In the epitome of a crossroads fight, former three-time light heavyweight world titleholder Sergey Kovalev and up-and-comer Bektemir “Bek Bully” Melikuziev will meet on Jan. 30 in the main event of a DAZN card at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow, sources told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday.
The fight will headline its own card and is not on the same show Top Rank is doing on the same day in Moscow. That card, announced on Wednesday, will be headlined by unified light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev defending against Adam Deines on ESPN+ at VTB Arena.
The 37-year-old Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) and Melikuziev (6-0, 5 KOs), 24, an Uzbekistan native fighting out of Indio, California, will meet at a contract weight of 178 pounds, according to one of the sources.
Melikuziev’s last fight was at 168 pounds. Kovalev had been scheduled to fight former light heavyweight world title challenger Sullivan Barrera at 180 pounds in the main event of a DAZN card on April 25 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, but the show was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kovalev will be fighting for the first time he lost his 175-pound world title to Canelo Alvarez by brutal 11th-round knockout on Nov. 2, 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Alvarez had moved up two weight classes to challenge him for his title.
Even though Kovalev is promoted by Main Events, Golden Boy Promotions owes Kovalev his next fight based on the terms of the deal for him to fight Alvarez. If Kovalev wins the fight against Melikuziev then Golden Boy would owe him a second fight, according to one of the sources.
Melikuziev, a southpaw, has been moved quickly by Golden Boy because of his elite amateur career.
He was a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, claimed a bronze medal at the 2017 World Amateur Championships, won a silver medal at the 2015 World Amateur Championships and won gold medals at the 2015 and 2017 Asian Championships.
He is coming off a third-round knockout of Alan Campa on Oct. 30 and also owns professional victories over Clay Collard and Vaughn Alexander.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.