.