By Keith Idec
Igor Mikhalkin smiled, pumped his fist and was very respectful toward Sergey Kovalev at their weigh-in Friday.
Those pleasantries aside, the Russian southpaw is well aware of the dangerous assignment he has accepted. Mikhalkin has watched closely as Kovalev, his former amateur teammate in Russia, has developed into one of the best boxers in the world.
The 32-year-old Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs), whose IBO title won’t be at stake Saturday night, made weight very comfortably Friday. Kovalev also came in under the 175-pound limit for the light heavyweight division.
Mikhalkin officially weighed in at 172.6 pounds. The 34-year-old Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) got on the New York State Athletic Commission’s scale two pounds heavier than Mikhalkin, at 174.6 pounds.
Kovalev will defend the WBO light heavyweight title he won back by stopping Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) in the second round November 25 at The Theater. Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), who gave up that title when he retired in September, took that championship from Kovalev by winning a controversial unanimous decision in their 12-round fight in November 2016.
Kyrgyzstan’s Dmitry Bivol and Cuba’s Sullivan Barrera also made weight Friday for their light heavyweight title fight Saturday night.
The 27-year-old Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) officially weighed 174.4 pounds. The 36-year-old Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs), the mandatory challenger for Bivol’s WBA title, weighed 173.6 pounds.
The Bivol-Barrera bout, considered the biggest test of the highly regarded Bivol’s three-year pro career, will open HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader at 10:05 p.m. ET.